Today Artist Strong is pleased to welcome Enas Abdallah, an educator and jewelry designer.

Jewelry Designer and Creative Spirit Enas Abdallah

Jewelry Designer and Creative Spirit Enas Abdallah

Carrie: Welcome Enas to Artist Strong!  Let’s jump right in as I know AT readers will be interested in your story. How did you get started in jewelry design?

Enas: I officially began beading summer of 2009 or 2010 when I was spending the holiday in Dubai and feeling the need to be creative. I asked my mom about what she had done with my dowry. (In the Arab world parents start preparing for the daughter’s wedding at an early age and purchase pieces for their dowries). A while ago she bought hundreds of freshwater pearl strings. she showed them to me and said she would like to get set for me when I get married. I laughed the idea off. So that summer in Dubai, I finally said to my mom that I am never going to get married, why doesn’t she simply give me my dowry so I can do something with it. At first she asked me to rather sell them and keep the money. I explained they won’t bring much but if I created jewellery out of them, maybe I had a better chance. Nonetheless, the idea of a business was really vague in my mind. I wouldn’t know where to start; I just wanted to be creative that summer.

 A few years earlier, I also bought my godson a bead kit. He was five and I knew he liked creating things. So, what better than a bead kit! One summer while I was visiting in Germany, we played with beads. Here, I realized I had an interest in design, colors, and patterns while my godson mixed everything together and I wanted to be systematic.
My interest developed more when one of my senior students in Dubai told me she was going to college to study jewelry making and eventually shared her website with me and told me that one of the autobiographical pieces she wrote in my class inspired one of her jewelry pieces. I was touched. Looking at her work inspired me more.
Then one of my best friends who actually works as a community educator, decided to return to school and study carpentry also triggered something in me. His need to be creative and his pieces that he eventually made with his own hands also made me hungry to work with my hands. All of the above helped ignite the onset of my inspiration.
Design by Enas Abdallah All Rights Reserved

Design by Enas Abdallah All Rights Reserved

Carrie: Can you share how your business developed?

Enas: I documented everything from the start. I was hungry for feedback and so I posted pictures of everything I did on my FB profile and I started getting a lot of likes, then comments, then friends asking whether I was selling or had a website, a business card, etc. I was living in Hong Kong when this took off, and someone at work reminded me of the school fair that was coming up and advised I showcase my work. But in between many came for visits and started to purchase my pieces. One thing let to another. At the fair I got commissioned by a couple of buyers who wanted me to create their Christmas collection-gifts for all their female employers and esteemed customers, as well as family and friends’ gifts. I had one month to create 130 necklaces and bracelets. It was a lot of work for someone who already had a full time job. They only asked for pearls and silver combined. With this project I had to be more creative, each piece needed to be individual, no one piece was a copy of the other. However, I realized, I prefer color. Mind you, the order was special and particular. I tried to convince my clients to include other precious colorful stones with pearls. They were only interested in the unique style of pearl and silver combination–something unusual for a HK Chinese buyer. So in addition of learning how to create different designs, I started to learn more about my buyers, their taste, and how significant cultural background plays role in people’s interests.

Carrie: How do you make time for your art?

Enas: At the beginning, I made a lot of time for jewelry making. I think partly due to the fact that I was not happy in my HK job. Coming home to bead was a theraputic  moment. I needed an outlet at the time. The feedback and inspiration I got through beading helped.During the holidays is where I want to be most creative because I have time in my hand. But since I travel every holiday, I found it difficult to carry my tool kit and beads back and forth. For a while I left a tool kit in Dubai, where I often go. Now, I no longer do so. I have a huge collection and when I sit down to work, I like to have all of my beads surround me, so I am not limited to only work with only one thing. Plus, everytime I travel, I collect pieces and beads from everywhere. Each piece eventually has a story of the world.
Today, my full time job consumes all my time, so I do not bead as much except to do one fair per year or to create a piece if someone requests it. Because I have become so passionate about creating something with my own hand, I began running jewelry making workshops. It’s been great, people come and learn how to make something for themselves and their friends and families. What I like the most, many male friends sign up. Jewelry is not only by or for women and I am glad to be able to break that stereotype. And sometimes, when I have guests who come back again for the workshops, they already know some of the basics, I find more time to also create with them.

