Friday, 10 January 2014

Relocated: Come find me on This Baker Girl Blogs!

I've moved! All future content will now be posted on This Baker Girl Blogs. 

Come over and say Hi!

To learn more about my decision, click here.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

{FEATURE}: Calligraphy Arts by Sabah

I'm no stranger when it comes to calligraphy art. My friends and I used to dabble in it quite a fair bit when we were at school and while it was a hobby I really enjoyed, I soon found little time to spare for it. The few pieces I did create are scattered around the house (some proudly displayed while others collect dust) and I eventually discovered what great gifts they would make and made some for others, too.

Sadly it's been a while since I last picked up a paintbrush, but it hasn't stopped me from me admiring others works of art. Calligraphy Arts by Sabah is one I've fallen in love with - her attention to detail and passion for her craft really shows in her work. And, she's just as lovely as her paintings! If you don't believe me, find out for yourself below.

(This feature has been in the making for a quite while now and I am thrilled to finally be able to share her work with you!)

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Of course the readers would love to know about the person behind the shop, so please tell me a little bit about yourself.

My name is Sabah and I'm currently a University student. I have always had a passion for Art thus have tried to do something artistic alongside my studies. My business is based on one of the beauties of my religion; Islamic calligraphy. I am also a henna artist and I love combining these two interests together in my work. Art is one of those areas which requires neither qualification nor experience and I therefore believe every piece of work is a piece of Art, which tells its own story. I sincerely believe it is important to express yourself as I feel that people get so caught up in the world with their daily routines, that they do not leave any time to appreciate the beauty of the smaller things in life. As I am still studying, I do not have much time to travel outside the UK. However, I would love to travel the world in the future and find new sources of inspiration for my work.

What are some of your biggest inspirations or what motivates you to get creative?
The architecture in mosques and wall art is amazing. Islamic Art is a focal point and I find it fascinating how a small design can be repeated in different orientations to decorate the walls and ceilings of mosques. I haven't used Islamic Art in my work, but this is something I would love to look into In Shaa Allah. Mosques such as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Masjid Al-Aqsa and Masjid Al-Nabwi are just some examples of how beautifully calligraphy can be used to design the interiors of buildings. When I see new paintings of calligraphy, this automatically motivates me because it helps me to generate new ideas which I then become impatient to try!




When did you discover your love of crafts/handmade goods?
I discovered my love for calligraphy when I was about 15, but I never really had the confidence to do it myself. I love how calligraphers use the qalam (pen) to join letters and use different scripts to beautify a piece of work. Later on, I began practising on paper and later found that I can do this on canvases when I studied Art properly. I had a break from doing anything artistic in my second year at college but I found that I needed to resume once I started University. At this point, I moved straight onto canvases. At the beginning I did feel a little uncertain because this was unlike something I've ever done before, but when people started to recommend me to their friends, I became more confident and opened up my Facebook page www.facebook.com/calligraphyartsbysabah





Is there a story behind the name of your business?
I've not really had a set name for my business. When I started up, I had originally kept the name as 'Islamic Calligraphy Canvases by Sabah'. I did feel however, that it was too rigid and specific; I wanted to do calligraphy on more than just canvases. That's when I came up with 'Calligraphy Arts by Sabah'. It's different and keeps my options open too.

What kinds of things do you sell?
At the moment I sell canvases and cards and I often incorporate henna designs into my work. As my business is still in its early days, I'm busy establishing a good name. Once I have achieved this, I would love to move onto other products and new markets.




What is your favorite thing about your business?
My favourite thing about my business is the freedom in working. I can work whichever hours I desire and I can effectively prioritise with orders so as to maintain a good balance between work and family life. I also love the fact that some customers give me the choice to decorate their order according to what I think looks better. Its make me feel honoured that somebody else trusts my professionalism and my taste!

How would you describe your products and/or your creative process?
I would say my products are fully personalised as I aim to exceed my customers' expectations.  I try to make each canvas better than the picture my customers have painted in their minds. With each order, I am learning something new and I believe that today Alhamdulillah, I am more experienced than I was when I first started. I hope to become a better calligrapher in the future.




What have been some of the challenges with your business?
I'd say definitely getting my work out there to others has been fairly challenging. I'm still at the stage of establishing a well reputable name and I would love to achieve this in the near future iA. Sometimes its challenging to meet a priority order, but this is all a part of the experience I guess. I love every part it.

