by Alex Maguire
When you look at a piece by Arabesque Designs, what you can’t see is as important as what you can. The bespoke silver personalized jewelry is hand-made in Kuwait. It is designed and crafted in the heart of the bustling historical souk of Mubarakiya, where for centuries the glittering shop fronts have enticed Kuwaitis and visitors alike. Today most jewelry items are identical copies mass produced in Asia, stripping silver and gold of any personal identity and creativity. That’s precisely what Arabesque Designs wants to avoid. The boutique venture was set up to make beautiful pieces that incorporate the imagination of the wearer and reflect the uniqueness of the individual.
A labor of love and passion
Jewelry is a labor of love and passion. The client first discusses their ideas and chooses a name and a design. The craftsman then draws the design onto paper, before cutting it out and transferring it onto a sheet of silver. The beauty of the script is then brought to life by a silversmith who spends hours hunched over the rough silver, patiently cutting and polishing the design, often by hand and with well-worn tools.
The end result? A truly unique piece with shapes, curves and swirling decoration that brings out the beauty of the wearer’s name or loved one in Arabic script.
Wearing a piece of art and culture
This passion for Arabic calligraphy is one that the craftsmen share with the founder of Arabesque Designs, Maryann Horne. The idea behind the boutique jewelry venture was born out of her desire to pay tribute to one of the most beautiful arts in the world, after a lifetime spent on the roads less traveled of the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
Before settling in to Kuwait, Maryann was a BBC reporter and humanitarian worker for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for over twenty years. She grew up in various countries, including Switzerland, Great Britain and Ireland before hitting the road to chase stories and look after vulnerable communities.
Her work took her to Sarajevo, Pristina, Kabul, Kandahar, Tunis, Khartoum, Tehran, Doha, Islamabad, Damascus and Benghazi during the Libyan revolution. Most recently, she followed her husband to Kuwait with a nine week old baby girl and set up home with a heart full of memories and love for the Arab world.
“The one common thread in my travels throughout the Muslim world was the richness, simplicity and astounding beauty of arts based around the Arabic script and calligraphy in particular. I didn’t only find this beauty in palaces, Presidential offices or museums. I found it scrawled in graffiti on doors in Tunis and Sarajevo, on murals in Zanzibar, and in a more modest form in the impoverished refugee camps of eastern Afghanistan and the deserts of Southern Libya’.
After arriving in Kuwait, she wanted to create something that was accessible to all and that educated and celebrated a calligraphic script that is used as the anchor of Islamic culture in so much of the modern world. She believes the reason this art is so attractive and has inspired communities for centuries is because of its simplicity.
Today, her jewelry and designs adhere to this philosophy. Arabesque Designs uses traditional Arab shapes such as the teardrop and the flame, and fonts such as the classic calligraphy or Kufic to make jewelry that is simple, yet striking, in its beauty and quality.
So has she managed to achieve her aspiration? Maryann admits it’s a challenge. It’s difficult to be competitive when a passion is turned into a small business. But she says the reactions of her clients are what motivate her.
In a few months, Arabesque has flourished into a steady creative home-based business. Clients range from Kuwaiti families to several European Ambassadors and teachers, students, and expats who order gifts for family and friends abroad. Arabesque’s latest commission has been from an oil and gas company which has commissioned corporate gifts for their VIP clients and wanted something different and reflective of the local culture.
“Many people don’t realize how beautiful their names can look. They learn not only more about the Arabic script, but then take an interest in the alphabet, the fonts and learn more about the script”, says Maryann. “The jewelry makes them feel special and beautiful, and that is exactly what calligraphy is all about”.
To find out more about Arabesque Designs, contact Maryann Horne on [email protected] or by calling 9090 3868.