Crafting can be a really fun activity. But crafting accessories that you can wear and style with is a creative activity of some other level. Not only this helps in channeling one’s creative persona into the crafted object, but also this can become a fashion statement, for both the crafter and the wearer. Given the rich heritage of our folk culture consisting of the prevalence of craftworks of the cottage industry and home-crafts, we Bangladeshi people, especially women have loved including various hand-crafted objects into our wardrobe for ages. Handmade pieces of jewelry, especially those made of beads and clay have always been on the top of our list. Recently, polymer clay has been added to it and within a very little time, it has managed to make its position in the top tier. However, this is an exception since to date, no foreign materials gained this level of popularity as polymer clay ornaments have gotten. Today, we are going to learn about one such crafter, who made this evolution possible, by incorporating her sense of aesthetics with the clay-dough and transforming them into beautiful and innovative ornaments. Today, we will introduce you to our featured artist for November, Fatin Hamama, and her venture, Uronto Arshola.
Content Writer and Editor: Rifah Nawar
IG handle: @parchmentstains
Q. Tell us a little about your creative journey, how and when did it spark a start?
I’ve always been bad at painting and drawing, two of the most popular creative art forms out there. I never felt comfort in painting no matter how hard I tried, and I tried because I liked it despite not being very good at it. However, Uronto Arshola did begin with handpainted jewellery in November 2020 since I didn’t know much about clay art back then. Again, though I finally started enjoying painting stuff because I had so much more creative liberty now that there was no academic pressure regarding it; it never really became a comfort zone. But, at the beginning of 2021, when I started experimenting with clay, something just clicked. Because I could just take a slab of clay and turn it into anything I wanted with my own hands; it’s like making something out of nothing. Like magic! I think that was the actual spark of my creative journey and I’m glad I had the privilege to discover it so early on. It has been a wild ride since then!
It always takes some experimentation before hitting one’s eureka moment! That being said, being folks who have been following Hamama’s journey from the beginning and have been her customer from the initial days, we feel delighted to see how much she has grown both personally and artistically in this one year.
Q. What are your indispensable tools and materials for painting and illustration?
There are so many! You need an array of materials and tools to make a dainty, perfectly detailed piece of clay jewellery. But if I had to choose the most important ones, they’ll definitely be my colour formulas, my Exacto knife, and my acrylic roller along with the shape cutters. Technically speaking, you can make anything out of clay with only your hands which is part of the fun, but precision in professional clay art depends a lot on the proper use of tools.
To be honest, we are not surprised at all at Hamama’s exclamation. The details in her artworks always leave us in awe, so it is no wonder that she must be needing a good amount of equipment to ensure all those clarity.
Q. Where do you look for inspiration?
Well, earlier; I used to take tons of inspo from foreign artists(no specific ones, though) from UK, Canada, and the US as those are where polymer clay jewelleries are at the peak of popularity. But as time progressed and my skills improved, I realised that my pieces were looking a bit generic as almost all other practitioners were taking inspo from the same space as the art form is very new in Bangladesh. I’ve always liked to somehow incorporate elements that scream Bengali at their core into everything I make, so I thought I’ll take that route instead. Since then, if anyone’s taken notice, most of my original pieces lean more towards the traditional art forms of my country. So currently, my main source of inspiration are artists like Jamini Roy, Bibi Russell(working on something very exciting pivoting that right now, it’s a surprise!), and iconic scenes from classic Bengali cinema and cover illustrations of Bengali literature. Not to mention traditional florals and rickshaw paintings.
This is thrilling for us too! Being fellow crafters, we understand that given the limited sources of deriving inspiration, how much susceptible crafted works can be to become generic. Again, there’s the risk of offending people by copying their art. In such a situation, Hamama’s stances to make her works stand out are truly laudable and at the same time follow-worthy.
Q. Where do you see yourself and your business in the next 5 years? Do you have a vision?
Haha, I actually still don’t have that much of a plan regarding it all right now. I’m still having a hard time processing how far I’ve come in the past few months only! Maybe once I’m done with my HSC exams next year, I’ll think about it more seriously. Right now, I’m just enjoying myself as I go.
Her achievement at such a young age can be a matter of great joy and pride for all of us. Also, we love her being so mindful and present about the journey and we hope that she can enjoy it to the fullest.
