The World of Swirls and Flourishes featuring Rubana of Crimson Letters
Creations and all things creative have always come naturally to me, as I am an artist and always have been. I pretty much loved drawing and painting all the way through school and graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a Textile Design degree. Upon many occasions my art has led me through some very dark times. My father was an alcoholic, which is very, very taboo in the Muslim community. The last few years with him were very hard and I often kept myself in my bedroom and just drew and drew to refocus all of my anger and energy through my art.
I had no idea (as a teenager), that life happens for us and not to us, and that experience with my father certainly came full circle; it gave me the skills to get through my son recently having cancer. With all the uncertainty and pain that cancer brings, I found solace when I dove back into my artwork. Sometimes I would break down and sob in restaurants but when I pulled myself together, some of my best designs came from when I sketched sitting at my son’s bedside.
Why do I create wedding stationery? I have had an innate love for weddings for as long as I can remember and I have always loved surface pattern and intricate designs. I was searching for something to do when we eventually move to Portugal, where we are currently building our house. I started off by wanting to become a wedding planner, but instead fell in love with the idea of creating hand painted wedding stationery. It was the perfect fit. Something that I could do from anywhere and something I could do from home.
What does creativity mean to you?
I create in one way or another because without being creative, I simply cannot breathe.
Whether I’m cross stitching an embroidery piece, sketching or drawing it is the one things that helps me to connect with myself, allows me to find peace and when I am really in the right creative zone, being artistic really is a form of therapy for me. It helps to connect me to my soul and helps me to record and express my feelings in the moment that I am in.
How has your creativity developed throughout your journey?
It certainly has. In a big way. When I started, 3 years ago, I remember giving myself a full 6 months just to create, create, create. I was currently doing a teaching course that would allow me to teach in universities abroad but was hating every second of it. I spent my free time painting mock stationery designs for pretend clients and was loving everything about it. I had previously been a primary school teacher for almost 7 years, which I loved. The steady salary was wonderful yet it had taken a huge toll on my health. So to be able to give myself 6 months just to design was a huge blessing to be able to develop and get into the flow.
To be honest, I have been doing styled shoots non-stop for 2 entire years for the very single purpose of developing my style. If I look back on my work and collaborations 2 years ago, they were really, really AWFUL, yet I thought my work was amazing! It really is quite mind blowing how some distance and the passage of time can change your style and perspective.
The more I have designed and taken part in collaborations, the more a recognizable, signature style started to appear. Even though most of those styled shoots didn’t make the cut and get published, it pushed me forward. I am so grateful to have had the chance to develop in that way.
How do you stay inspired? What are you currently inspired by?
In the beginning of this journey I had so much sheer passion, that it was like riding a wave for a whole year. I was on the ultimate high. Designs were just rolling out of my hands and I could not stop.
After the last year, however, I am now beginning to go through phases of self-doubt, feeling burnt out and sometimes I even get quite low and just want to give this whole thing up to go back to a steady salary! I have learned that being a designer means that there will be highs and lows and productive times and slow times and that is just the normal ebb and flow of life.
Having said that, travel keeps me incredibly inspired. Every year when we visit my husband’s family in France and Portugal we tour around all of the chateaus and palaces and that is the one thing that undeniably lights me up. Every time I feel uninspired, I just go back to all the photos that I took and that does the trick.
Currently I’m very inspired and itching to dive into a Portuguese design concept that I have been wanting to explore for two years now. I’m finally hoping to make time to work on that this December through to January.
We have skills that can develop over time, such as photography and calligraphy, but what do you feel has always been engraved in you? Where did it come from?
I think in a large part I am greatly inspired by different cultures, traveling and especially my heritage.
I remember when my mum first sent me on a school trip to Amsterdam, then Paris a few times. It was such an incredible eye opener for me in my teenage years and gave me such an appreciation of other cultures. Marrying my French – Portuguese husband has certainly helped that appreciation come full circle!
Growing up with my Pakistani culture, whether it’s the highly embellished clothing we wear at weddings or the diversity and vivid fabric patterns or Pakistani architecture, it has influenced me greatly to focus in on the details and look to design richer, intricate images than others would use. I remember when my mum first showed me her wedding lengha that she has hand stitched herself. The work that she poured into it was amazing and I simply fell in love with all the varying types of embroidery design Pakistan had to offer. Since my childhood, I have always had a greater appreciation for the great classical painters such as the Dutch Masters, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Monet and Cezanne.
Why calligraphy? Why was this the creative avenue you chose?
I had never intended to specialize in calligraphy. That seems to be a by-product of what I have naturally fallen into and I absolutely love every moment of it. Hand addressing 200 envelopes is not my favorite thing to do, but being creative with calligraphy is a wonderful sensation. It still needs a lot of time and dedication to develop it, but I do love getting lost in the world of swirls and flourishes.