Sara Shakeel is a Pakistani dentist-turned-artist whose dazzling phygital artworks have propelled her to global fame, with over a million followers on Instagram.

Sara, how do you decide what to add your sparkle to?

I usually start off with an idea or feeling that sparks an emotion in me. A lot of my work is actually based on my current mood, so it’s very unpredictable.

How did you come up with the idea of crystallized artworks in the first place?

My grandmother used to collect crystals, and I recall always being so mesmerized when looking at them. So, for my very first digital collage, I picked a crystal pattern, put it on some lipsticks and posted it. It went viral immediately and ended up being my signature style up until this day.

What’s the core message behind your art pieces?

With my work, I want to spark positivity, love, and hope. Adding a layer of playful surrealism to the everyday brings new hope and new perspectives. Not everything in my life has been perfect, but I always hoped for the best. If I hold a crystal, it always reflects a ray of light or hope. I want my work to inspire people to look at the bright side of life.

What is it about crystals and sparkles that unites all different kinds of people?

Every human being has that certain ray of light that eventually attracts all of us towards things that sparkle. From my experience, although we all go through different challenges, it seems that a single piece of crystal art has the ability to help people deal with their individual situation. Crystals have the power to accelerate the healing process as they reflect a sense of enlightenment which I find very calming and inspiring.

What does your vision for the future look like?

I hope for a better and brighter future for the next generation that is filled with even more positivity. Especially in current times, we have to remind ourselves that this is just a phase and nothing stays forever. Everything will be fine, and we will learn so much from today’s experiences.

How has your career as a former dentist shaped your work ethic & aesthetics nowadays?

Dentistry is a very delicate and precise profession. It has definitely helped me to pre-establish my approach of working with crystals and given me the ability of perfecting every little detail of an artwork.

As all superheroes know, great power comes with great responsibility. How do you see your role as an influencer and how would you like to see influencer culture develop?

I never wanted to become an influencer. I always considered my Instagram my personal diary and a way to connect with others. Today, I certainly do feel a sense of responsibility as I see that my words have an influence on people. I think twice before posting something, knowing that not everyone will agree with me – especially when it comes to politics. At times, this tremendous social power can be scary, but I don’t want to play it safe and rather stay true to myself. In future, I wish to see more influencers with a real purpose, whatever that may be. It seems to me that a lot of people would do anything on social media to earn money.

Do you prefer the physical or digital creation process?

Both, for sure. I started off as a digital artist, but I was always attracted to crafting things with my hands. Back in the days, I used to mend broken things around my house and glued them together to create something entirely new. It’s a passion I picked up from my dad. When I started my digital work, people always wondered if it was real – so I bought crystals and began working on analogue pieces as well.

What excites you most about the merging of physical and digital experiences, and why?

The blend of the physical and digital worlds is the future, as it creates new and very unique experiences. I’m already applying this approach to my work, and also for my installation at Studio Odeonsplatz: the Mercedes-Benz car is the physical object that comes to life by digital animation.

Why are you and Mercedes-Benz a perfect fit?

Not a lot of people know this about me, but I wanted to become a Formula One race driver when I was little. I was always into cars, speed and racing. Since this dream never came true, I’m very excited and thankful to work together with Mercedes-Benz as an artist – it has been a very powerful and beautiful experience for me. Let me be candid here: besides a man, a good Mercedes-Benz car really turns me on.

What does true experience mean to you?

A good experience is always determined by the reaction of other people. Personally, I think Gucci is one of the most forward-thinking brands when it comes to delivering great experiences. Everything from their website to the store and the collaborations with unknown artists really stands out these days.

What is one technique/tech you haven’t tried out yet but are very excited about?

I experiment with 3D and 4D at the moment, and plan to create a crystal planet sometime soon.

What are the defining features of modern luxury from your perspective?

A lot has changed recently. Just a few months ago, luxury had everything to do with items or things that were not a necessity. But during these transformative times, for me, the meaning has changed. Not so long ago, staying at home and spending time with family was a far-fetched thought, and relaxing and self-love was something we never considered important. Then Mother Nature hit the reset button, and now the things that were not so important have become the most significant and life-saving rituals of our lives. This time we’ve been given to reflect is one of the greatest luxuries. Across the world, people have been able to prioritize their lives and ambitions. For me, this self-love and family time is one of the most valuable gifts bestowed upon us by the universe.

Why did you decide to collaborate with Studio Odeonsplatz?

I was immediately drawn to the idea of an ever-changing brand space – it’s the future of retail in my opinion. Like me, Studio Odeonsplatz is optimistic, experiential and focused on the joys of creativity and digitization. I see the space as a new kind of gallery, which melds physical and digital lifestyles, and where people can connect with art and culture in unique ways. It’s my first time creating art pieces for such a future-forward hub, and I hope my work will contribute to the overall vision of the store.

Which celebrity reposting has made you the proudest?

Sarah Jessica Parker was the very first celebrity who liked my photos: she even commented that she hopes that one day I will become a very successful artist – this was such a special moment in my life. Model Ashley Graham also shared one of my glitter stretch mark artworks, thereby promoting body positivity and the beauty of stretch marks.

You are nicknamed the “Queen of Crystals”: Who are your personal heroes?

I admire artists that have lived before the internet, like Frida Kahlo, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. They did not care about money or fame and just created whatever they wanted based on their emotions and ideas.

Are there any contemporary artists or personalities you follow online for inspiration?

I get inspired by the work of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. He’s almost 60 years old and yet, he has created a space for himself in the social media world, demonstrating that age is not a factor when it comes to innovation. And I enjoy checking out the feed of American actress and comedian Liza Koshy – I find her so funny!

What do you enjoy doing when you are not creating?

I’m a real daydreamer and love sitting around visualizing what I could do next and how I could create things that are not yet a reality – it’s like a meditation exercise for me. I also enjoy travelling, especially to places in Europe that are inspired by the era of the Renaissance.

Where are your top three places in the world to visit, and why?

Iceland is on top of my travel list: I love cold weather, the wind, the ice, the snow, everything. Since I’d consider myself an introvert, I like visiting places that are rather isolated and not too crowded. Another must-visit for me is Germany. It seems all good things – cars, tech, engineering – comes from Germany. Also, a lot of famous thinkers and philosophers I admire are Germans. Fun fact: In the city of Heidelberg, there’s a road named after the Pakistani philosopher Allama Iqbal – so I’d like to walk around Iqbal-Ufer someday. Plus, I’m excited to finally visit Studio Odeonsplatz in Munich. Last but not least, I want to explore France: I have a thing for places with a long-standing history where each building tells an interesting story from the past – and I’d come for the food, of course.

Name three topics you could talk about for more than an hour?

I love talking about science, medical stuff, and finding solutions to any kind of problem.