Q. Among all the things you create, what is your most favorite piece of art?
It has to be the earring pair that features the original cover illustration of the book Pother Panchali. I had made it very hastily for an urgent order and wasn’t very confident in the beginning, so it was quite a shock when it blew up on both my Facebook and Instagram handles.
Being Hamama’s avid followers, we have also seen how much people loved this specific ornament made by her and how they went after bulk-ordering it! Couldn’t help but notice how exceptional the piece came out as a whole.
Q. Other than clay crafting and painting, what other hobbies do you have?
Art-wise, not much. But I absolutely love collecting fancy letter stationeries and reading books.
Now that’s an interesting combination! So far we have seen, most of the artists prefer choosing hobbies similar to their crafting passion. But Hamama’s list of pastime activities is comparatively diverse than others, which we think is a unique instance.
Q. Is there any special memory or event related to your business which you would like to share with us?
Yes! So a few months ago, I had this really sweet customer who ordered quite a few customised pieces for her sister’s birthday. She loved them so much that she ordered again from me in a few days; but this time, she paid the whole amount and some extra(which was a little suspicious, haha) in advance and said that she will provide me with the delivery details when they’re ready. So when I was done with them, I knocked her for the delivery info. Turns out, she actually wanted me to have the pieces for myself. Since she didn’t know how to send me anything herself to express gratitude for the fact that her sister loved the gifts, she figured that out instead. I was absolutely dumbfounded and very emotional about the whole thing. Crazy how some rare people can be so much more than just a customer sometimes!
Such a beautiful piece of the story! It is because of people like Hamama’s customers, it feels worthwhile to stay in this line of business. Customers are the greatest asset to a business person and Hamama’s sweet incident is the biggest reminder of this universal truth.
Q. Tell us a little about your journey with Uronto Arshola.
In the beginning, although I had very fresh ideas, I was struggling a lot as social media algorithms aren’t very small business/artist friendly unless it’s paid for. Even when I started with clay art, I had to work very regularly and post frequently for the reach. However, when that started paying off, I realised just how attached I had grown to my work, in a healthy way, of course. Sure, there were very bad cases of burnouts and creative blocks at times, but they still don’t affect how much love I put into everything I make. Now though, I work at my own pace and have learned to prioritise it over anything. So far, it’s all good. No matter how much online articles and blog posts claim crafting to be a cathartic process, burnouts can still happen due to many reasons. Something wise to do in such cases is accepting these instead of denying. That way, the whole process of tiring and recovering becomes a lot easier.
In the beginning, although I had very fresh ideas, I was struggling a lot as social media algorithms aren’t very small business/artist friendly unless it’s paid for. Even when I started with clay art, I had to work very regularly and post frequently for the reach. However, when that started paying off, I realised just how attached I had grown to my work, in a healthy way, of course. Sure, there were very bad cases of burnouts and creative blocks at times, but they still don’t affect how much love I put into everything I make. Now though, I work at my own pace and have learned to prioritise it over anything. So far, it’s all good.
No matter how much online articles and blog posts claim to craft to be a cathartic process, burnouts can still happen due to many reasons. Something wise to do in such cases is to accept these instead of denying them. That way, the whole process of tiring and recovering becomes a lot easier.
Q. What is your advice to newbie crafters/artists who aspire to have their own business someday?
Hehe, I don’t think I’ve reached a level good enough to advise others, but if I absolutely had to, I would say that always integrate a part of your own authenticity into whatever you make. Cause the point isn’t always to stand out, but to rather be at peace with yourself as you go. And if you’re looking for a scope to monetise your work, make sure that you’re skilled at it in proportion to your own set of standards first. Because when you start from an uncertain stance in a creative space where most consumers don’t value local art and the artists beyond it, it’s easy to lose motivation if you’re not perfectly sure of yourself first.
Such important pieces of advice from someone so young! This proves again that age shouldn’t be any limitation where experience matters the most. These can be valuable suggestions to all crafters, be they a new bee or someone who has been working in the sector for years. It is so important to value oneself first before wanting others to value as expected. We are happy that Hamama’s insights about self are so rich.
Do visit her store on Instagram and Facebook, the links are given below; don’t forget to show a little love while you’re there!