Salina Somalya, an artist based in Garstang, has always had a passion for art. From an early age, her Asian and African cultural heritage inspired her creativity. Spending her formative years in southern Africa, she remembers watching the roadside artisans making wonderful objects out of a range of materials from copper to tyres
Salina spent her teenage years in London and studied her way across the north of England, finally settling in Lancashire.
She studied for a degree in engineering but decided it wasn’t the career for her and following the completion of her degree pursued an art-based path instead.
Salina is no stranger to education, putting herself through an HND in design crafts in Manchester and then studying a blacksmith course in Swindon. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” said Salina, “but I knew I enjoyed working with metals.”
She applied to the then North West Arts Board, as at the time they were setting up a scheme to promote artists within the north west, particularly Lancashire. “It was a two-year scheme, based at Myerscough College,” said Salina “but I ended up staying there for seven years becoming their resident artist.”
She left in 2009 and began working independently, predominately working on commissions for hospitals and schools and carrying out workshops in schools, which she still loves doing. It was at this time her daughter came along and art took a back seat for a while.
She rekindled her passion for art in 2013 and wanted to look at developing a different stream of work. She had always been interested in plastics and went back to education again at UCLan, completing it in 2019, this time studying an MA in Surface Pattern and Textiles.
“I’d always been interested in plastics, their similar qualities to metal and the ways in which they can be worked to develop a wonderful array of objects,” she said “And how we can balance this with helping to make the environment a better place by researching what we can do with waste plastic. So, I started looking at plastics, plastic bags and toys, which led me onto what children use that are safe to use in other contexts, what do they do when they get rid of things they no longer want and what can we do to stop it falling onto ever growing land fill sites.”
She went on to develop designs for lighting through her MA utilising as many recycled or repurposed parts as possible and she approached independent retailer James Kok Lighting about supplying some unique light fittings made out of recycled plastic.
“I didn’t just want something that was just a lampshade or a glass jar, I also wanted it to be a piece of functional art. The lamps are still early on the design process, but James is looking at stocking some and I’m also going to exhibit at Arteria with Gallery 23 in Lancaster between January and May 2021.
So where does Salina get her inspiration from? “I look all around me, but specifically at nature. I like the simplicity of things, how we can connect things together and how they can be interpreted into a surface pattern. I want objects to be three-dimensional and have a sense of tactility.”
Salina would love to further this work by taking it into schools and showing the young people what can be achieved with their waste or throw-away items. It is a way to engage them about the environment as well as experiencing how to create from something and nothing. “This is what I love about the school visits, being able to show the children what you are doing and them being able to touch and feel it. It’s great for the children,” said Salina. “Their creativity really comes out and they get so much out of it.”
While school workshops will be on hold for a while Salina is carrying on working on individual commissions. Her pubic and private sector commissions include site-specific artwork for several NHS Trusts, schools and other public bodies.
“All my artworks are unique depending on what the customer wants and are underpinned by the synthesis of art and engineering, combining my varied education with my love of creating something form a spark of an idea.”
Her artwork is certainly impressive, using texture, colour and pattern, she designs her artwork with her clients in mind.
Salina is keen to keep on learning and there are still some materials, which she hasn’t yet worked with. “I’d like to look at resin and other materials that have an elastic quality. I’m lucky to live in an area which gives me so much in the way of inspiration and ideas and it’s just a case of how I’m going to achieve it.”
To find out more about Salina visit: salinasomalya.com