What are your aspirations for the business?
I strongly believe there are opportunities wherever you go. Having said this, I would love for my business to grow Internationally, especially in those countries where there are misconceptions about Islam as a religion and as a lifestyle. I welcome other artist collaborations and would love to do live calligraphy for children. Wall art is also a huge inspiration for my work, in which I would love to specialise.





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Saturday, 5 October 2013

Halal Food Festival

Pssst, to celebrate 400+ likes on the ThisGirlBlogs facebook page I'm having a ::GIVEAWAY:: on my food blog, This Baker Girl Blogs, of cookbook Breakfast for Dinner by Lindsay Landis! All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on the giveaway blog post telling me your favourite breakfast - easy! Ends on 13th October. Go enter and good luck!

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Last Sunday I was at the Halal Food Festival with my sister. An event aiming to celebrate the range and diversity of halal foods from around the world. Being from London, it's not difficult at all to find halal food, but a a 3 day event and an entire roomful of halal companies/vendors? That was new!

I was still recovering from the chaotic (but very awesome!) night before of Al-Isharah's event, and had caught a cold, but I'd been looking forward to the festival for weeks and had bought my tickets in advance ... So, I still went. Obviously.


Despite arriving early a queue had already formed outside the entrance. Which wasn't very surprising considering the enthusiasm surrounding the whole event. For the past 2 days my twitter and instagram feeds were bursting with raving reviews of the event and I was excited to finally see it for myself! Sadly I didn't get the chance to take a lot of pictures ... I was a little busy eating. Oops! As a food blogger I really should know better!

As early birds we managed to nab front row seats to the Live Demo Kitchen. Winner of Food Glorious Food, Rahila Hussain, was scheduled first with her award winning White Korma but the team were running a little behind.

And, who did we happen to spot directly opposite the kitchen? The beautiful Amena(kin)!



They looked like they were still getting their merch ready, but after a couple of walk-bys I couldn't contain my excitement any longer. Admittedly I was a little start struck and it was a bit surreal meeting Amena in person - I'm so used to seeing her in a tiny box on my computer screen - but she was very down to earth and just lovely!

I fell in love with her daisy hand chains but due to having really small wrists I've never been able to wear bracelets other than the elastic kind. But, with a pair scissors at hand, within a couple of minutes Amena had managed to shorten my chosen daisy chain and it fit my wrist perfectly! A neat little trick I'll be doing to all my bracelets from now on. I ended up buying a couple more and cut them down to size just like she had shown me. Thanks, Amena! :)


When we returned to the Live Demo Kitchen we had lost our front row seats (although, kind of worth it to meet Amena) but made it in time to watch Rahila in action. The interaction on stage was entertaining to watch and with such a gorgeous dish produced at the end I was glad Rahila hadn't let her broken windshield keep her from the event! Her Korma's available in Marks and Spencers, but after watching how effortlessly she managed to create it in just minutes, I reckon I'll pass on the store bought variety and give the recipe a go myself.



Next up was Jean-Christophe Novelli with his Couscous de Mes Voisin. No description necessary, right? I was fangirl-ing from a safe distance of 10 feet away and making mental notes of all his great tips. He placed a lot of emphasis on avoiding oil and using natural juices of vegetables to cook in, using quality ingredients, and what kinds of knives and pans to use. His sheer passion for food really came across in everything he was saying, and no, it wasn't just the french accent. He really loves food! And, he has a new cookbook out soon - which I'll be buying, of course.

We tried food from almost every stall and I struggle to pick a favorite. There were just so many choices! But, Malaysian pancakes? I could eat that every day.






(Chocolate Samosas?? A little weird, but it worked! I'll definitely be giving them a go myself)

 

After making the rounds several times and eating enough food to equal my body weight, we decided to head to the Human Appeal Stage to watch Mesut Kurtis perform.


Now, I'll be honest - when I first heard his name, I thought "Who? Huh? Where's Maher Zain?". But, after hearing him perform just once I've already become a fan. That voice! And, when he announced the Adhan? ... Just beautiful.

Sadly I missed out on the cooking school - the lines were really long - but maybe next time. The venue was packed and the atmosphere was buzzing. I only wish I had been able to come Friday and Saturday as well because just one day wasn't enough!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

The Climb (Part 2)

For part 1 click here.

