Petal by Petal

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SimaArt Creates Beautiful Flowers that Live Forever

words by Noor Hindi, photos by Ilenia Pezzaniti

01/03/2018

Sima Arshadi loved the flowers her mother brought home. As much as she cherished them, the flowers would always disappoint her because they would eventually die. She wanted to keep their beauty around forever. Over the last two decades, she’s found a way to do that, crafting hyper-realistic orchids, roses, irises, tulips and daisies, petal by petal, out of cold porcelain.

“They make me very happy,” Sima says. “And I feel [like] they are my babies, they are my kids. Sometimes I am kissing them. It is what is in my heart.”

She grew up in Tehran, Iran where her family settled after leaving the Republic of Azerbaijan next to the Caspian Sea near the borders of Iran, Russia, Armenia and Georgia. Sima lived in Turkey for four years after escaping religious persecution at the hands of the Iranian government. She says police in Iran punished her family for turning their home into a Christian church, imprisoning her oldest son as she fled to Turkey with her youngest son. It took 30 months, but with the help of American missionaries in Istanbul, she immigrated to the United States, coming to Akron over a year ago.

“It was very hard,” she says. “I’m not going to cry everyday, because I trust the Lord, and I pray. I pray for my son every Sunday.”

Her son, now 26 years old, was released after spending two years in prison. His birthday was in December, which compounds how much she already misses him during the holidays. Through his girlfriend, Sima gets updates every few days but Tehran is eight and a half hours ahead of Akron, making it difficult to talk. Apps like Imo and Whatsapp help bridge the distance.

“He cannot talk all the time, and when he is free, I am sleeping,” she says. “And when I am free, it is nighttime over there.”

Now that she’s getting comfortable here, Sima is hopeful she can grow her flower sculpting business in Akron, but she says it means finding more opportunities, like pop-up markets, where vendors and artists can sell their work without fees which can be cost-prohibitive for someone starting out. She also wants to tap into word-of-mouth, turning to Akronites for help sharing her work with family and friends. As SimaArt grows, she plans to support others as she’s been supported.

“My short-term goal is for my business [to] provide money for my family and my life, and my long-term goal is to be able to help other people like refugee people.”

Her next big step is to set up a store on Etsy to generate more sales online because her website is currently in Persian. In the meantime, Urban Vision, where she works part-time, and the International Institute of Akron have helped Sima apply what she learns in her ESL classes to the real world.

“Work much better than English classes,” she says.

Though she misses home — she says Iran has the “best food in the world” — Sima has fallen for Akron because she feels welcomed here. Her pastors at Urban Vision, who worked as missionaries in Iran, can speak Persian, which helps with the language barrier. And rent in North Hill is affordable, which she appreciates. However, her favorite part of Akron is downtown and in the Northside because of all the art galleries, especially Zeber-Martell.

It’s another reminder of her family, who instilled in her a love of art. Her father was a calligrapher and her mother was a tailor, so she’s accustomed to studying the craftsmanship up close.

“When I am going in any galleries, I want to stay maybe six hours. I watch everything very carefully. I can not pass very fast. I’m going to watch all the details.”

Sima’s attention to detail, good taste and grit have paid off. Her talent is immense but it took a lot of hard work to develop it into what she can do now.

“The first time I did flowers I put them in the trash. It was so bad, but I keep try, I keep try because I love it.”

Since coming to Akron, Sima has endured several challenges, from learning English to providing for her youngest son and finding suitable transportation. Despite the difficulties, she’s committed to turning her art into a business, creating a livelihood from equal parts persistence and ability in much the same way she transforms her handmade clay into breathtaking flowers that defy death.

To see more of Sima’s work, watch our Akropreneurs video about SimaArt at bit.ly/2BVbq3g. You can contact Sima about ordering flowers by emailing her at simaarshadii@gmail.com. Visit her Instagram page at http://bit.ly/2CBLRoT

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