Dubai-based friends Nafisa and Ekta loved traveling and would always end up getting each other unusual, locally made handmade gifts. Sometimes they would find a kind of authenticity in the products that they felt was missing in what they found in stores in their home country. That was until a few years ago when they stumbled upon Arte, a homegrown pop up market for handmade products in UAE, where they met makers, crafters, and artists. Digging deeper the duo discovered that most crafters did not have an online presence and though many of them wanted to sell via the internet they did not have the technical knowledge or lacked the financial wherewithal to set up a website. Added to that was the expensive license requirement for doing business in Dubai. To fill that gap in the lives of craftspeople, Nafisa and Ekta created ideyna.com two years ago.
Ideyna, which means ‘our hands’ in Arabic, is their way of showcasing authentic handmade products created in their country to others within UAE who share a love for the handmade. Current offerings on the site range from home ware, art, clothing for adults and kids to jewelry and more. “We have potters selling wheel-thrown table and kitchenware, we have designers creating t-shirts and mugs with very cheeky UAE-centric pop culture themes, we have novelty, hand-sewn bibs and onesies for babies, amigurumi crochet toys and dolls, intricate etched copper Alice in Wonderland inspired jewelry, among others,” says co-founder Nafisa, who has a background in television production and directing. Makers showcased on the site use different types of fabrics, yarns, clay, metals, semi-precious stones or minerals etc. to make their products and these raw materials are sourced from all around the world. “Everything on ideyna is handcrafted right here in the UAE. This is something we insist on – the product has to be crafted and finished here. We also don’t allow re-sellers and importers. Only makers, crafters and artists sell what they create. Pottery, embroidery, wood working, printmaking, painting, decoupage, book binding and many more craft and art techniques are employed by our makers to make their products. We try to throw light on the kind of skill that goes into a product by telling Crafter Stories through short videos available on our YouTube channel,” highlights Nafisa.
The two-person setup was begun with their own money and continues to be so. Ekta’s background as a photographer and writer, combined with Nafisa’s television experience, has helped them focus on creating strong visual content as their promotional mainstay. In a country like UAE, where branded luxury items are most sought after by customers, it has been a challenge educating people about handmade work.
Next up for ideyna is the Middle East Film and Comic Con in April. They have been brainstorming with makers on the kinds of product range to create for the event, in order to bring ‘handmade geek’ to a wider audience. “The exposure at Comic Con (one of the biggest events here in the UAE) is great for our small business so we are hard at work prepping for that. We’ve also recently started ‘Makers Circle’, a monthly informal gathering of artists, crafters and makers in an interesting location to share information and ideas. Often creative people tend to work in isolation, we wanted to get our makers to meet other like-minded people, chat, share coffee and see what happens. It’s a fun gathering and we just had our first successful one in February. So that will hopefully continue,” says Ekta. More collaborative videos are also in the pipeline, as is the constant search and discovery of new makers to bring to ideyna.
Find out more at http://www.ideyna.com.