[Interview] Katie Miranda on how her passion and experiences led her to make unique jewelry and draw powerful cartoons
In 2005, Katie left California for Palestine where she lived in the West Bank for three years dividing her time between being a human rights worker, political cartoonist, and an art teacher for kids. During this time she also studied Arabic calligraphy in Ramallah, with master calligrapher Ehab Thabet. Later in 2010 she started her own Arabic calligraphy jewelry business, and founded Katie Miranda Studios.
Read on as Katie reveals how she became a jewelry designer and political cartoonist, the issues she is passionate about, and her top tip to artists.
Please share a bit about your background, work and passions.
I came from a secular family with one parent of a Christian background and one parent of a Jewish background. I always self-identified as Jewish although I wasn’t religious. In 2010 I converted to Islam.
I’m a painter, cartoonist and a jewelry designer. I have a BFA and an MFA from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco where I studied illustration and graphic novels. I also studied with master calligrapher Ehab Thabet in Palestine in 2007 and 2008.
I love great design, comics, color theory, sacred geometry and of course jewelry !
How did you become a jewelry designer and a political cartoonist? What qualities and skills do you need to pursue these respectively?
I became a jewelry designer by accident. I took a metal smithing class at the Academy of Art and I loved it. I decided to combine those skills with calligraphy to produce my Arabic calligraphy jewelry line.
I got into cartoons because I was trained as an illustrator and I had strong opinions so political cartoons was a natural outlet for those two interests.
“Those who stand in the fire, who don’t quit, who ignore rejection are the ones who actually do become artists.”
If someone is interested in pursuing any artistic discipline seriously and successfully you have to have passion for it and drive. Anyone can learn to be an artist through practice, dedication, and repetition. Those who actually do, who stand in the fire, who don’t quit, who ignore rejection are the ones who actually do become artists.
People often tell me “I have no natural talent, I could never be an artist.” This way of thinking is misguided. The people who actually become artists aren’t necessarily those with natural talent. They’re the ones who don’t quit even if they have to draw stick figures for a year before being able to draw anything that looks remotely like a human figure.
What is the process of making your jewelry and apparel, and how do you come up with the designs?
First I write the word in calligraphy, then scan it and design the piece in Adobe Illustrator. Those specs are given to a caster who casts the piece. Stones and beads are added at the end.
I try to do what my customers request so I usually poll them before I create a new line to see what they want. Then I create based on what they say. I learned this the hard way ! I used to just do what I wanted, but if you want to be in business, you have to do what your customers want.
What is your top tip on standing out and succeeding in the creative/art sector?
One of my teachers in school gave me this key piece of advice and I took it to heart and I’ll share it here: do something no one else is doing. Don’t copy people, be inspired by them instead. You will never become successful by copying another artists style.
“Do something no one else is doing. Don’t copy people, be inspired by them instead. You will never become successful by copying another artists style.”
Who inspires you and your work?
What issue are you especially passionate about, and why? Have you explored this in your cartoons?
Issues of US foreign policy in the Middle East, equality, and especially Palestine.
As an American from a Jewish background I grew up with a lot of lies and mythology around the subject of Palestine. It was only when I went to the West Bank and saw what was really going on I realized I had a responsibility to help right this wrong. So that’s why many of my cartoons are about Palestine.
I’m currently working on a graphic novel called Tear Gas in the Morning about Palestinian nonviolent resistance.
How do you think cartoons play a role in shaping public opinion, culture or change?
My non-scientific observation is that cartoons cause stronger emotional reactions than news articles. I’m not sure what that means in terms of shaping public opinion since I’m not a psychologist or sociologist, but I think it must mean something.
What are your plans for the near future, and anything we should look out for?
I plan to finish my graphic novel and to come out with some new jewelry and to give more to non-profits that do great work. This month I’ve giving away $7 of every purchase of my jewelry and apparel to If Americans Knew, a non-profit dedicated to informing and educating Americans about Palestine. Next month it will be a new non-profit, and so on…
Finally what do you think of Sufi Comics?
I love Sufi comics ! This is why: I think what you guys are doing is such a positive contribution to educating people of all faiths about Islam. It’s a counter to all the negativity in the news. InshaAllah it will draw people to Islam. And for us Muslims, it’s a good reality check, or a reset button to remind us what’s important it life. I wish you much success.
Check out Katie Miranda’s work here!Keep up-to-date with Katie on Facebook.Follow Katie on Twitter @KatieMirandaArt
Read our previous interviews with creative artists here
Sign up to our Newsletter and get the first three chapters of Sufi Comics: Rumi Free