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Despite the rough journey, as I breathed in the mountain air and did a quick little dance to stretch my limbs and get the blood rushing through again, I was filled with excitement. And, while the traces of the lack of sleep may have shown on my face, on the inside I was wide awake, alert and ready to get going. Something to do with adrenaline, apparently.

We were greeted with this sign at the ladies room:


It was clearly done by some guys, but it was nice to see the people here had a sense of humour. That's something I can appreciate. After washing up we had a quick breakfast, divided ourselves into groups of 10 (group 2, woop woop!) and off we went.

Considering the seriously cold weather and all the snow they had been getting for the past couple of weeks it was surprising to find it was actually quite warm that morning. I should have been happy about this but it's kind of hard when you meticulously planned and packed for the cold and are clothed in 5 layers.

The extra layers slowly came off and were stuffed into my backpack as we ascended the mountain. Did you know mountains are steep? Like, really steep? It didn't take long to realise I was not made for such an incline! I struggled right from the get-go, had to repeatedly stop for water, perch myself onto a rock and peel off layers.

Props to our team leader who was full of enthusiasm and kept us motivated throughout. I don't know how he did it but he would give a quick pep talk to those trailing behind and within just seconds he would speed through the group to take the lead. Speedy had some quick feet and he'd done the trek several times - at one point with his 11 year old niece and nephew ... If a bunch of kids could do it then there's no way I would be able to live it down if I gave up - the shame!

I left a trail of M&Ms as we trekked (a little Hansel and Gretel-y) but we were encouraged to eat lots of sugary snacks on the way up to give us a good energy boost and to keep away from anything heavy until we were making our way down. So much for all them sandwiches in my backpack.

The views throughout the entire climb were incredible. For a bunch of city kids we were really in awe of all the greenery, the mountain peaks, the waterfalls, the streams, the rocks ... everything about the place was just beautiful. Everything was so peaceful, too. And, the air ... guys, it smelled clean! And, I swear the sky was bluer. It was the kind of thing I'd only ever seen on TV or postcards, and yet here I was with the mud beneath my feet, the wind brushing my face, a stream to my left and a sheep to my right. If nothing else, just being able to witness such beauty in the world made the whole thing worth it.





Earlier that morning the group had prayed in the pouring rain in the middle of a parking lot at a service stop and some took the opportunity to make the most of the incredible surroundings to offer the afternoon prayer right there on the mountain.


My friends and I may have been trailing behind at first but we don't give up easy and by the end of the trek we were the first few leading the group down. *Dusts off shoulder*

Exhausted and covered in mud from head to toe I was beyond thrilled to have continued even when my legs had felt like jelly. A lot of things made the trek possible for me - my own resilient determination, the encouragement of my fellow friends and teammates, the generosity of everyone who had sponsored me and the fear of being left behind and dying alone on a mountain.Only sort of kidding about that last one.

The trek was unlike anything I had ever done before and there were numerous times leading up to the climb where I had questioned whether I would be able to do it at all. I even started to question my sanity. (Why, oh, why???!!). I was waaaaayyyy out of my comfort zone but I'm proud of myself for pushing forward. I'm not sure if I would do it again (probably not) but it was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed - even with the lack of sleep and all that mud.

And, all of it was for such an incredible good cause. The struggles I faced during the climb were miniscule compared to the struggles the money raised (collectively over £35K!!) will help alleviate. From the bottom of all our hearts, thank you all so much for helping us make that possible. (If you'd like to find out more about Islamic Relief, their challenges and their projects, click here.)

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Al-Isharah's Sisters Night of Challenges! Have You Got Your Tickets Yet?




I have news!

For the past few weeks I've been working with an awesome team of girls to organise Al-Isharah's first ever women-only event!

Al-Isharah is an awesome charity dedicated to working with the Muslim deaf community to make Islamic education more accessible to them. As someone who is actively trying to learn more about the religion myself, I've found the availability and access to knowledge pretty easy and even sometimes overwhelming - there's just so much to learn from! But, have you ever considered the obstacles our deaf brothers and sisters who also want to learn can often face? Al-Isharah works to overcome the challenges of their disability and are working hard on establishing a deaf school - the Deaf Deen project. It's quite a unique charity - I haven't heard of another quite like it - and if you'd like to learn more about their mission visit their website by clicking here

I first heard of Al-Isharah when they were hosting the Deaf Run event - full of fun challenges like sumo wrestling and chilli eating. Unfortunately I couldn't attend the event but I heard it was a huge success! Following on from that, the Sisters Night of Challenges will also have a few challenges - don't worry, no sumo wrestling, ladies - instead we've got a quiz, a creative challenge and a mystery challenge. Ooooohhh.

