“It would be better I passed through the fire to get gold.” Samuel Etoh’s Journey into Mandala designs

My favorite part of being an artist is that I am a self taught artist, I was not trained by anyone, it makes me create things without any rule or principle.
Mandala designs

Samuel Etoh is a Nigerian talented self-taught Pen and Ink Artist, Floral Artist, and Peg Artist based in Lagos. He was born on March 27, 1988. He is from Umuajaka, Ulakwo, Owerri, Imo State. Etoh is professionally trained as a florist. His artistic vision stemmed from his interest in the growth of flowers and their aesthetics.

Through his professional background, and his natural ability to put floral arrangements together, Etoh developed a pattern of floral motifs with which he infused fashion illustrations, textile designs, mandala designs, floral art, and peg art – creating imagery that is indicative of his upbringing. 

1.Can you describe your art?

Etoh is known for his distinctive mandala designs with the well-known spiritual ‘circle’ symbol representing a never-ending life and creating a vibrant, new, and versatile range of products and hand-painted merchandise to acclaimed art. 

His work seeks to address challenges, struggles, peace, and unity in our environment.

2. What attracted you to go into that style of art? 

I will say that God had made the plan before I came into this world.  My basic training as a florist also helped me discover this style as all floral patterns and motifs were gotten from fresh flowers and ornamental plants. After becoming a florist, I found a picture I took when I was a baby carrying two stems of flowers. This shows that my style had been destined by God.

3. How did your journey as an artist begin?

My journey as an artist started in 2011 when I dropped out of school. I was studying Computer Engineering at that time, but I had this desire to create things so, I wasn’t satisfied. I needed more time to focus on my art, so, I had to leave school. It was so challenging because I had a fight with my dad – he was not happy with my choice of dropping out of school. Financially, I was down, but artistically, I was outstanding.

At that time, fashion illustration was one of my main focuses, and I hoped to build a career on it so, I engaged in self-training on floral patterns, gate designs, logo designs, and mandala designs. A few years later, after much stagnation in fashion illustration, I focused on creating floral patterns, motifs, and floral ornaments through the Mandala Design technique.

I later got a full-time florist job in 2013 to support my art financially, and that took away my drawing time. It was during my time on the florist job that I met my manager and sponsor, Ms Donna Claire Aldrige, Managing Director, Vapour Logistic, Nigeria and the United Kingdom. I had gone to deliver fresh flowers to her in the hotel where she had lodged, and I took my portfolio along with me.

On my way out, I pleaded with her to look through my work. She did, and after that meeting, she focused on my craft. She was the first person that bought my artwork (titled “Don’t Give Up”). She took it upon herself to see me achieve my dreams with her support.

4. Your style of art is different. Can you tell us what your thought process is like?

Well, I believe the Holy Spirit directs my mind and gives me understanding. There are songs I listen to that energize my spirit. I praise God a lot when I draw, and from there, I start seeing things to draw. Over the years, I have mastered some techniques which I also apply while drawing.

5. How challenging has the journey been?

I have faced challenges from getting art materials in the country and selling my works. I also import all the acrylic pens I use for my drawing. They are special pens for intricate work, and very expensive.

Also, I have been blessed by God to have a Manager and Sponsor named Ms. Donna Claire Aldrige. She has been sent from heaven to support and promote my career, but it has been challenging getting galleries to accept my work. We have been able to transfer one of my drawings into fabrics – it is the first test we did in the UK. 

Mandala designs

6. I see that you also use objects to make art. I saw your peg artwork named ‘Helping Hands’. Tell us about it.

God decided to bless me with this style. Around July 2019, some exhibition organizers contacted me on Instagram requesting that I joined a group exhibition titled “From Waste to Luxury” which involved using recyclable objects to create art. I was shocked because I didn’t do that style of art, and honestly, I would have loved to exhibit my other works.

That week, I went to the market to buy some things, and along the road, I noticed people selling old pegs., I stopped and picked them up, looked at them for some seconds, and arranged them on the floor. Then, I observed that, with many of them, I could get a floral pattern. I was so happy!

I asked for the price and bought a lot in three different colours. When I got home and arranged them, I got several designs from different arrangements. I also researched how to glue them, and the kind of materials to use.

By September, at the exhibition, that work was the center of attraction among my works and everyone was amazed. A few months later, when the Covid-19 pandemic started, a lot of people sent me messages that I had brought the pandemic by creating the symbol ahead of time. Because of that, I made a series of artworks centered on the pandemic. 

“Helping Hands” means the importance of health workers during the pandemic, and how they had helped in saving the lives of patients with the Covid-19 virus. You can relate “Helping Hands” to the support you give to someone in times of need just as pegs are used to protect clothes from the wind.

7. Can you tell us about your ‘Bold Step’ piece?

When I was about to drop out of school, it was a decision period that could either destroy my life or change my life – according to the step I took. At that time when I had told my parents, it had been a big blow to them. I told myself that it would be better I passed through the fire to get gold than to swim deep inside the ocean without finding any treasure so, I made up my mind to take the “bold step”.

This applies to people who are about to make decisions in their lives and are afraid of failure and disappointment. 

8. What is the most challenging piece you have worked on so far and why?

There is this piece I started last year titled “Patterns of Samuel Etoh” my target is to create 1000 unique floral patterns without repeating any design, I have gotten to 130 unique patterns. The plan is for me to have my own unique design that can be transferred into fabric print on bedsheets, T-shirts, curtains, and general textile apparel. I don’t know when I will finish, but creating it has been challenging.

11. What would you say is your greatest challenge as an artist? 

My greatest challenge is getting galleries to accept my kind of art in Nigeria. Also, most galleries in Nigeria focus on exhibiting well-known artists. In Nigeria, charity begins outside. When you start getting international recognition, some galleries will focus on you. Art is more than that – every artwork created by an individual needs to be appreciated whether it is for publicity or monetary gain.

12. What’s your favorite part of being an artist? 

My favorite part of being an artist is that I am a self-taught artist. I was not trained by anyone. It makes me create things without any rule or principle. If you want to see my best side, allow me to create things on my own without directing me.

13. What is that advice you got that has stuck with you till now?

My parents always tell me to put the effort into anything I love doing. I told myself when I was about to embark on my art journey that hard work is always hard, but with God, it is going to work for those that never stop working hard”.

When my Manager, Donna Claire Aldrige (MD Vapour Logistic International ) came into my career, she made me see myself in a bright way. She always tells me to speak into existence that I will sell my artwork soon in millions of pounds in Sotheby’s. She has taken it upon herself to help me get to the zenith.

You can also see: “I Love Pan Africanism and that inspires my art” – Izunna Dike

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2 Comments

  1. Samuel Etoh

    Thank you so much, for sharing my story to the world. This is a privilege I will forever cherish.

  2. Sylvia Solomon

    Lovely ❤️❤️❤️❤️

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