Three Bahrain creatives tell us how they turned their hobby into a brand
Time Out Bahrain staff
Just as a huge percentage of the world’s population endeavours to one day write a book, many people also dream of making a living out of expressing themselves creatively. In big cities such as London or New York, opportunities abound for artists, but in Bahrain, finding a market for your passion can be a little trickier. But it’s not impossible.
We asked three inspired Bahrain residents, with their own adoring audiences, how they got started in the hopes of encouraging you to scratch your own creative itch. Here’s what they had to say…
Arts and crafts
Faiza Saeed, the mosaic maker
One of the few artists in Bahrain to focus on the craft of mosaic design, Faiza Saeed is becoming noted for her eclectic collection of stunning works. She first discovered her love for the art at museums in Britain, Italy and Spain, and her passion deepened when she met and learned from British mosaic artist Emma Biggs. Nowadays she crafts not only mosaic art but furniture too, and hosts regular workshops.
How did you get into mosaic? I started with mosaics in 2009, but really, I’ve been an artist since I was a child. I come from a family of artists and I grew up in that kind of environment. I like 3D art and mixed media. I like working with my hands. So mosaics felt like a good fit. It is not very neat, unlike fine art, and therefore not intimidating. Anyone could do it, even someone who claims they have no artistic ability.
How have you developed your practice over the years? That’s a good question. Over time I am moving towards more abstract designs, which reflect my internal state. I started mosaic by creating with wall hangings, but now I have evolved and create furniture such as tables. I started creating mosaic art with traditional subjects such as with the use of jars but I moved into focusing on modern and more sophisticated subjects. I am expressing more artistic ideas in my mosaic with more details and craftsmanship, which I continue to learn with practice. I also read a lot of books to increase my knowledge and attend frequent workshops to further enhance my skills. To evolve, you must reach a state where you are happy and content with the quality of your work.
Do you think mosaics will become more popular in Bahrain? Absolutely! We have all kinds of options for indoor decoration, but none for outdoors because of the blazing sun and the humidity. Mosaics are a perfect option for Bahrain because they are so durable and can withstand all kinds of weather. In places like Ravenna, Italy or Barcelona, Spain you will find mosaics on buildings, houses and street signs. You will even find mosaics on pavements because pedestrian traffic does not damage them.
I think we should be making a similar effort here in Bahrain to beautify our public spaces. We could use them to decorate building facades, flyovers or pedestrian bridges.
What makes mosaic unique in comparison to other hobbies? Mosaic art is very therapeutic and relaxing because you are focusing on one movement such as cutting, which gives you time to reflect on your life. Your mind can drift and you may solve your internal issues. It is like quality time with yourself. Unlike other types of art such as fine art, which requires high focus, working on mosaic there is room for making mistakes that can be fixed easily. In a sense, you are killing two birds with one stone because you are creating a mosaic piece while releasing emotions.
Is the Bahrain market big enough for so many new artists? Most people who attend my workshops are not looking to pursue this as a profession. People usually just want to do it as a hobby, to spruce up their own homes, and perhaps make a few presents for friends and family. But yes, of course, there is room for everyone. Visit www.faizasaeedmosaic.com.
Mo Zowayed, the multi-talented performer
With a legendary grandfather behind him, Bahraini musician Mo Zowayed has forged his own musical path in Bahrain by forming the popular band Mo Zowayed & The Accidentals. Their folk twang has taken the island by storm and now they’re preparing to release their debut album and have more frequent gigs around the country.
When did you realise playing music could become more than just a hobby for you? I started recording music and putting it online but everything started because I got offered to play regular spots and actually make money out of it.
That’s what started making me think, ‘Okay, so people want to hear this. This isn’t something people don’t care about.’
How did you get good? Lots of practice. Hours and hours at home every day. Even when I didn’t write songs or didn’t perform on stage, I just always practiced.
I think that’s the most important thing. For years’ worth of practice, you might just show people a few hours of it. For me, it’s exciting. I love challenging myself.
What instruments do you play? Mainly guitar, mandolin, trumpet, harmonica, sometimes banjo. I can manage on a few others but that doesn’t mean I can actually play [laughs].
So you’re now working on your debut album. What can we expect from it? Songs [laughs]. We’re going to play the songs that work live. Before I started performing, I recorded some at home and even though I like those songs they just didn’t work live. So the ones that work are the ones we’re focusing on, on the record. And there’s also a few tracks that people haven’t heard before.