There will also be a mega souk area for you to browse and buy, a drama play by some of the lovely kids from the school, and a delicious 3 course meal. And, all for just £15! (£10, if you're a student!). And, it's all for a such a good cause, too.

Date: Saturday 28th September. Time: 5pm - 10.30pm. Location: Water Lily at Mile End.

Got that?

Make a note of these dates and times, and then click here to purchase your tickets!

Also, if you're interested in booking a stall in our souk area or sponsoring the event, then please get in touch!

We've been working super hard to make this event a success. Come along and join in the fun! Please help us raise tons of funds and awareness for this wonderful charity. Tell all your family and friends and show them some love on their facebook page.

I hope to see you ladies there!

Monday, 19 August 2013

An Interfaith Community Eid Party

A week later and Eid celebrations are still in full swing. There's just so many places to be and people to see that it's impossible to pack it all into three days and everywhere I visit I'm greeted with plates of food and warm smiles. But, after a month-long detox, some of the food is initially met with gritted teeth. Unfortunately it doesn't last long and before I know it I'm on my fourth (not-so-mini) mini quiche. I've eaten a lot of junk for the past week and after over a month of not being able to work out, I should really dust off my running shoes ... but, maybe tomorrow. Meh.

Being from London, a city bursting with people from all walks of life, and living in a hugely Muslim populated neighborhood, my new non-Muslim neighbors (a really lovely old couple) were surprised to discover no such community gathering to celebrate Eid.

They've lived in a small town just outside of London for most of their married life. The kind of town where everyone knows each others name and no one locks their doors at night. Their children had all grown up, gotten married, and flown the nest and while most people would have chosen to blissfully retire to the countryside where they could enjoy long walks, picnics by a lake and lemon bars served at town meetings, they chose to the move to an inner city neighborhood with traffic jams, littered streets and a construction site for a view ... yeah, I don't get it either.

On arrival to their new home, my Mum (who was busy feeding her other children, pests, adopted honorary pets) was one of the first people they'd met. After a brief introduction they easily fell into conversation and upon discovering Eid was to take place in just a short few days, they had a 'Eureka!' kind of moment - why not throw a party?! An Eid/Meet-your-Neighbors party. You know, killing two birds with one stone, and all that. (No, Mum, not your birds!!)

The next few days were spent organizing what would be become the first Eid party on the block. While the lovely couple were in charge of decorations and games, my Mum, who pretty much knows everyone in the neighborhood, was tasked with getting the word out. Because, you kind of need people for it to be a party.

Everyone's biggest fear when throwing a party? No one turning up.

But, all fears were dispelled with people donating decorations and games (we had tennis, skipping ropes, twister and giant connect four). The local church loaned their tables and locals loaned chairs (which acted as a last resort incentive to get people to come - if they wanted their chairs back they'd have to come to the party to get them! But, wait, why not stay and have some cake? ... JK! Not really.)

 A GIANT connect four! Now, it's a party! ;)

And, thankfully, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Everyone was also asked to bring some food along to the party and boy did they bring! The tables were exploding with food which was a good thing because guess what? There were a lot of mouths to feed. People came!


We had people of all different faiths join us and even people who were just passing through the neighborhood were asked to stop for a bite to eat. There were some who had no idea what Eid was - a great chance to tell them all about it - and others who did know but had never been asked to join in the celebrations! Everyone was welcome at our party though - in fact, the more the merrier!

You were also finally able to put a lot faces to the people behind door numbers. I've lived in this neighborhood for 8 years now and still had no idea who lived at number 14!

Our new neighbors (and my Mum) did an awesome job at bringing the community together. As far as parties go, I think it was a big success. We might even turn it into an annual thing!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Eid Mubarak!

Yesterday I spent my day amongst all my wonderful friends and family, and plenty of yummy food!

