FROM knitted booties for babies to customised hand-embroidered home d`cor to children's play tents, people in Qatar are getting more and more hands-on. More people than ever are putting their creative hats on and crafting items by hand.
QatART is a community of crafters from across the world that prides itself on its talent of creating things with their hands. Here, in Qatar, the community provides a platform for local crafters to promote their art and products.
QatART was founded in December 2011 by Dominika Bozic and Gabi Pezo who shared a similar interest of creating a community of hand-crafters in Qatar. Gabi was a member of a similar group while living in Dubai and Dominika was struggling to find information about events around Doha.
After visiting various markets, Dominika and Gabi realised that they were not alone and Qatar had a lot of people who were making handmade products. They both noticed a need for a group to be able to share information about markets, bazaars, supplies, workshops, etc with other artisans in Qatar. When they began inviting people to join their mailing list where they could share information about upcoming events and promote them on their newly-created Facebook Page QatARTcommunity. The group comprises 42 members from across 21 countries and their crafts vary from jewellery, accessories, paintings, illustrations, graphic design, craft kits, bags, clothes, home decor and accessories, photography, handcrafted cards and boxes to homemade food and party supplies.
Making handmade products requires a lot of creativity and inspiration and the handmade community in Qatar says that Qatar has a lot to offer on that front. Group members Patricia Bizarro and Anna Calderon who run NokNok, which makes teepees, big pillows like bean bags, small rugs for different uses, decorative boxes and more, say,"Doha is a very inspirational city for us, whether it is going to the grocery store or an exhibition at Katara. One of the most exciting things for us is to look for fabrics, going to the shops and chatting with the vendors."
Another group member Somaiya Ansari who makes personal handmade greeting cards, says,"My inspiration comes from colours, textures and designs I see in Qatar. I might see a pattern and want to design something using it, it may be due to certain texture or feel of paper and I'd want to put it together as a card."
Besides providing a platform for handmade artists, the group also organises free workshops for members to help them improve important skills for their personal and business development."We organise marketing workshops every month. Recently, we held a product photography workshop, where members learnt how to take professional photos of their products," says Gabi.
QatART has recently joined forces with Inspiration Station, which is a centre for arts and crafts, helping the group establish a base of operations and grow in reputation. Varsha Vasudevan, QatART member who runs Kriya Creations, said"I got to hear about this place called Inspiration Station, where classes, workshops and other interesting events are conducted for art lovers. It was here that I heard about QatART and was thrilled and I signed up as a member. There was no looking back from then. Looking at all the people displaying their work motivated me to change my attitude towards my hobby. I went from just makeable art to marketable art."
"Members are free to use the space and equipment and can display their work for two weeks for free at the Inspiration Station. They also have discounts on art supplies at one arts and crafts shop and on every workshop organised by Inspiration Station," Dominika says, explaining the benefits for members.
The group became more active after partnering with Inspiration Station and forming a dedicated team. Membership continues to grow as anyone who makes their own designs and products here in Qatar, is welcome to the group.
Alysa Prabhu who has lived in Qatar for about 14 years and is a qualified dental assistant, started Pink Pepper Craft Studio Qatar in 2011. She mostly makes decorations. She says,"I started off largely with paper craft but now I'm doing seasonal and party decorative items using materials like fabric and felt, wire and wood, boa and bling, as well as, of course, decorative paper that I bring in from abroad."
Another group member, Regina Zakrzewska, is a psychologist and an artist, says"I do different kinds of art - oil and acrylic painting and Arabic calligraphy. I have recently created my own brand called Regina Hand Painted Silk. I put so much care and effort into all my silk paintings, something you will see and feel with each piece."
QatART members meet every month to discuss new ideas and showcase their work."We provide a platform for like-minded people to gather, share and support each other's creative endeavours. This platform exposes our community to the wider public contributing creativity, imagination and inspiration to the arts and crafts scene of Doha," says Gabi.
The arts scene in Qatar is booming and the demand for handmade products is on the rise. People like bespoke products as they make perfect and unique gifts as well. Somaiya Ansari says,"All my cards are completely customised to what my clients want and I take pride in it. I talk to my clients about what they want; who the recipients are and the occasion, and I then customise the cards. Not a lot of people give a physical greeting card in this digital age but there are those who value something that is handmade and customised to their need and I am glad I keep finding such people who value the tradition of card-giving, especially handmade card-giving alive."
Another member Noura Kaloti who makes headbands, clothes for babies, toddlers and mothers, says,"I never thought of turning it into a business but after visiting all the different bazaars around Doha, I got motivated to expand. My work is appreciated in Qatar, especially mothers who know how hard it is to find certain items at stores. A lot of the people in Qatar appreciate handmade products and understand the effort and passion that goes into it."
QatART plans to establish a community that is a key player in the creative development of Qatar. Dominika says,"One of our main goals is to organise our own markets to promote and support our handmade community."
Gabi adds,"From March 28, in collaboration with Katara, we are starting with our own handmade market at Katara and we are planning to organise it once or even twice a month. It is going to be a platform of high visibility for all our members to showcase and sell own work."
Those interested in joining can an email to email@example.com.