What is better than surrounding your most-frequented daily space with beautiful things? You always want to feel like your work and home environments are filled with visuals that bring you joy, be they minimal or luxurious. You also want to include touches of whimsy in your life, right down to your everyday wardrobe. Because lets face it: we love nothing more than expressing our personalities and roots in a unique fashion.
That’s where Charmaine Al-Mulaifi and Ellie Grant-Casey come in. Founders of the eponymous, local brand, Charmaine+Ellie, the modern and trendy dynamic duo work well together in creating prints and images that make spaces pop and highlight the beauty of their surroundings. And in this case, their current surrounding is Kuwait – the nation that united the two artists who hail from opposite ends of the Atlantic Ocean – Charmaine, an American from New York City, and Ellie, who hails from London.
“Charmaine was working as a full time freelance calligrapher in New York, doing calligraphy for PR companies, weddings and brands like Brides, Martha Stewart, David Webb, Google and Mont Blanc”, Ellie tells us as we press for details on their respective backgrounds. We also discover that Ellie, a graduate from London College of Fashion, was previously working at a luxury advertising agency in London when she craved a change in scenery. “Like Charmaine and her husband, my husband and I moved to Kuwait for a teaching job- and because after years of London’s cloudy skies, we were craving some sunshine!”
It didn’t take long for the two to meet, and their similarities translated in the form of a pen. Ellie is the illustrator, and does all of the painting and illustrations, while Charmaine is a super talented calligrapher and does all of the lettering, and the result was a truly original ongoing collection that expressed their newfound surroundings through their own eyes.
The inspiration that Kuwait seemingly gives the co-founders of Charmaine+Ellie translates beautifully into one particular piece of theirs that we can’t help but admire. After falling in love with their gorgeous take on the map of Kuwait, we knew that we had to track down Charmaine and Ellie to tap into their thought process – what is this mystery talent, and where did it come from?
And who would’ve thought, that yet again, the hilarity, quirkiness and impeccable style that comes with living in Kuwait could be turned into modern, uncomplicated and relatable art? They graciously answer our questions, only piquing our interest further about their journey so far in our beautiful K-town.
What jumpstarted the idea for your brand?
When we met, we immediately thought that we should work together, since we both have such complementary talents, and a similar aesthetic.We spent a lot of time forming a collaboration, and talking about the fact that there was plenty of artwork celebrating the cities we came from, but there didn’t seem to be much in Kuwait. We thought funny and cute prints exploring this would be a really nice addition to the art here, and knew we were onto something special.
How does Kuwait inspire you?
Since Kuwait is so different geographically and aesthetically from where we are from, we find it endlessly inspiring. We also love its entrepreneurial spirit. There are always new pop ups, concept stores and companies that are unique to Kuwait.
What do you find especially quirky or eye-catching about being here?
The architecture always catches our eye, we love looking at old residential houses and seeing the different designs. We also love the language; Arabic has many unique phrases that convey a lot of meaning in a few short words, and we like to include these in our work.
What are your favorite prints that you’ve created?
Food is such an integral part of Kuwaiti culture and life that doing the Food A-Z print was really fun. Another favorite was the So Kashkha print. It was a limited edition print and was picked up by Local Tees to be printed on t-shirts.
What prints have been getting a good response from customers?
The Map of Kuwait and the A-Z of Kuwait have been the best sellers. We noticed that the A-Z always makes people laugh!
Do you have any new ideas that we’ll be seeing soon?
We are always working on new ideas! We just finished a collaboration with Local Tees here in Kuwait, and you can see a few of our shirts on their website.
Any plans for expansion?
Right now, we love working with just the two of us – we have ultimate control and we can bounce ideas off of one another so easily. Maybe in the future we will expand and hire someone to do the things we don’t love to do – like go to the printers for us and get us coffee!
You can find Charmaine+Ellie’s pieces for purchase in Pink Moon, or you can contact them via Instagram @charmaineandellie for special requests and direct orders.