After 30 days of no breakfast or lunch, I definitely felt a little strange of being able to eat during daylight hours. Not that stopped me from grabbing a second quiche or indulging in a massive slice of cake.

I hope you've all had a wonderful Ramadan. The end is always a little bittersweet for me, I'm never sure whether to smile or cry. Maybe a bit of both. But, I hope everything we've achieved stays with us even beyond this glorious month and that we continue to build on it.

If you're wondering what I get up to on Eid then check out Aquila Style Magazines latest issue and check out their Eid Around the World Feature to find yours truly! I'm a huge fan of the magazine and they've republished a couple of my recipes from my food blog, This Baker Girl Blogs, on to their online Ramadan recipes, but to be included in their latest issue was super exciting and tons of fun!


I usually don a traditional South Asian dress for Eid, but this year I decided to do something a little different and went with something a little more simple but elegant.


I wore the Penny Chiffon Maxi Dress from The Poplook. I actually had a choice from Penny's because ... I love the dress so much I bought many in different colors! I love the cut and style and how it's very modest yet stylish. And, because it's plain I was free to accessorize as I wished and decided to go with a gold scarf and accessories. My sisters on the other hand decided to stick with tradition! ... (Do we look anything alike?)



This particular Eid was a little more special as my aunt has been offered a job abroad and won't be joining us for next Eid. So, we decided to throw her an impromptu surprise going away party! While our mums acted as a distraction, dragging my Aunt to visit various family friends, my cousins and I set about getting the house ready.

Then we realised we had no balloons. You can't have a party without balloons! So, we made a quick dash to the local store and grabbed some but upon opening the packet we realised they weren't party balloons ... they were water balloon! They really should have put that on the packet ... oh well. We blew them up any way and dispersed the mini balloons everywhere.

I hate surprises myself but I love surprising others and the way my aunts face changed to a million different looks within just a few seconds was just amazing. She loved it!

:|  :O  :)  :D  :D  :D :D :D :D :D :D :D))))

And, there was cake. Of course.

However you spent your day, I hope you all had a great day, celebrating the festivities with all your friends and family. Eid Mubarak!! :D

Sunday, 4 August 2013

En Route: Snowdon

When you've only ventured out of the bustling city a handful of times and are so used to views of brick walls, graffiti-ed tunnels and small patches of grass being passed off as 'parks', scenes like this really take your breath away ...




Even the air smelled different.

Trekking up a mountain has never been on my bucket list but I'm going to pretend it was and cross it off because that's exactly what I did a few months ago along with 100 odd people from London and Manchester. Collectively we raised over £35K (Alhamdulillah!) for Islamic Reliefs Water 4 Life project and I'd like to thank everyone who sponsored us from the very bottom of our hearts - we couldn't have done it without you! Thanks to your generosity Islamic Reliefs efforts to provide clean and safe water is now one step closer to achieving just that and you've potentially helped save a lot of lives.

I'm not the most active person and the most exercise I get is climbing up and down the stairs of my house. I take public transport everywhere, I don't know how to swim or ride a bike and our treadmill is used as a makeshift clothes rack. So when the opportunity to climb a mountain presented itself I was a little ... err ... scared. And completely unprepared and out of shape.

But, I've never been the type to shy away from a challenge or from trying something new. I'm always up for new and exciting experiences and this one seemed to fit the bill. I also figured this could be the kick up the backside I needed to become more active - no more couch potato!

Also, when I told friends and family they laughed. So, I kind of had to do it to prove them all wrong. And, once the donations started coming in I couldn't back out ... uh oh!

While my friends and fellow climbers hit the gym, I decided to dust off the treadmill sitting in the corner of my house and hit the belt running. I preferred to sweat in private and shower in the comfort of my own home. I also started walking everywhere and you know you're really unfit when you get a stitch from just walking. Seriously? How was I not dead by now?

Let's talk about mountain gear. It's impossible to look attractive in hiking boots and a waterproof jacket. Not that 'attractive' was the look I was going for but I didn't want to look like a 12 year old boy, either, which is exactly what I looked like.

But, it didn't really matter what I looked like because the journey there made us all look a little worse for wear. We arrived at the head office at 11pm (even that was a mission in itself - thank goodness for Google maps!) and met the other climbers we would be sharing this experience with. And, after a motivational speech from one of the organisers we all fell into our seats on the coach and minibus at 2am and headed off.

