Check out my feature on Good Indian Girl - a culture blog providing informative how-to videos and blogs on all things Indian, in addition to a database of vendors. Thanks to Sima Thakkar for this interview!
What’s your name? Gopi Shah
Where do you live? Long Beach, California
What your favorite hangout in Long Beach (pre-COVID)? I love going to the dog park, our local brewery, Ten Mile, and the taco truck to get the best al pastor in the city.
What type of work do you do? I currently work as a full-time potter. I have a studio space walking distance from my house where I have my wheel and kiln. I sell to boutique shops across the US and in Australia and also have an online store where people can purchase one of a kind, handmade products for their home.
I do this because I enjoy making something that people cherish and that brings a community together. I started my business 5 years ago because I love making pottery. It has now grown into an avenue for meeting new people and building a community. I love creating new products that are functional, beautiful, and timeless.
What are some Indian traditions you still follow? There are a few traditions I cherish including drinking chai and eating bhajia on a rainy day, blessing a new home with a coconut, taking off my shoes in a home, celebrating Diwali, and believing in the idea of reincarnation. I honestly don’t follow that many because I didn’t like so much of the culture growing up. It’s been interesting to see what traditions I enjoy as an adult and what I’d like to carry forward with my partner.
Bollywood or Hollywood, and why? Neither? I don’t usually like to spend my time watching movies. I’d rather be outside hiking, biking, or swimming.
Favorite movie? Haha, funny follow up question. Some movies I like are Pan’s Labyrinth and Amelie.
What’s your favorite thing about Indian culture? The food, of course. Growing up in Los Angeles, I was fortunate to be around so many cultures that I was able to kind of pick and choose things I liked from each. There are many stereotypes about Indian culture I choose not to agree with. It was especially difficult having immigrant parents who had to straddle both Indian and American cultures. This, and being friends with people from all different backgrounds, allowed me to create my own culture, which I love.
What’s one piece of advice your parents have given you that should probably be or are abiding by? My parents have scared me enough to be fiscally responsible and save for retirement. I’ve been very risk-averse with my business, which has allowed me to grow at a sustainable pace. I’m very thankful to not have to live paycheck to paycheck, and it’s due in part to my parents teaching me how to save and be financially responsible.
Good Indian Girl? No way! Hah, in a traditional sense, I’m not a Good Indian Girl—I don’t follow much of the culture, I’m not married and don’t have children even though I’m in my 30s, and I make pottery for a living when I could have been a doctor or an engineer. However, I think I’m a pretty cool Indian woman that despite cultural norms, I have succeeded in starting a business, I have a loving relationship with a strong foundation of respect and honesty—and I’m happy.
Please support Gopi’s work and give her a follow on Instagram @gopishahceramics.