This International Women’s Day we believe in celebrating our inspirational artsy women who are making a difference to the artist/artisan community around them. These everyday stories of women like you and me are motivating enough to make us want to make a difference with what we do. We hope you love reading then as much as we loved gathering them for you.
Najia Siddiqui runs a social enterprise called Adorn Online which works with artisans to promote traditional handicrafts to local and international markets. She started the venture in 2007 with a partner because she felt that Pakistani artisans were very talented and were being exploited by various actors, causing our entire handicrafts industry to crumble. They had the vision to create a product line which would showcase the artisans traditional skills in a more modern, high quality setting and make these products available locally and internationally to buyers. They ensured that the artisans working with them were being supported and paid well for the wonderful work they do.
In her own words Najia believes “I make a difference because I make markets accessible to women who would otherwise have to sell their skills to middlemen who exploit their talents, giving them very little return. At Adorn, we ensure that our artisans are paid well above market rates, and that they are paid immediately at the time of completion of the work. This allows the artisans to support their families with their earnings. At the village level, without the work of organizations like Adorn, it is impossible for artisans to reach buyers in urban centres in Pakistan and abroad. Our marketing allows them to showcase their tremendous talents to people all over the world.”
Amna Khan is a Textile Design graduate from TIP, Karachi with an immense love for art, design and textiles and likes to call herself as a “textile artist”.
Anam Subhani on the other hand was an engineering student initially but opted for a bachelors in textiles due to her interest in fashion, art and textiles.
They both have a passion for experimental projects and want to create designs that are beyond mediocrity. Verandah Artistry (their interior design brand) gives them the right platform to explore their skills and creativity. The most content at heart feeling for them is when they devote time and energy for art and design.
Verandah Artistry (VA) is the brainchild of all three of the owners. VA was officially launched in the summer of 2015 but was well thought of and planned out in 2014. Amna and Anam both wanted to start off something pertaining to interiors, textile design and home décor whereas Shoaib Wahab (the third partner) wanted to run a business that catered to uniqueness and craftsmanship. VA bought them all together under one hood. At Verandah Artistry, the focus is on developing new products with finesse, creativity and allure that helps in re-defining lifestyles. Their product range at the moment includes Wooden Lamps, Coffee Tables and Wall Panels.
Amna and Anam define their artsy quest in their own words “The main element of our products is the fact that they are “handmade” with utter love and care. For the past many exhibitions, our inspiration has been our very dear city of lights “Karachi”. Through our design practices, we have tried to capture the essence of Karachi and translate it through different mediums and techniques onto our products. The process that we usually explore in our design are printing, sketching and acrylic painting, and the materials that are currently being experimented on are jute, felt fabric, acetate sheets and wood. Through our products we want to instill the love for our culture and craftsmanship among the masses.”
Sadia Navaid is a paper artist. She loves creating magic with paper and runs an online business Phulwari Crafts. Sadia says “I started Phulwari Crafts in 2012 as a hobby. My niece forced me to give my art of paper crafting a name and turn it into a business. After seeing the successes coming my way, I’m now glad that she pushed me.”
Sadia continues, “Before starting a business with handmade products I didn’t know that so many other women are also working through their homes, through this venture I was able to find like minded women who do what they do with the same passion that I see in myself.”
Through her venture Sadia brings to the fore a less practiced art of paper crafting and gives it a contemporary look that keeps it engaging for the newer audience that eventually buy her amazingly detailed and painstakingly created cards and other paper crafts.
Great people are doing awesome stuff every day. These 3 friends namely Sehrish Arsalan, Sijil Azfar and Najia Ishtiaque, decided to jump on this band wagon. Womaniya Designs is a small design venture with great hopes. They make awesome accessories with their product range including handbags, totes, laptop sleeves, and clutches, to name a few.
They launched Womaniya Designs with their first ever “Lollywood: Billo & Jutt collection”, in 2014. In their words “The day the three of us decided we wanted to start a venture together we knew we wanted to work with this particular theme. We wanted to bring something never done, and different to the market which speaks volume of our personal style. However, the name;to be honest we juggled with the dilemma for months. There were lists and lists of names with various philosophies revolving around our brand,until one day we came up with Womaniya- exactly the fusion we needed. An amalgamation of desi and chic. We started designing, and haven’t stopped since. ”
The three believe they make a difference and say “As Textile designers we have been taught to believe in the power of craft and the meticulous skills of the artisans. Craft is the identity of a country, and craftsmanship, the means to sustain the craft. We feel as designers, it’s our obligation to help the artisans revive a craft, simultaneously help them in our capacity to secure their means of living, while expanding their reach to the market. It becomes an overwhelming experience for them to see their products identified under a brand, reaching various parts of our country and beyond, and that’s what makes them strive to sustain an art form by improvising with us, while still being able to make a comfortable living out of it.”
Ahrima Mansoor of WoodTones designs furniture based on the ethos of quality and versatility. Her portfolio ranges from signature heirloom furniture which become timeless additions to the living space, to fun home solutions such as multi-use shelves, cutlery caddies to folding tables for a cup of tea or your iPad.
According to Ahrima, “I am a homemaker but since my daughter grew up and became independent, I was left with more time on my hands. Sitting idle was not for me so I tried my hand at designing clothes, but that too was not for me. Art and interior were my favourite, ever since my time at Home Economics College Lahore.”
Ahrima, who briefly lived in New York, developed an early love for interior design magazines easily available there. Upon her return, she says, “All those colourful home accessories were suddenly just limited to magazines, making me wish we could get those things in Pakistan too.” Ahrima adds, “One day it struck me, Pakistan has excellent karigars – unparalleled craftspeople who were stuck in an old-fashioned rut.” And that’s how WoodTones was born. “It was at the turn of the century that I held my first exhibition at Park Towers. People were fascinated with the profusion of colours but hesitant to take it home.” But Ahrima won people over and acknowledges with gratitude that “albeit slow, it has been a steady uphill climb.”
She shares, “The artisans I work with have been with me since WoodTones was just a concept. I guided them in how to make quality the first mantra, how to finish each item with an eye for detail and most of all, I taught the polisher how to do wood stains and to mix colours to get certain shades — rarely anyone knew the technique or applied it for home furniture.” Ahrima knows she and WoodTones have come a long way, and with them the craftsmen she works with as well. “They all excel in their craft now. I am extremely grateful to them and they make me extremely proud that with their work, we are at par with other countries in quality, handcrafted wood products. What we used to see in catalogues is now proudly made in Pakistan – at WoodTones.”
The beautiful products created by these exceptionally talented women artists/artisans (or the artisans they train and provide employment) can be found at Artsy.