Destination: Mount Snowdon.

Trying to sleep whilst sitting down was more than uncomfortable, the roads were a little bumpy, we made 2 service station stops and long car journeys always gives me a headache - in summary: I got no sleep. At all. Which couldn't have been a good thing considering I was due to climb a mountain later that morning. I'm pretty sure you have to stay awake for that, right?

We changed into our gear at the first service stop we made, with all the girls running around the public restroom, squeezing into cubicles, brushing our teeth and some even applying make up. For someone who is hopeless with eyeliner and has never before used highlighter or bronzer I was a little surprised to find girls applying make up at 4am. I probably could have used some though - the lack of sleep was not kind on the eyes.

The second service stop we made was for fajr prayer. Despite travelling through the night in the pouring rain it was important to not forget what our ultimate objective was. Regardless of place and weather condition, when the time for prayer arrived - it was time to pray. Witnessing my friends and fellow climbers assemble into lines at the gas stations parking lot and pray in congregation in the pouring rain was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.



Something else I had seen whilst the rest of the minibus slept was sheep. A looot of sheep. Randomly dotted on the hills I'd find little balls of white and as the car twisted and turned round the bends of Welsh country roads and edged closer to our destination I wondered whether I still had time to steal a few minutes of sleep. I was literally counting sheep.

I probably got a total of 45 minutes sleep that whole night and my body ached from sitting down for so long. My headache hadn't disappeared and my eyes stung. I was definitely not built for long journeys and I was starting to question whether signing up for this trek was such a smart decision after all. I just wasn't so sure anymore.

But, another beautiful thing I got to witness in the silence of the minibus was the sunrise. As light broke through the clouds and the rain began to stop, with just the hum of the engine and the sight of mountain tops and green fields flashing past, I began to feel a sense of calm.

As the others stirred awake and we were slowly creeping towards our destination, excitement began to fill the atmosphere, morale was building and we were pumped to make the climb. As soon as I climbed out of the vehicle and my feet hit the ground, I was hit with a rush of adrenaline and bursting to make a run for the mountains.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

{FEATURE}: Bespoke Henna by Farrah Azam

I first met Farrah Azam (the talent and business woman behind Bespoke Henna) last November. We were trade show neighbors and with a table looking like this, it's no surprise I was drawn towards it instantly and couldn't help striking up a conversation with her - her pieces give a lot to talk about!


With a personality just as beautiful as her designs, it was a relief having someone show me the ropes at my first trade show! Farrah was warm, chatty and clearly passionate about her products and business.

It wasn't long after I met her that I started stalking following her various social networks and discovered the table above was just the tip of the iceberg. As someone who loves anything handmade and/or personalized, her products were right up my street. I've purchased twice from her store; both times for friends (I'll need to get something for myself, soon!) and both times the service was first class - easy to order, quick delivery, and 2 very beautiful candles. It's safe to say I was a very happy customer!


I have a serious online shopping addiction, but quite a few times I've been disappointed with products when they arrive at my door and sometimes I even wonder whether I've been sent the wrong item! But, fear not, I can tell you all now that Farrahs products are just as beautiful (if not more) in real life as they are photographed. (And, I dare you to try to resist running your fingers across the henna - the texture is just brilliant!).

But, I feel kind of selfish keeping Farrah all to myself. I reckon it's about time you met her, too! Read our interview below to find out more about her and be sure to drop by her facebook page and say Hi! You can also find her on on twitter and instagram. Check out her website, Bespoke Henna, for the full range of all her beautiful products (Psst, Eid orders have to be in by 1st August ... Hurry!).

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1. Of course the readers would love to know about the person behind the business, so please tell me a little bit about yourself.

My name is Farrah Azam and I am a graduate in Psychology and Criminology. I had never really studied art and design before but I always did have a creative flair. I am a full-time mother and wife alongside running my own business. I love travelling to different countries, in particular North Africa and the Middle East (I find a lot of my inspiration comes from there!). My religion plays a big part in my life, and especially helps with my business, with a lot of my decisions and business acumen coming from my religious beliefs. I believe honesty and gratitude is core in running a successful business and I try to follow these principles in my work. I have great family and friends without whom I believe the success of Bespoke Henna would have been unattainable.

