Leominster Woman Chases American Dream with Her Heart
By Peter Jasinski
LEOMINSTER -- The journey from Iran wasn’t easy.
Looking to distance themselves from their country’s political and economic instability, Sahar Ghavimi and Hamed Zarei planned a move to the United States three years ago. Uprooting their lives meant leaving behind family and successful careers, learning a new language, and adapting to life in a city where they knew almost no one.
“We were starting from zero,” said Ghavimi, before her husband corrected her.
“Less than zero,” said Zarei. “We tried to learn English, we tried to learn the culture, the nature, the people.”
Amid the upheaval of finding a place to live and a job to go to, there was one constant through the couple’s life: Ghavimi’s love of art.
Before moving to Leominster, she was a well-established artist in Iran. She had her own gallery and taught students in an array of mediums, from painting to tile work
She was also a published poet, carpetmaker, and sculptor, but her preferred medium is an art form known as marquetry.
Technically a form of woodworking, marquetry is the art of crafting an image or design out of individually shaped pieces of wood, which the artist fits together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
Ghavimi’s works of marquetry can have from 2,000 to 3,000 individual pieces of wood, some as small as a grain of rice. She has to cut and shape each piece by hand, delicately manipulating a small saw across the patterns she traces along the wood.
Ghavimi is teaching at ActonArt Drawing School in Acton and considers herself a full-time artist.
Though she readily admits that there are other lines of work she could have taken in the U.S. that would have been more financially supportive to a young, immigrant family, she explained that she has devoted too much to her passion to give up on it now.
At the urging of her parents, she studied math and computer engineering in college, which led to a lucrative career in Iran.
“I really try to have something that would be better for me financially. I tried and was successful in engineering and mathematics. I could do that right now, but I don’t enjoy it at all,” she said. “This is something that I really enjoy and love.”
Much of her motivation to continue pursuing artistry in the United States comes from her husband, who she said had been the first person to encourage her to pursue art when she was still in school.
“We were at university in the first semester and we were competing with each other. First student and second student,” said Zarei, adding that his wife was the one at the top of their class. “I saw some of her work and some of her drawings and I told her ‘Why are you wasting your life with algorithms and coding? Just follow your dream.’”
Ghavimi still has hopes to open a gallery here and begin taking on more students. For now, she continues to sell her work online and maintains art as part of her family’s American dream.
“I’ve been in different countries and I see that even when people can’t understand each other with language, they can understand art. They can feel what the artist is saying because it’s a common language in between all humans and it’s powerful,” she said. “If you have something to say, people can understand it, and that is more important than financial things and successful jobs.”
Follow Peter Jasinski on Twitter @PeterJasinski53