Salma El Ansary’s Taqat jewelry line incorporates energy stones into modern designs - Courtesy of Salma el-Ansary
Sat,Jule,1,2017; Salma El Ansary, a 22-year-old graduate of the American University in Cairo (AUC) with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and a minor in film, has just launched her own jewelry line after working healing stones into clean, modern designs. We talk to the young designer, who says she always been interested in art, drawing and handicrafts, about how she turned a college project into a groundbreaking startup. Edited excerpts:
What is Taqat? Tell us more about the premise behind your jewelry line
Taqat is a jewelry line inspired by different cultural and traditional symbols with a mix of modernity and simplicity; therefore it falls under a “modern nostalgic” theme.
The name Taqat, meaning energies in Arabic, refers to the energy found in stones and crystals that is believed to have healing powers. I’ve always believed that an outfit could rely completely on the jewelry you wear with it and this is what Taqat aspires to offer: jewelry that stands out.
How did this turn from a college project into a startup business?
My graduation project was mainly about crystal healing and how to create jewelry that incorporates it. After I created an interchangeable necklace that reaches your seven body chakras (energy centers), by changing its stones, people were very drawn to the modernity and simplicity of the design itself and how the leather, silver and stones were used. That’s when I decided to start this business and create several designs under the same theme.
What sort of experiences and tips can you share with other young people who want to launch their business?
It’s only been a month since the launch of my brand, so I’m sure there is still a lot to learn. What I would share is that Egyptian craftsmen have really shown me that we do have talented people in Egypt and that there is a lot of room to grow in that field. Also, I would add that if someone wants to launch their own business they should have unconditional dedication and not let obstacles force them to quit—obstacles should make them work even harder.
What inspires your work? Which designers inspire you—both local and international?
Actually what inspires me most and has always been an object of fascination to me is Ancient Egyptian jewelry. Having a meaning for each symbol, piece and stone shows the true value of this artistry. Other than that, I find inspiration in everything around as well as other jewelry designers from random people on Pinterest, to Azza Fahmy, to Cartier.
Tell us about your work process
The work process really depends on the collection and what materials are used next to the sterling silver, however, the main steps are smelting the silver, creating the piece, sanding and polishing it, cutting the stones, adding them to piece, finalizing it, wrapping the piece and delivering it.
Where do you find the materials you work with? If anything is imported and no longer available, is it easy to find local alternatives?
I find most of my material in different places in downtown Cairo. The silver and stones I use are found in El Sagha area. As for the import issue, I try my best to use stones that are either mined or very abundant in Egypt to avoid having to face these issues. As for the small pieces that are usually imported, such as earring backs, I try to buy them in bulk to have a large stock to use.
What is it like dealing with local craftsmen: Do you find it difficult? Is it easy to obtain the quality and the designs that you commission?
Some of the craftsmen I work with are extremely talented and their neatness and quality of work is really good. However, maintaining the same quality and having the work handed in on time is always a challenge. This is why I have to be on top of the whole process and have a strict quality control system.
Local jewelry design has become a very competitive field in Egypt. What would you say sets your work apart?
It is indeed competitive and some of the local jewelry designers have become very strong. I would say that what sets my work apart is mainly the distinctive use of various materials together to create jewelry that is inspired by some very old symbols, yet looks very modern and edgy.
How are you promoting your work? Is social media being integrated into your marketing campaign and how important is it to getting your work known?
It is very important to promote your work to the correct audience. Fortunately, social media has made this very doable by using online advertisements and promotions, which you set to reach this audience.
Do you have a physical shop? If not, are there plans to open one?
I don’t have a physical store yet, but it is definitely in my future plans. I am currently looking for a concept store that would offer the perfect atmosphere for the brand so I could display my products there. However, there is an online store and since online shopping has become more common nowadays, it is much easier for emerging brands to sell online.
What are your plans for the future?
The bigger dream is to open an atelier or gallery, where we could display our products and also give jewelry courses as I already give children’s workshops. As for the near future, I hope to start selling in stores and attending several events related to this field locally and internationally.
You describe your range as modern yet nostalgic. Can you tell us more about that?