Silsal Founder and CEO Samar Habayeb Discusses Her New Creative Programme; The Studio

Lindsay Judge   |   08 - 04 - 2020

Silsal Founder and CEO Samar Habayeb is on the lookout for emerging artists to join her latest art and design project; The Studio.


UAE-based homeware brand Silsal was born from a love of art and design. Founder and CEO Samar Habayeb is an artist herself and she wanted to create a homeware brand that embraced the beauty of Middle Eastern art and brought it into the homes of her customers. Since 2013 Silsal has developed a reputation for producing elegant pieces that have an artsy touch.


This year Silsal has developed a new creative programme that will aim to support emerging artists and give them the opportunity to showcase their work through the brand’s new platform; The Studio. Applicants are invited to apply to become part of The Studio which will be devoted to developing and showcasing the work of emerging artists.



Furthermore The Studio will work with ambitious creatives to develop a collection that will embody their artworks and be produced and sold at Successful applicants will also receive an artists fee of $2,000 as well as one-to-one mentoring with Silsal’s Founder and CEO Samar Habayeb. To find out more about this exciting opportunity a&e talks to Habayeb to discuss the inspirations and goal behind this project.


Why do you think it’s important to shine the light on emerging artists?

The world needs art, and it needs artists. They are integral to our society and contribute to the creative economy. Emerging artists in particular have the power to change the future, and bring to the forefront unique perspectives that have never been seen before. Because of that, it’s important that we support them and encourage them to continue creating.


Can you explain a little about the concept of The Studio and why you decided to launch it?

The Studio was launched to produce homeware collections in collaboration with ambitious emerging creatives. First and foremost, we launched it as a way to support emerging artistic talent and showcase their work to a larger audience. At the end of the day, more visibility means more value.

Secondly, as an artist, it’s often incredibly difficult to monetise what you’re doing – even Monet and Van Gogh died penniless. But I have no doubt that the world would be poorer if Van Gogh had never painted “Starry Night”, or if Monet had not painted “Water Lilies”.. With The Studio, as well as offering a $2,000 artists fee, we have created a one-to-one mentorship programme, which will help them explore ways to monetise their work.



What advice would you give to aspiring artists?

Stay true to your identity, style and values. The most important thing about art is authenticity and your voice.


What are the criteria you look for when choosing artists for the project?

We wanted to keep The Studio open to everyone and anyone. While artwork should respond to some aspect of the Middle East, applications are welcome from people of all ages, genders and nationalities, residing anywhere the world.


What do you hope to achieve with this project?

We want to shine a light on some brilliant, emerging artists. We want to introduce them to a new audience. We want to inspire people to create and, of course, we want to create a beautiful collection that our customers will love.



Are there any particular types of art that you are drawn to?

I will always love Art Deco! I also really enjoy contemporary and street art. I’m particularly impressed with how it’s being used to draw attention to very important global issues and spread important messages in a more relatable way.


Are there any emerging artists whose work you are particularly fond of?

There are so many. I cannot pinpoint one or two, but I’m a fan of many emerging artists that use various media to express themselves – be it dance, painting, digital art, installations etc. So many emerging artists are truly shining at what they do, and they definitely have a great future ahead of them.



How important are art and creativity when it comes to your designs at Silsal?

It’s at the heart of everything we do. Art, particularly Middle Eastern art, inspires and informs many of the patterns or calligraphic styles we use. In terms of creativity, we’re always experimenting with new shapes, products and functions. Silsal’s vision goes beyond creating products, to revolutionising the way we interact with them – proposing new visions and models for living. For example, many of our pieces are specifically designed to be multi-functional. Our incense burners are modular, so when one part is removed, it becomes a vase. Likewise, our candles are designed to be re-used as trinket dishes, or condiment bowls once the wax has run out.

Also, we’re always thinking up new, creative services, which are genuinely designed to help make life that little bit easier. For example, you can add flowers to any of our vases, which saves people a trip to the florist.


How important is it to you to preserve work by traditional artists?

At Silsal, we’re dedicated to reviving traditional artforms and reinventing them for the modern audience – whether that’s a disappearing calligraphy or ancient motif.



How do you get inspired for your designs?

For me, anything can spark inspiration. It could be a motif, a person, a building or a piece of art. Inspiration can strike at any time, anywhere, which is why I try to give myself time and space to reflect on everything I’ve seen and experienced.


How does Middle Eastern art inspire your designs?

At Silsal, we’re dedicated to producing products that are inspired by the arts of Arab and Islamic worlds – that is our DNA and modus operandi. The Middle East is a land of contrasts, one where ancient heritage and modern culture sit side-by-side. With every collection, we hope to breathe new life into age-old artforms and reimagine them through the frame of modernity. Our Majestic collection, for example, was inspired by the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, while the Mirrors collection pays homage to the complex patterns found in traditional Islamic geometry. We dissected the shapes, then rearranged, overlapped and compounded them to produce a new, abstract pattern rooted in the region.


Do you think there is a fine line between art and designing objects such as those you create?

Yes, it’s a fine line. To me, art doesn’t have to hang on a wall. It can be a vase, or a teacup, or a dinner plate. At Silsal, we want to create versatile pieces that are functional but are also works of art in themselves. It’s all about integrating art into our daily lives and making it accessible to everyone.


What is something you would still like to achieve that you haven’t had the chance to do yet?

Our target at Silsal is always getting bigger, so there are always new things we would love to achieve. Currently, I think expanding our product range to include a more diverse selection of products would be a great move for us. In addition, collaborating with international brands to spread the arts of the Middle East further and amongst a larger audience, would be something we look forward to.


What’s the biggest challenge you face in what you do today?

Taking risks. While we know this is key to success, I thought, with time, we’d get more comfortable with taking risks, but that does not seem to be the case!



What’s the professional motto that you live by?

Kaizen. It’s a Japanese philosophy that encourages employees at all levels to introduce small improvements constantly. In the long-run will these small changes become powerful shifts in thinking and processes.


What does the rest of 2020 have in store for Silsal?

We have some really exciting things in the pipeline for this year. We’re about to launch Silsal’s 2020 Ramadan collection. An ode to the Silk Road, the Kunooz collection is a symbol of connection, bringing together visual influences from across the globe. Kunooz, meaning ‘treasures’, harmoniously fuses Mesopotamian botanical motifs, East African geometry and Ottoman calligraphy to striking effect. I believe the result is a powerful symbol of cultural exchange, a visual poem, indistinguishable yet distinct from its individual parts.

We also have an incredibly exciting collection that we created exclusively for Crate and Barrel, which will be launching very soon… so watch this space.



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