How do you describe your music? If I had to choose one word I’d say folk. But it’s a little more than that too. It also has elements of say Jack Johnson, kind of a laid back sound but some are upbeat too. All the instruments make an appearance on our record.
What do you think of Bahrain’s music scene now? It’s growing. I mean it has to start somewhere. I wish there were more opportunities for people to play shows, but a lot of that is due to weather. Playing outdoor shows is my favourite thing to do. I almost hate when we have to move indoors. When we talk about indoors, it’s always bars and clubs but nobody wants to see a banjo in a club.
What advice would you give budding musicians on the island? Play a lot of gigs that don’t pay anything – those are fun to do. The way I make my living through music isn’t through the band but more the regular spots I play. To make a living out of it, you’re going to have to play places that you’re not exactly too excited about but at least it’s about the music. People have to hear you. People have to know who you are and what you do. You have to put it out there because nobody’s looking for you – you have to show people what you create. And the internet is the most amazing tool for that. Put it on social media and just spread it.
How did you get your stuff out there? I just put stuff on Soundcloud and it snowballed from there. I think there are a lot of people in Bahrain that just don’t know other people do what they do. I didn’t know any other musicians here before. I didn’t know how to get in touch. It’s not like I’m going to put up a personal ad ‘Musician looking for other musician to hang out with’, you know?
It was about putting my music out. That made me able to get in touch with people. From Soundcloud, I was invited to this initiative called The Collective, then was also invited to perform in Bab Market. In those two places people introduced me to others. Visit www.mozowayed.com.
Rose Vlajic, traveller and designer
Rose is behind the beautiful, diverse clothing collection Rocky by Rose which has fast become popular in Bahrain since she set up stalls at previous local markets, and starting posting droolworthy photos on Instagram. Nowadays, no Bahrain wardrobe should be complete without a limited edition item from this talented artisan.
How would you describe the style of your brand Rocky by Rose in just five words? Vivacious, wanderer, relaxed, prints, sunshine.
How have you developed your clothes and accessories since you started creating them? It all started with my love of fabrics and travel. I’ve always had the travel bug and a few years ago, in an attempt to share pieces of my adventures with my family, I made a few items for my mom and sis’. I’m a fabric hoarder to put it mildly!
My first full collection started after my visit to Pakistan. I was truly inspired by the different prints and types of materials. I try to focus my collections around my travels – it’s not just about creative ready-to-wear items but also food diaries and dishes inspired by yummy street food! As for growing my craft, I think staying open to any and all new possibilities is important.
How did you get into it all in the first place? My passions have always been in art and math. Having spent the past seven years of my life in the engineering field, I craved a creative outlet and so Rocky was born.
What kinds of materials and inspirations do you use to create your pieces? I’m always inspired by different cultures and their traditions from food to colours. I love infusing these ideas into my one-of-a-kind pieces. I especially love to explore unusual materials in my products, and mixing textures and patterns.
One of my favourite collections featured batik (dyeing technique) skirts. I grew up with my mom and aunts using batik as their traditional attire for special occasions and wanted to find a way to translate this into everyday wear. When I look for materials, it’s not just about the look but how they feel. I go for comfort above all else.
In Bahrain, how did you spread the message of your items and attract the public’s interest? For me it all started with Instagram. I think it's a wonderful platform for any artist to share their creative vision.
What have been the highlights of turning to fashion design so far? The highlights have been the support of my customers. Having folks come to me and letting me know my items are their staples makes me the happiest. I love receiving snaps of ladies and gents sporting my recent creations.
What are your future plans for your line? Do you intend to grow? I'm just taking it a day at a time. Rocky has been the first stepping stone for me to really ‘find myself’ as cliché as that sounds. Exploring the creative side of things has pushed me into other creative avenues such as event design with a focus on whimsical events with delicious food. Yup, I've totally hung up my engineering shoes!
What avenues in Bahrain are there for other budding fashion designers looking to bring something quirky into the market? There's so much space for other creatives to bring their items to the market in Bahrain. I started out with local markets and Instagram has really given me the platform to feature my one-of-a-kind items. I've been truly blessed with a strong support network in Bahrain who have spread the word of Rocky and pushed me to introduce new items and pieces.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start selling their own pieces? I started with items I wanted to wear. I never put out items I'm not truly in love with and want to keep myself. When you buy a Rocky, you're really getting a piece of me… as creepy as that may sound! Follow RockybyRose on Instagram.