MAKER OF THE MONTH: MEERA LEE PATEL

POSTED: 23 May 2017 | BY: AMANDA DIROBELLA

Art is about listening to what’s in your head and heart. No matter how personal the expression is, chances are, your risk, your bravery, is making someone else feel a heck-of-a-lot less alone.

Six years ago, Meera Lee Patel picked up a paintbrush. And not for the first time, just this time, it meant much more to her than being an imaginative kid. Growing up in a small(ish) New Jersey town, Patel’s parents encouraged her to be creative by doing the same. Lead by example, right? Her mother, by today’s definition, would have been considered a maker too — a seamstress, an embroidery artist, a knitter.

I met Patel in 2013 at a craft show. Her work and presentation -- at that time and based on what I had been seeing -- was uniquely sophisticated and provoking. She specializes in both illustrations and writing, often integrating the two, and her mediums: [Schmincke] watercolor paint and words. In addition to her own quotes, some of the offerings in Patel’s portfolio consist of pairing inspirational ones from legendary writers and historical figures with original artwork.

Click to purchase Schmincke paint set.

Photo Credit: Meera Lee Patel

As she reached and navigated young adulthood, Patel realized how important preserving her Indian culture became. Her family is from Gujarat, the westernmost state of India (also where Mahatma Gandhi was born and raised — you may have heard of him…). Patel speaks some Gujarati but understands the dialect fluently. She has had the opportunity to visit many times and those experiences have influenced her creative output and input. She strongly believes -- and we agree -- that the celebration and advocation of one’s ancestral culture should be encouraged wherever in the world you may be.

Churchgate Station in Mumbai, India. Photo Credit: Meera Lee Patel

Enter Brooklyn. Many of us consider New York City to be the center of the universe, no? The great culture-collide is one of its many attractive qualities. And Brooklyn, in recent years, has and had caught the attention of artists all over the world. Patel moved to Brooklyn in 2013 to “meet more people who are like [me].” She hoped she would “find support, inspiration, and a community there.” And she did. Like many makers who are trying to parlay their side-hustle passion projects into sustainable careers, Patel was not only a blossoming artist from late afternoon to roughly midnight every day, she was also working a full time job. All of her time was spent working for herself and someone else. Eventually she realized the key to her creative success was to not get burnt out -- an important reminder for all of us as we follow our dreams.

Photo Credit: Meera Lee Patel

After several years of hard work and long hours, Patel quit her day job as an editor in February [2017]. For now, she said she is “making work on the road”, traveling around the US and resetting her state of mind (more on that later). “[I] wake up every day and can’t believe this is [my] life.” she tells me. Patel misses New York but we told her it will be waiting for her whenever her “working” sabbatical feels complete -- which brings me to what she is working on. Patel is deep in the comforting (says her) trenches of her second book (her first was “Start Where You Are”), diametrically entitled (by most standards) “My Friend Fear”, a book of illustrated essays about fear that is set to be released in March 2018. Inner journeys are about transparency and Patel says that the writing process has been “revealing and intimate” and “leaves her feeling vulnerable”. She “doesn’t believe the work would be good if she wasn’t letting everyone in.” If nothing else, art has always been honest.

Click to purchase "Start Where You Are" by Meera Lee Patel

“These scary details are important. It’s important for me to write them, it’s important for other people to read them and somebody out there is probably going to feel less alone having read it and that’s worth it.”

-Meera Lee Patel

Photo Credit: Meera Lee Patel

As for the future, Patel is open-minded. When asked what a recent life lesson would be, she says “You can’t stick too close to the plan. [My life] doesn’t look like anything I ever thought it would. And I’m so much happier. So much more fulfilled.” She even said she’d like to write a children’s book, another goal for 2017. So about her New York State of Mind, Patel revealed, shockingly for me at first, that it is “vulnerable.” Then I listened to her elaborate and it makes more-than-perfect sense, especially for an introspective artist with a love of words. Finally, a positive spin on vulnerability! She worked hard to reach this level of success by allowing herself to share vulnerable work with the world. “I did not get here by being closed off. Be vulnerable, be open, be soft. Even though it’s harder and more difficult and scary.”

“My future looks like a lot of futures.”

-Meera Lee Patel

New York Makers is thrilled to offer select Meera Lee Patel products, available now on our Marketplace.

Wish You Were Here NYC Greeting Card by Meera Lee Patel