Reality Labs

Quill Corner with Samia Khalaf

June 29, 2021

Welcome to the latest installment of Quill Corner, the series where we celebrate the animated moments and stories coming out of the Quill community. Quill is a VR animation and illustration tool for creatives of all skill levels. Today, we’re highlighting Samia Khalaf, the woman, Palestinian, Muslim creator behind Kteer Tayyeb — a unique Quill Story about food, relationships, and taking the time to enjoy both.

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Growing up and living in multiple countries, Khalaf never felt she belonged anywhere, and that’s how she started her food adventure. From eating homemade meals and trying out meals cooked by friends from all over the world to planning travels around what foods she wanted to try next, food has always been her comfort and her adventure. We sat down with her to learn more.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

Samia Khalaf: I am a Palestinian artist living in Manhattan. I was born in Syria and lived there for the first four years of my life, then moved to Kuwait until I finished high school. Summer vacations with my family were spent in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Italy, and Turkey. I received my BFA from the Animation program at SJSU and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area for 11 years before deciding to move to NYC. I enjoy traveling and living in new places — as you can see, I was born into this lifestyle. My art career has been so much more than what I imagined it would be. I’ve animated on TV series, commercials, and mobile games. l worked as a concept artist at Facebook, too, and currently work with Funomena. I also freelance for editorial from time to time. I enjoy doing yoga and hiking. I am that friend who always says they’d rather walk there than take a car. And of course, I love trying new foods!

When did you first know that you wanted to be an artist?

SK: I don’t know if there was a specific moment where I knew I wanted to be an artist. I have had notebooks filled with drawings since I was three. I got bored so quickly, and drawing was how I made time go by faster — I imagined I could time travel when I draw because I was so in the zone, I didn’t feel time pass at all.

What was the original inspiration behind Kteer Tayyeb?

SK: I was brainstorming ideas with a couple of my close friends and trying to think of topics that inspire me. Alexia pointed out that I enjoy food a lot, and that idea immediately clicked with me. I like eating and drawing foods!

How (if at all) did the project change over time?

SK: It started with me listing all the food memories in a journal form, and as I was writing the first draft of the script with Mirella Toncheva, storyboard artist on Kteer Tayyeb, I realized my passion for trying out new foods comes from the times I spent with my uncle, Hussam. He was always so curious and open-minded. He meant a lot to me, and I wanted to dedicate this film to him.

If people take one thing away from Kteer Tayyeb, what do you hope it would be and why?

SK: Being open minded to meeting new people, having new experiences with them, and always learning. Having this mindset really helped me become less shy and more empathetic. Also, who would say no to delicious food?!

What was your first experience with Quill?

SK: I was hired as a concept/UI artist to work at Facebook back in 2018, and my team worked in the same building as artist Goro Fujita, who’s a big inspiration for me. He was kind and patient, answering all my questions and doing Quill demos for me all the time. He became my mentor and taught me all I know about Quill. 

How has VR impacted your process and workflow as an artist?

SK: Even though I took 3D classes at school, it was just not inspiring for me to work in a 3D format — I just felt a disconnect, so I worked in 2D until I tried Quill. Quill really bridged that disconnect. It was like instant magic! I’m not sure what word to use to describe that feeling, but I was there with my art around me — it made me feel like a miniature artist creating worlds.

How do you think VR and AR will continue to change the face of the arts moving forward?

SK: I think more people, including non-artists, will be able to discover ways to express themselves and share it with the world.

What advice would you give to a creator looking to start working in VR?

SK: Jump right in. Remember when you were a kid and were given a piece of paper and crayons? You just went for it. No overthinking — creativity flowed out of you. VR will bring back those nonjudgmental creative flows. Also, remember to take breaks to rest your eyes. You need those in the long run!

What’s next for you? Any exciting updates in the works?

SK: I wrote a graphic novel that I would like to experiment with creating in VR. If it’s successful, there might be another film in production soon!

I’m also planning my next travels once the world is vaccinated! Maybe Japan, Sweden, or Taiwan.

Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

SK: This has been a tough year for everyone and life is short, so carry yourself with kindness to yourself and the humans around you and try not to lose your sense of curiosity and adventure.

Click here to watch Kteer Tayyeb on the Oculus Quest Platform.