Carrie: Who has inspired your work?

Enas: Aside from the answer in the first question above, I am totally in love with Azza Fahmy, the famous Egyptian jewelry designer. In 2003, I went for a walk in my parents’ Cairo neighborhood one afternoon and stumbled upon one of her stores literally on the street parallel to where they lived. I went in and I discovered a new world. Her pieces were individualized. She worked with silver, gold, precious stones. But I loved the most was the fact that she incorporated lines of poetry, proverbs and such in the form of calligraphy in her designs. She also incorporated aspects of Egyptian and Arab/Eastern culture in her pieces. As a Literature teacher and a poet, if I may call myself so, I was in awe. I admired these cultural artifacts. Years later, I inspired to do work like hers–showing the combination of backgrounds I come from. Because of her, I am teaching myself Arabic calligraphy now.
Running a Workshop!

Running a Workshop!

Carrie: Does your process involve a set routine? How does creative process work for you?

Enas: When I began, I designed all the time. But I was one who always designed as I created. I do not sketch my work before hand like Azza Fahmy does. I go right into the piece. Sometimes I have an idea of what styles I want to make. Sometimes, I sit at my table inspired to create but I am clueless of what I will make.

Now my routine incorporates running the workshops, this keeps me grounded from losing my sense of creativity in a very busy teaching year. It gives me a structure. And my investment in this type of art, emotionally and financially, has not gone astray. I also create pieces for friends’ birthdays and Christmas gifts. I no longer buy jewelry, I make jewelry, and I am proud of how I have taught myself to follow my inspiration and creative dream.

Carrie: How do you know when a piece is completely finished?

Enas: Even though I do not sketch my pieces before hand, I do in a sense lay out my beads and silver before I make the piece. So I guess, in a way I do “sketch”. This helps me prior to beading, to know how the piece will look in the end. Many a time, I had to take pieces or half pieces apart because I did not consider how many inches or count how many beads should go on either side of a bracelet or necklace, etc. So now I try to sort out the piece before to know how it will look in the end.

Carrie: What piece are you most proud of and why?

Enas: I love my 7 string “dowry” pearl bracelet. It’s my signiture piece. And it evolved into being made by other precious stones. This took me a while to do. It takes a few hours, sometimes days. It’s delicate, elegant and beautiful. It became a hit with a lot of buyers and I am proud of that.

Design by Enas Abdallah, All Rights Reserved

Design by Enas Abdallah, All Rights Reserved

Carrie: Is there anything you wish you knew when you started out?

Enas: I wish someone told me where all the whole sale beading and silver stores are. But I also believe part of the adventure of evolving into an artist, a jewelry designer (I am not sure if i am comfortable calling myself so yet) is finding all of the places where one’s material comes from. I wish I took a jewelry making class (still wish to do this, as I want, at this point, to put my calligraphy into practice and learn how to create pieces on silver and gold).

Carrie: What advice do you have for creatives like yourself?

Enas: Follow your dreams. Despite the fact that any form of art can sometime be financially straining, one has to start somewhere. I honestly began very small, but what helped is persistence, patience and perseverance (the three Ps I live by). And get feedback, from friends, family, anyone. It inspires you more. My mom was so skeptical at the onset of my creativity, now she does not stop asking me about what new piece I have designed. She already owns a huge collection of my favorite pieces.

Carrie: Where do you hope to be one year from now?

Enas: I want to move on to the next phase. I want this art to truly find its fruition. I want to create or have someone create a proper website for me. I am in the process of designing my own business card. And to set up an online business. I am an artist. I am not a business person and so I need a business partner who will teach me to put an honest price on my work.

I also want to showcase in a gallery. I want to take jewelry making classes and see what other creative people do. There is so much to learn.

Carrie: How do you define creativity?

Enas: Creativity is pure inspiration for me. It’s to be alive, to truly breathe.

A Special thank you to Enas for taking the time to talk with Artist Strong!

ARTIST THINK ACTION: What is one small step you can take towards realizing your creative business?