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Meet Sharry Lai of Madame Lai in San Pedro

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sharry Lai.

Sharry, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I have always been able to experience ownership with every piece I make on many levels. As a young girl, when I drew an item, a costume, or an animal I was able to experience a daydream quite viscerally and live my art vicariously. As a young woman I drew other women with characteristics I wanted to possess. Being able to draw to vent, express and visualize my life at that time also became a very important safe space that was absolutely imperative. As a women I’ve seen my art go through many ups and downs often echoing my own ups and deep down. I transferred into Pasadena Art Center from Otis College, and freelanced throughout my education. I taught art and sketched for clients. I was lucky to show my early work and interned. While I wasn’t the best student, I am and have been so excited to work as a professional artist. I currently am still fortunate to teach and sketch for clients. It has brought me to have a studio and a path to being able to create into an extended creative career.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I absolutely emerged as an artist from a family with traditional ideals. It meant a lot of pushback and a severe anxiety as to how I was going to support myself. But I believe everyone has that struggle and it is all absolutely relative. A major struggle for me was putting myself out there with my work. I’m still struggling, but as with all obstacles/challenges I have learned hard lessons. I struggled with accepting support and with valuing my work. I realized that putting myself out there means doing it when I’m ready or not. I have lost work and turned in work too late because I struggle with perfection. Finally, I learned that creating pieces that I don’t force are often the pieces that speak to me after creation and with others.

Please tell us about Madame Lai.
I am a Freelancing Illustrator. I sell my skills in many ways. I have prints, zines, cards, original paintings, and soft goods for sale. I teach often and regularly. I am often hired as a sketch artist, storyboarder, and fashion Illustrator. I am commissioned often to create portraits. I am proud of how my company is growing and how I have been able to support myself with my skillset. Communicating with my clients and students have been a big key to how people now understand or see the artwork. Being able to empathize and understand my clients’ needs have allowed both me and my client to appreciate the process and outcome. The best feedback I receive is when customers tell me the pieces provide them with life.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I had always wished to know my worth as a professional earlier. I would have been more firm and clear because I realized most people who are willing to work with you will have a basic respect for you. I have learned that knowing when to say no, making terms clear and enforcing your boundaries actually helps the interaction. I had a belief that it would hinder progress and scare off clients, but knowing where you stand is a gift of clarity for both sides.

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