Graphic designer Mariam Alseba’s passion for stationary has given rise to City and Illusion which sells everything from notebooks to sticky tape to wrapping paper. The entrepreneur and art-lover shares with Bahrain This Week her design philosophy, inspiration and challenges.
Tell us briefly about yourself
I am a graphic designer and illustrator, I have a bachelor’s degree in design and have always loved and appreciated art.
Tell us about the passion for stationery? where did it all start and how?
I have always loved stationary, the
way “normal” girls love makeup, stationary has the same effect on me, I can never have enough notebooks, sketchbooks, I have a million different type of black pens. I decided to start my own stationary label, one that reflects my culture in a contemporary and sarcastic way.
What were your experiments you had made to reach here this place?
I started printing my art and illustrations on different mediums like coffee coasters, iphone covers, and that lead me to deciding to do what I really wanted to do all along, which was full stationary, notebooks, sticky notes, washi tapes and so on.
Why stationary? what is the uniqueness of your brand?
City and Illusion is different from other local stationary brands in the sense that it opens the conversation to untapped subjects, our designs are inspired from feminism, Freud, and subculture of Bahrain. In other words, the Arabesque element is still there, but it has a more universal message.
How was City and Illusion born?
Love of art and stationary combined. And the need to have Arabic or “local” stationary brand that reflects our identity.
What is meaning behind this name?
City and Illusion symbolizes the line between reality and unreality, that reflects on the designs, you will notice a lot of the designs have a bit of Bahraini culture intertwined with fantasy. The galaxy and outer space has big inspiration significance on the designs as well. City and Illusion invites you to open your mind, think outside of what you would normally think, don’t limit your thoughts and ideas to mediocre concepts.
Do you have some theme based stationary?
Our themes are psychedelic art, philosophy, and urban Bahraini subculture
What do you think of decals?
Could be something we might do in the future. We already do stickers, so this could be a step further.
Who has been your inspiration?
Damien Hirst, Jeff koons, Tumblr, a recent trip to Seoul and Ghada Kunji
Tell us about the significance of art in your life.
Art mirrors our culture and identity in a way no other medium has the ability to do.
What have been the major challenges of your life so far?
Finding the right audience. City and Illusion’s vision is to create a community of like-minded individuals who appreciate art, feminism, intellectual conversations and fine beautiful stationary.
Do you feel that a formal training is essential to become an entrepreneur?
Yes, training and experience
Have you participated/held exhibitions in Bahrain or in any other place? Give us a list of the last few.
Quot market in Kuwait, Market 338 in Bahrain among few.
What kind of help and support do you seek to help reach your goal?
I think we need more retailers in Bahrain that appreciate “art” as a commercial item.
What is your message to the aspiring artists of Bahrain?
As cliché as this may sound, but don’t give up successful. Persistence and originality are also crucial.