2) What are some of your biggest inspirations or what motivates you to get creative? 

I would say I am highly inspired by Islamic Art. I particularly feel inspired by Islamic architecture and religious monuments. Turkey is one of the countries I love to visit, and I am highly inspired by their iznik art which I use a lot in my work. Inspiration comes from many places including Indian vintage clothing, Persian carpets, jewellery and lots more! There are many talented henna artists and I think healthy competition is always good, I would say it motivates me to push myself more and get more creative and come out with different things all the time ... which reminds me, I have recently started to re-create my designs on to fabric designs and have even began designing my own jewellery! I am inspired by Chinese art too, I believe Chinese art played a big role in the ottoman era, therefore lots of my pieces which are influenced by Turkish art actually have Chinese elements in them too.


3) When did you discover your talent and love of crafts/handmade goods?

I always found doodling relaxing. I did a henna course with a world leading henna artist who taught me some basics of henna and helped me grow some confidence. After lots of practice I started to see some ability and then began taking it to a whole new level and decided to paint henna on products. When people started to show appreciation towards my work and it starting selling, that's when I really believed I may have a bit of a talent and my love for it kept growing.

4) How did you decide on the name? Is there a story behind it?

I wanted to keep my business name fairly simple and I didn’t want to limit it to just ‘candles’ or ‘canvases’ because I knew I would want to do a lot with bespoke henna in the future. The word ‘bespoke’ was used as I always want my customers to have lots of creative control over their work - each piece can be totally unique and personalised for them and I wanted this to be clear from the business name. I registered my business later with ‘by Farrah Azam’ as I feel the artist behind the work is important and Bespoke Henna made me sound too much like a company. I want customers to be able to relate to me.


5. What kinds of things do you sell?

I sell canvases and home decor painted with natural henna, acrylic paints and embellished with Swarovski crystals and various other embellishments. Some of my products include candles, canvases, mirrors, vases, wedding guest books, cushion covers and much more.

6. What is your favorite thing about your business?

The favourite thing about my business is being my own boss, being able to work from home and therefore not compromising time away from my son and the feeling of somebody having a piece of my work in their house makes me feel truly humbled.


8. What have been some of your challenges with your business?

At the beginning I think sales were hard, educating people on this new concept and getting the word out has been tedious. Some days I work long hours and I would say running your own business means your pretty much working all the time. I hate doing accounts too, haha! It's been a challenge getting the hang of it!

9. What are your future aspirations for the business?

I would love to become known internationally, I would like to get involved with some sort of mass production and be able to make bespoke henna big enough to employ people. I love the idea of re-creating my designs on jewellery and would like to do some more work on fabric, perhaps painting on to clothing with my designs.


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Sunday, 14 July 2013

While Paper Girl Was Taking A Nap ...

*Sigh* It feels good to be back! I know I've been absent from this blog for the past few months but a place where I've been pretty active is my food blog: This Baker Girl Blogs

What started off as a side project has quickly become something that's constantly on my mind and something that I have completely fallen in love with.

I love to eat. I'm really good at doing that. But, making food hasn't always been one of my strongest skills. A year ago I wouldn't have put it on my CV. But, now? You bet!

My skills are still no where near anything as good as the other food bloggers out there. I follow about 70 odd food blogs and I'm always in awe of their talent and creativity. But, my goal was to step out of my comfort zone and try something new and to learn. So, in that respect I feel like I've already achieved a lot.

I decided to keep going with the food blog despite putting things on hold over here because 1) I still had to eat and 2) It was good for me. Kind of therapeutic in a way.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about then you need to hop over there and say Hi. What are you waiting for?! I have a bunch of new recipes and projects lined up and some really sweet giveaways.

(Psst, to celebrate 300+ facebook likes I'm GIVING AWAY jewelry of your choice form Simply Bridal. (And, no, you don't have to be getting married to enter!). Hop over there and leave a comment to be in with a chance to WIN - it's so easy! Good luck!)

Here's just some of the things I've been feeding myself over on Baker Girl while Paper Girl was busy taking a nap. (Apologies to anyone who is still fasting!)


Now, come over, say Hi, and let's bake!

P.S. You can also find me hanging around on the facebook page, twitter, pinterest and instagram ... Yeah, I spend a lot of time online ... Come keep me company! :-) :-D :* ^_^
 
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