BY ANAAM IKRAM
Developing a passion and appreciation for “all things old and broken, yet beautiful”, the creative pair, Sara Sayyar and Mariam Fathi, delved into revamping old furniture with cultural yet modern look. Producing one-off pieces that give a home a sense of individuality and distinctiveness, Sara and Mariam emulate their different cultural backgrounds, as well as a passion for different cultures, through their unique furniture and home accessories at Babushka. The designers spoke to Perle Magazine about the variety of fabrics they use to create their pieces and how their passion for culture, colours, and traditional things have inspired them throughout their journey.
Initially working with damaged, second-hand furniture that they would refurbish, the designers say they had always been fascinated with different cultures, as they are both from different backgrounds; Sara is Bahraini and Mariam is Egyptian. They wanted a platform where they could intertwine elements from various cultures through their creativity and thus launched Babushka in 2012. Rather than working with used furniture, the duo decided it was more efficient to create new one-off furniture pieces using a wide-selection of fabrics from around the world, resulting in brightly coloured, textured, and distinct furniture. “We constantly aim to capture the eccentricity of diverse cultures to create charming pieces of decorative furniture”, Sara says. The first opportunity to design furniture, Sara explains, was when her grandmother moved into a new house but wanted to keep the old furniture.
Clashing with the modern design of the new house, Sara and Mariam decided to preserve the old furniture pieces and create a diverse collection of artistically inspired pieces, while embracing the aspect of the culture each piece held.
What truly makes each piece stand out is the mix of fabrics the designers personally pick out and use in different combinations that reflect their passion. Each textile used has a story to tell as they are all from different countries, with different uses and made using multiple materials, colours, and patterns.
Some of the primary fabrics used are: Suzani, which originates from Central Asia and is a type of hand-made embroidered and decorative textile full of colour and intricate detail; Chintz, which is from India and was initially inspired by the Mughal art and Indian designs and was later sold in Europe and seen as a status symbol; Toile is a fabric which features a repetition of beautifully illustrated real-life scenes that tell a story about historical, love or nature-related events; Afghani, a vintage cotton hand-made textile with geometric shapes and mix of colours; Calligraphy textile which has decorative Kufic calligraphic elements that date back to the 7th century;
Denim, a popular fabric worn by everyone throughout time; Damask, named after the decorative arts during the Victorian Era; Al Khayamiya originating from the historical Ottoman Empire during which the art of tent making emerged; Kantha quilt, which originates from the Eastern South Asia and is a type of embroidery used to make simple quilts; and Lace, which is produced either by machine or hand and in the olden days was made using yarn, whereas nowadays it is made from cotton thread.
Sara and Mariam explain that these primary fabrics are mixed with secondary fabrics to create a more distinct product for the customer.
Catering to a much simpler and classic taste as well, textiles can be mixed in a simpler manner, in which focus is placed on plain subtle pastel hues or floral patterns. The best textiles, the duo say, can sometimes be the most difficult to work with in terms of handling due to the delicate nature of the material, adding that each textile has its own distinct quality and it depends on the way it is used. Noting a special appreciation for Suzani, the designers say, they enjoy working with the fabric because of the elaborate embroidery and detailing that goes into every piece.
Not limiting themselves to specific patterns or textures, the creative pair say they enjoy experimenting with new textiles and get feedback from their customers. They pick their fabrics based on the quality and their personal preferences. When deciding whether or not they should invest in a fabric, Sara says they do not follow a strict set of guidelines as in some cases they purchase a fabric, knowing they will be using it in a later design, and other times they will design a product keeping a specific fabric in mind. Sara adds they also custom design furniture pieces based on what their customers’ requests.
In the future, the designers say they would consider working with tribal and African-inspired print textiles. Having worked with a few fabrics from Zanzibar before, Sara says they really enjoyed using the material, as it was something completely separate from what they had worked with previously. Another type of embroidery they would like to reintroduce is “Crewel Embroidery”, repetitive surface wool embroidery of nature or people, a style they used when they had first started the business. “We are always on the look out for something innovative yet cultured”, Sara adds.
Focusing currently on home furniture and accessories, Sara and Mariam say they hope to expand their scope of work and expand the variety of product mix, as they are constantly trying to adapt to the evolving needs and preferences of the customers. Sara adds they do not know what exactly the future holds for them, but their customers and everything around them serves as a constant means of inspiration to grow.
Timings: Sat-Thurs 10am-1pm & 4pm-9pm
For more information:
Shop No. 3, Ground Floor, Riyadat Mall Building 231, Road 3206, Block 732
A’Ali, Kingdom of Bahrain
(00973) 3539 1232
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