Exclusive: Artist & Designer Yasmine Fahmy – Part1

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By Mariem ELTagoury

Metalwork Designer; Yasmine Fahmy

About Yasmine Fahmy

Yasmine is currently a self-employed Egyptian artist & designer; specializing in Islamic designs. Her work includes lighting and home accessories. She started her solo career in 2012, after winning second place at the D+I Competition. She now owns her own workshop, a designer name, three collections, and she’s currently working on her fourth. Oh, and did I mention she’s only 25?!

Awards & Achievements

Silver award & Furnex booth at the D+I Competition, organized by the Egyptian Furniture Export Council (EFEC) and Rhimal, for designers younger than 35 years old in 2012.

Gold award at D+I Competition, organized by the Egyptian Furniture Export Council (EFEC) and Rhimal, for designers younger than 35 years old in 2013.

Opened her own workshop in 2013.

Went on to represented Egypt at the Salone Satellite part of the Milan Furniture Fair, which is the largest fair in the world for furniture, in 2014.

Won the D+I Competition, organized by the Egyptian Furniture Export Council (EFEC) and Rhimal, for designers younger than 35 years old in 2015. [no ranks were given that year]

Won the Federation of Egyptian Industries (FEI) competition in 2015.

The Interview

 

The Profession

Do you define yourself as an artist, or a designer?

Both! But I would consider myself firstly an artist, then a designer. Art is about creating something artistic and unconventional, designing is more about creating something to satisfy a market. I see many designs every day that are not artistic, but art is about creating something beautiful and creative, regardless of the market or money. I create artistic designs; none of my designs are made to cater to a market; I design something so beautiful that a person can’t resist buying.

Why the focus on Islamic Art?

We call it “The beautiful son of all arts”. It’s this beautiful conclusion, that has united all that is beautiful from all arts into one. It’s also a very challenging branch of art; which is one of the primary reasons I like it. I love a challenge. I find that it also reflects my culture, my history, it reflects who I am, and it reflects my people. In the past years, we’ve become so absorbed in copying what comes from abroad; we’ve lost the desire to add to our art. I believe there’s still room for us to add to Islamic art. I like making art that reflects my people. When I was in Italy, a lady came to my booth asking where I was from, when I replied Egypt, she said she wasn’t surprised; she could see that from my art.

I believe the market is starving for Islamic art; it’s one of these arts that are facing extinction. I believe that is a point of power and weakness for me. What I do no else does; I’m creating something rare and beautiful, but it is also difficult if you can’t get a second opinion about your work, or a mentor to help you, since there aren’t many people left who work in this field. I like a challenge, and I like to be different. There aren’t many my age who would pursue Islamic art, those who are left in the field are over 50. I like the individualism of this.

History

Tell me about your background. Where are you from? Where did you go to school /college and what did you major in?

I was born in Beheira, Egypt. I found myself in an artistic family; both my aunts Azza Fahmy & Randa Fahmy are well known creative artists, and my father worked a lot with the latter. It’s a family that holds so much talent and respect for art. I went to ELAlsson School, and then studied IGCSE.  Later, I studied at Faculty of Fine Arts, majoring in Set Design and Scenography.

Why did you choose your major?

I chose art since I had the talent, and was born in a very artistic family. This specific major was not related to what I wanted to do with my talent, nor was any other for that matter. I chose it because out of the two majors in Interior Decor, I found this one far more interesting. I wasn’t into architecture. I wanted to study something I could enjoy; something that would feed my creativity and imagination. My major gave me room to learn how to express and translate feelings & emotions into art. That’s why they call it in Arabic “fenoon ta’abeeryah”; “the art of elaboration”.

One of Yasmine Fahmy’s artistic designs

Did you have any internships, or were involved in youth activities during or after college?

Nothing official; I always visited my father in the factory and joined my aunts in their workshops. That’s how I spent my summers.

What was your first job? Where else have you worked?

I didn’t have an actual job. I trained with my aunt Randa for a while, but I didn’t consider that phase as actual real work.

How did your love of art start; and what made you pursue it as a career?

I’d always loved art as a child; it was my favorite lesson at school. I was always happy to draw, and everyone told me I was good at it. When I grew older, I started to realize the value of my family and their creative work. I enjoyed going with my father to work during summer.

So, you haven’t worked long with a popular designer, nor at all for a designing company; I don’t understand, what made you go solo?

First, I had come to an understanding that no one was ready, or available to teach me what I needed to learn to pursue a career in Islamic art. You have to study something related to proportions and such, to be a fully capable Islamic artist. We didn’t even receive any teachings of this in college! So, I realized what I needed to learn I’d have to teach myself. Second, during my first trial at joining the family business, I felt under-challenged, and that I had so much potential with so little room to explore it.  I didn’t have a chance to create my own designs.

Around this time, I came across a picture of a beautiful Menbar (Islamic rostrum) and I pictured it as a lighting unit. So, I started designing my inspiration. Later, I found out that Egypt had a competition for young artists younger than 35. I enrolled with this design. First stage I won among twenty others, a booth in the Furnex Exhibition (this is the biggest annual furniture and house accessories exhibition in Egypt). I recall all the compliments and praise I received for my work; one lady couldn’t believe that one particularly complicated design, was all made out of copper (it’s not an easy metal to work with); another lady from Emaar told me she liked my work, and was wondering whether I had a workshop or not. It was then that I got the idea of having my own workshop.

You seem quite passionate about your first competition; what benefited you most from the experience?

The biggest benefit I got was the chance to present my work, not the final award itself; you get a chance as an artist for clients to know you, and it gives you a chance to meet new contacts which could benefit you a lot in the profession. I recall I met one of my first clients in this exhibition; the lady was so impressed by my work she waited a year and a half for me to finally finish my studies, and design a custom-made chandelier for her.

How long have you been a self-employed artist?

Some would say since I owned my own workshop; but I considered myself a self-employed artist since my first Furnex Exhibition.

Yasmine Fahmys designs at Furnex Cairo 2015

Who taught you about your profession?

Currently, unfortunately, I don’t have a mentor, I teach myself as I go; but I can’t deny that I learnt a lot from my aunts. My long summers spent in their workshops, surrounded by so much artistic influence, definitely has taught me a lot.

What was your biggest obstacle to start?

Not finding a mentor to help and guide me through my solo career. I wish I had someone older and wiser to help me out with my mistakes, and help me realize how to improve and avoid them.

The Present

Tell me about your job – what is a typical workday like?

Ha! I wake up at 8.30 am, I start by sketching, and then go buy material and head to the workshop to supervise the workers. It usually also depends on what stage I am in a product. There are so many stages, and creating a piece can take weeks. I don’t have specific working hours; I’m flexible. It all depends on what stage we are in the product design.

What is your favourite thing about your job? Your least favourite?

The entire production process. I love researching and looking for inspiration to come up with a design… The manufacturing, too. Seeing it come to life fills me with joy. My least favorite part is the difficulty in finding craftsmen in an era where few new craftsmen are being born, and none have the patience or desire to learn!

What’s your standout memory so far?

Check back to find out and know more about Yasmine’s career & herself, in the second part of this interview……….

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