Being a medical doctor in the midst of this global pandemic has been eye-opening. On front-line duty, these superheroes are fighting this unprecedented virus, often at tremendous personal cost. One doctor decided to balance the scale by returning to her first love: art. Known to many as Dr Shani Duncan, in the creative world she has found ‘resin’ to create under the moniker, Artbyshani876.
“I am a medical doctor by profession, and my art business is ‘what I enjoy outside of work’. It has kept me sane throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and I am very thankful for the opportunities it has created,” she told Flair.
Dr Duncan has always been an art lover. Using paint as the ultimate de-stressor in high school, she recalls taking her interest all the way to the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination level. Once she embarked on her medical studies, she carried her hobby along with her, employing the visual-art form as an integral source of enjoyment. But when COVID-19 made a startling entry into the island, Dr Duncan didn’t know where to turn. Like clockwork, she took her natural course of action, balancing the chaos with the calming works of art.
Although naturally reserved, she mustered up the courage to establish her art business in December 2019, just months prior to the lockdown. “It had always been a dream of mine to have a showcase of my paintings. But I’m naturally a very reserved person, so even though I always wanted to exhibit, I wasn’t sure I would really be able to overcome that obstacle,” she said, adding that with the encouragement from her loved ones, she was able to participate in an art showcase hosted by Kingston Night Market at the end of that year.
Receiving success through sold-out pieces boosted her confidence to ignite her passion and transform it into a business. By January 2021, things took an even better turn when she discovered a new and exciting technique that combines both science and beauty to create majestic works of art: resin.
“My first encounter with resin happened during the time I was looking for unique pieces to use as decor in my home. I wasn’t finding the pieces that I liked, so I went on YouTube and found resin coasters. Soon after that, I ordered the raw materials really just to try to see if I would be able to make any of the pieces for myself,” she revealed.
After approximately two trials, she found the right mix and has been making resin coasters for herself and others ever since. “I love that resin is relatively simple to work with and can be customisable. Items can be branded, and there’s no limit to colour options that are available.” Duncan’s line of resin coasters made its official debut in February 2021.
Some of her popular pieces include the Blue Mocha Coasters, a four-inch square with a sapphire or turquoise blue base infused with coffee beans and a completely flat surface. The coffee beans, she explains, were chosen because of their popularity. Jamaican coffee beans are the best in the world and are loved globally because of their high quality. Next are the jewel coasters, which are frequently ordered for their colours and beauty. “The coasters make for a unique gift option and can be customised. People love that. They are also very affordable and functional household items. My pieces are original, affordable, and customisable,” Dr Duncan added.
Despite raw material being expensive to source, the artist has been grateful for her supportive clients and the bursary she received from the Development Bank of Jamaica shortly after registering her small business. She was able to launch her website, which has proven to be integral in the operations of her online company.
The customisation feature has been a huge hit among clients, who give her the creative freedom to make coaster magic. Other clients love to choose varying colour combinations, and Dr Duncan does her very best to facilitate their vision and bring them to life. “My creative process with both media, painting and resin work, is inspired by colour, joy, and happiness. I will even paint multicoloured animals. I see life in colour, and it comes out in all my pieces,” she added.
Currently promoting her recently launched oil painting collection entitled Sunflower, her coasters remain available for purchase, and custom orders are always welcome.
To those trying to find a footing in this art world, Dr Duncan advises that you stay true to yourself, pour into yourself, and have an unwavering support system to get you through the good and bad times.