Welcome back with the second part of my inspiring interview, with the young Artist & Designer Yasmine Fahmy; here’s the first part if you missed it.
What’s your standout memory so far?
[smiling] I remember when I was sitting in my booth at Furnex, and there was this little girl not older than 7 or so; she was pushing her baby brother in a pushchair, and passing right past my booth. One of my lighting units caught the girl’s attention; she stopped, looked up and stared, saying “Allaaaah” (“God”, usually used by Egyptians to express their admiration for something beautiful). I don’t think any compliment ever touched me the way her reaction did. Islamic art is complicated, and it’s not easy for a child to acknowledge its beauty; another thing is a child doesn’t compliment or lie, when they like something they react to it.
What is the toughest part of your job?
The designing… To think of a design isn’t difficult, but to bring it to life; that’s different. You’re trying to bring to life something that didn’t exist… To reach out with it to an audience and ignite their emotions… To create something original & unique that wasn’t born before… It’s like giving birth. Is labor easy? Giving birth to a new baby, that’s how I view the design and my work.
When you started out on your career, did you ever think that it would develop into self-employment and having your own business?
No, I never thought of it. When I was in college, my ultimate goal was to work in the family business. I never imagined that I would have my own workshop at my young age.
Success & Inspiration
Do you think of yourself as successful?
Right now, no! By people’s standards, yes, I am successful, but by my standards, I don’t think I am.
Why do you think you’re not successful?
Because one knows their own faults; you always see the imperfection in your work, and one always wants the better, the best; one never sees oneself as successful. Even if everyone loves the design, I always see the possibilities that could make it better. That’s probably why I take so long with a design, I’m never satisfied with the outcome, and I’m always looking for the possibilities to make it better.
When did you realize you were becoming big, or rising to success; in the eyes of others at the very least?
In 2012, when people started appreciating my work and I received a lot of positive criticism about it. Another thing is during my first booth experience. I wasn’t mentioning my relation to my family during the exhibition; when people started comparing my first work to my aunt’s with all her experience, without knowing who I was, that was enough to confirm me that I was getting somewhere.
What do you think is the secret to your success?
First, my family; I was lucky to be born in such an artistic family that offered me so much artistic knowledge. Second, I was lucky to receive a good standard of education throughout my life. Third, my willpower; I’m a firm believer that when there is will, there is a way. When I left the family business, it was my will that supported me, nothing else. I wanted to prove that I can design, whether with support or not; I can and I will. If you have the will, you’ll succeed; you’ll do the research, you’ll spend hours trying to get everything right, you’ll cry your heart out because of the stress, but in the end, you’ll get it done.
What inspires you to keep going?
My parents; I always want to make them proud.
What three companies/people inspire you the most?
Honestly, there’s no particular person, or company that inspires me. I’m the kind of person that gets inspired by nature and architecture. But if I had to choose people, they would be Randa Fahmy & Azza Fahmy. When you’re taught by the best, it’s difficult to be inspired by the rest.
What is one thing that you wish you had known during your first job or internship?
To create Zakharef (types of adornments & embellishments made with copper) from scratch. Most artists/designers today copy Zakharef from old books rather than create new ones, so when I asked to be taught how to create Zakharef from scratch, I always got the response to just copy from the old. I hated this concept; I always thought if a thousand artists were copying from the same book, then where would be the diversity of the art? I wanted to create my own, to learn how to do it from scratch. I couldn’t find anyone to teach me; eventually, I found some old books called: Ketab ELRasm ELZaghrafy & ELHandasah Le ALHerfyeen Le ALFraby in Madares ELKhetoot ELArbeya (Schools of Arabic Writings), under the Ministry of Education, which taught all the stages and levels for Zakharef. I gradually taught myself through these books. You can find a newer edition of the latter in Dar ELKotob.
Do you have any tips for a student who wants to work in your profession? What are your top tips?
Everyone supposes that they have to work under some big company, or under someone’s supervision in the beginning of their career; I’m not saying don’t do it at all, but it’s not a must. Don’t do it if it’s about the money; you’ll waste so much time from your life making some money, whilst no one knows your work or name. Start building your designer name early! There will be challenges and you will make mistakes; some which you won’t learn if you worked for a million years under someone’s supervision, but mistakes are there for you to learn from. Don’t believe anyone who tells you; you have to work under a big name for 20 or 30 years to become a designer yourself; that’s nonsense. Creative minds are not measured by age; art is about talent. A 2-year-old can create something exceptional if they have the talent. Experience is something you shall gain either way by time; but talent is something that no one can give you, either you have it or you don’t. There are challenges you will face in a solo career, you would rather face them as a young person in your twenties, than take up these challenges in your forties.
What do your friends, family and loved ones say about your job/success?
My mother is really happy for me. My father finally confessed he’s pleased by my achievements. My friends say they are proud of me.
What is/are your favorite book(s)? What do you like to read?
I don’t have a specific favorite; I love books with a philosophical theme. Just recently I read two books; Tok ELYamama, and Mantek ELTeyr. They’re from the 14th century, and were recently translated from Persian to Arabic. Mantek ELTeyr talks about endurance with a philosophical outlook; Tok ELYamama is a romance. They’re both very poetic & rhythmic so to say. I like books like that; books with an objective to advise with a rhythmic manner.
Of all the places you have travelled, what is your favourite place and why?
England. I love history; I like that over there all museums offer free entry. People are nice; cold but nice. I like that it’s easy to strike a conversation, unlike Istanbul; people over there don’t talk much and there’s the language barrier; they don’t know English. One place I would like to visit in the future is India.
Do you think that you will continue for years to come, or are you contemplating something new/a career change; perhaps a sell-out, and finding a job with more stable working circumstances?
No; I would never. If I did, I would lose the challenge. I told you before; I love the challenge.
You wake up in ten years. Where are you and what are you doing?
I own several workshops, maybe a huge workshop, or a small factory, and I would like to have a small school for Islamic art. I would like to teach younger generations about this art that is facing extinction. This is an art that defines us, and reflects our culture & our people. We are facing a problem today that no one wants to teach their profession to the younger generations; we save our knowledge for ourselves. Passing down knowledge doesn’t make less of the person doing so, nor makes the person receiving that knowledge better than their mentor. It just ensures the survival of this knowledge from one generation to the next. This is a huge problem in Egypt; the lack of good mentors. It’s something I lack today; I hope I can change that in the future.
Are you planning on becoming an artist? Would you risk having your own business so young? Do you have any further questions for Yasmine? Let us know in the comments.