Egyptian jewelry designers are hot international commodities at the moment. Led by that icon of Egyptian silversmiths Azza Fahmy, it seems like Egyptian-inspired silver designs are the de rigueur adornment on the distinguished limbs of the celebrity pack these days.
But what of the talented designers in your own household? How can you tap into that bustling center of design skill latent within your own child? This being Egypt, with its rich and varied traditions of art and craft, there are many ways to get your kids involved with the jewelry design process. In fact, judging by the number of school-age jewelry entrepreneurs appearing on campuses around Cairo recently, chances are you’ve already been hit up for a purchase by one of your kids’ friends.
So, how to get started? If you need a bit of encouragement, there are many places around town offering jewelry design classes for kids and adults. But while these are certainly helpful, and useful for getting the ideas flowing, they are by no means necessary. If you choose to venture forth boldly with a do-it-yourself approach, you’ll first need to get yourself kitted out. Many of the most promising, not to mention affordable, stores to buy the individual components required for jewelry making are located in Islamic Cairo; one of our favorites, Gem Stone Coral City, is to be found a stone’s throw from the gloriously renovated Qalawun mausoleum.
On walking into the store, you might at first think that what’s on display are some seriously cluttered and repetitive necklaces, as if a gaudy designer was unable to stop stringing the same bead together over and over. Peer a bit closer, however, and you’ll realize that this is just the delivery mechanism for a long string of beads. Start digging through the plethora of storage bins and you’ll find nearly every jewelry accoutrement you could imagine: beads, silver charms, clasps, wires, stones, and endless evil eyes.
With such abundance confronting you, you’ll need to be able to focus. So, what do you need to get started? A range of beads, of course; these are the building blocks upon which your designs will grow. Another must, whether for necklaces or bracelets, is the wire upon which you’ll string your designs. Wire can either be stretchy or rigid; if you opt for rigid wire, be sure to get the clasps that will allow the end result to open and shut. You’ll also need to invest in some special tools. We’ve been making jewelry at home for months and purchased two task-specific sets of pliers, one with a rounded nose, the other with thin pincers. There isn’t much that we can’t accomplish with just these two implements.
But as you fill your shopping bag, don’t forget the little details that will vastly expand your design repertoire. For example, don’t just focus on unique beads; you’ll also need more commonplace fillers. Other valuable purchases include tiny silver clasps that can hold larger beads in position; hooks and clasps to open and fasten a necklace; a plastic segregated storage box to keep all your treasures organized; and a fabric pad which holds your designs in place and helps you estimate the appropriate length for necklaces.
So, you’ve got your supplies; what next? We just jumped in, taking some words of wisdom from the helpful staff at Gem Stone Coral City, and have been learning on the job ever since. However, if you are aiming for perfection, you may want to consider one of the many classes on offer around town. Art Café in Maadi comes well recommended, offering classes for kids and adults alike. If you’re looking for an after school activity with your own aspiring Azza Fahmy, this could be just the thing.
You’ll be surprised how quickly astoundingly beautiful creations start flowing from your child’s fingers. However beautiful designer necklaces are, at the end of the day they’re just gems strung along string. While I’m sure that top-tier designers somehow deserve the inflated prices they charge, you’d be surprised at how quickly the imagination of your 7-year old starts producing works of art nearly as magnificent.
Details: for the individual components, there are a variety of great stores in Islamic Cairo that stock ample supplies of everything you need and more. Try, for example Gem Stone Coral City, 19 El Salhea St, El Hossein, Khan Khalili, not far from Muezz St. near Qalawun’s mausoleum; Tel: 2593 3458; 012 001 2466. For classes, try out the Art Café in Maadi that has regular jewelry making classes for kids and adults (www.artcafe-egypt.com; 62 Road 13, Maadi; Tel. 012 705 0753.)