Wednesday, October 8, 2014

She Lives Creatively Spotlight: Shadia Zayed

Shadia Zayed is an artist who will forever remain near and dear to my heart! I met Shadia about 9 years ago (when I still lived in Michigan) after I signed up to take her acrylic painting class. It was Shadia who taught me how much fun it is to play with Golden acrylic mediums. And she's responsible for my addiction to adding interest to my paintings with interference paints.

Since studying acrylic painting techniques with Shadia nearly a decade ago, her passion for creating, her commitment to blazing her own trail as a self-employed fine artist and muralist, and her over the top scary - in a good way! - annual Halloween parties continue to inspire me. So this month, my teacher and friend, Shadia Zayed shines in the She Lives Creatively Spotlight.

That's Shadia (on the left) and me (on the right) during her visit to Denver in 2010
Marcella: You are a fine artist and you own Ambiance Design Studio, a decorative painting and mural company. What are your favorite types of wall treatments or murals to paint?

Shadia:  I am always most excited to paint children’s rooms.  Not only are they the most fun to paint because they tend to be more vibrant and colorful, but also the children get so excited and have so much awe and interest in art, so it’s great to see their reaction to the process.

Calvin & Hobbs children's room mural

M: How do you balance creating your studio work, which you show in several galleries throughout Michigan, with decorative and mural work you create for your clients?

S: Honestly, it’s challenging.  I have found what works best for me at this stage in my career is to set one specific weekday, each week, to focus strictly on my studio work.  I certainly paint and work on marketing my business on other days as available. But holding a specific day exclusively for art has helped me re-focus the direction of my career. My intention is to gradually up that ratio of 4 murals/faux days to 1 art day, until my work is exclusively in the fine art realm rather than the decorative art realm.  What’s important to me is consistency, so while I don’t have a definitive date for that goal, I know I am working daily to get there.

Shadia' art at the Urban Pearl in Northville, Michigan

M: You recently hired an assistant to help you with decorative painting and murals. What types of duties do you delegate to her?

S:  Presently, her duties are primarily in the preparation of the room.  She helps tape, drop cloth and sometimes does base coating.  She is gradually learning different faux techniques and, as a very skilled artist herself, recently assisted on mural projects by laying out some sketches.

M: How has hiring an assistant improved your creativity and your business’ productivity?

S:  As all people who are self-employed assuredly learn after some time working for themselves, it is very easy to get in the “habit” of doing EVERYTHING on your own.  Hiring an assistant has greatly improved my productivity by helping realize my time is best spent where I have the most to offer. Sure, I can tape a room expertly in preparation for a decorative painting project (after over a decade, anyone could)…but my expertise and time is better spent doing things for which I am uniquely gifted.  This understanding has enhanced my creativity by allowing me the added flexibility in my schedule to commit to the weekly “studio day” I mentioned earlier

Before and after faux finish mural work

M: Did you always know you wanted to be an artist? Who, or what, inspired you?

S: I knew I wanted to be an artist as soon as I learned what the word meant in kindergarten.  We learned the idea of a “career”… you could be a nurse, a police officer etc.  Having already realized I loved to paint, (I would literally bring home my finger paintings from school and re-hydrate the tempera paint with water so I could play more) the idea that anyone would ever pick another career when the option of “artist” existed was crazy!

M: For 10 years or more you have been hosting the most creative Halloween parties I have ever attended! What is it about Halloween that inspires you to create a new costume and decorate each year?

S: I still carry my childhood excitement of Halloween with me today.  I remember getting so excited about Halloween as a kid…poring over all the potential costumes, all just to race around in the dark with that little bit of spookiness was so much fun.  I wish I could go trick or treating still! Since I can’t I, I bring that memory to my parties by going overboard on decorations and lighting, so I can help create that little bit of spookiness and tons of fun feeling I remember as a child. Costumes, naturally, are mandatory!

Shadia  (right) and her sister Judy (left) in costume for Halloween

M: What tips and advice have you learned for planning and hosting a memorable Halloween party?

S:  #1 – Unique d├ęcor. I feel it adds so much to the ambiance and success of a party when you create an environment and a mood. I don’t mean just store bought skeleton cut outs and plastic pumpkins….I mean go all out!  For example, a few years ago I was in the middle of bathroom remodel when Halloween rolled around.  As I stressed about finishing the room and repainting the walls in time for the party, I had a great idea.  I dug out some red paint and made bloody handprints and drips around the bathroom walls.  Coupled with red lighting, scattered body parts and hanging ‘flesh’ I created with foam and paint, the scene was horrifying.  The bonus?  I didn’t need to worry about repainting the room in time!

#2 – A killer play list is essential.  I play the list in advance while I decorate, to ensure it flows well.  I time it for “Thriller” to show up around midnight, just in time to announce the costume contest winners.

#3 – Involve your guests.  It can be overwhelming putting all of this together.  Get your friends and guest engaged by soliciting menu ideas, playlist suggestions, costume ideas etc.

M: What are your self-care practices (nutrition, exercise, etc.) that support your health and vitality, to in-turn support your creativity?

S: I started running in 2006 after getting divorced.  It helped me feel calmer, healthier, quit smoking and deal with anxiety.  I am now an avid runner, and I have run 2 full marathons and participated in over 50 races and events.  My long runs feel almost meditative to me, and I get lost in thoughts, the beauty of the being outdoors and in daydreaming about creative projects.  Additionally, I’ve been vegetarian for over 20 years.  I feel strongly that my choice to not kill other living beings supports my vitality by making me feel connected and in alignment with the Earth.

M: If people want to learn more about you, or your business Ambiance Design Studio, where should they go?

S: The best place to check out my fine art is  To learn more about my work as a muralist and faux finisher, visit

M: Thank you Shadia! Happy Halloween!

S: Marcella, thank you for hosting this unique site, and being a creative resource and inspiration to all those you touch!