You’ve already seen her beautiful work spread all over, from the Kingdom of Bahrain to Europe, and now after talking to Startup Bahrain about her work, career, and success, we can get to know Amina Al-Abbasi, the Bahraini artist behind it all.
Tell us about your work.
I am a Bahraini Artist and owner of Amina Gallery; a one stop shop for art pieces and art inspired products. My mission is to make art wearable, usable, and inspirational in the most creative of ways. I aim to make art a need rather than just the desire to hang pretty pieces on your wall. I’m catering my work to people from different age groups; make them connect to our Bahraini/Khaleeji culture in the most beautiful way possible.
When did you discover the passion you have for the work you do?
I discovered my passion for art at an early age. My mother used to give away my paintings as gifts and I can’t ever forget how it felt seeing my paintings hung in people’s homes. I never thought about taking my passion to the next level until I showcased my work for the first time at the local art bazaar and sold out during the weekend; it was then that I realised there was something special I
could pursue and dedicate my time to.
What makes you different than others?
My main goal is to be unique. I don’t look at other people’s products and art work for inspiration. I opted to create my own line of designs for my art work, from home accessories to everyday items, and subsequently, people started paying attention to my work. I believe my unique approach in marrying the contemporary values of art with our traditional and cultural values helps make my work attractive. This edge gives people a sense of familiarity and relevance.
Leaving a steady job can be a difficult decision for many. Was
that the case for you?
I am a banking and finance graduate and had been working at a commercial bank for several years. My job required no creative input or effort to be made. Hence my decision to focus all my creative energy on my art work. This provided me the motivation to turn it into a business with a stable revenue stream. It was great to realise my potential after putting a tiny bit of dedication into my business then. That little dedication provided me with better returns than what I made working 7 to 3 every day. As my
business grew, locally and abroad, my day job only became an obstacle. It was then, that I decided to leave my day job and dive into the now-familiar unknown. I took that chance and it was the best decision I have ever made.
What are qualities you feel are necessary to have to thrive as an artist entrepreneur?
One must think like an entrepreneur. Having my work showcased in exhibitions never got me where I wanted to be, where I am now. I had to market my work, figure out ways to get people interested about what I do. While others opted for more conservative ways to market their products like giveaways, calendars, and brochures, I decided instead to print my art work on smartphone covers. Who doesn’t own one? It was one of the best strategies I’ve worked on. I started with 20 pieces. Today, 4,000+ people walk around carrying around my art work in the palms of their hands. This had a huge impact on my business; it encouraged me to experiment with other product lines. I started with cushions, handbags, plexi tables, tea boxes, as well as passport covers. Entrepreneurs need to be accessible, the more accessible you are, the better exposure you get. I setup a website to showcase my work and my business. My
customers can look at my products as well as order online.
I think entrepreneurs should consider the power of targeting a niche market. I currently cater to different age groups and segments, from hotels and interior designers, to art lovers who are looking for something unique to display to their customers, clients, and users. Teenagers and individuals are targeted through my tylish product line of passport covers, handbags, or phone covers.
What were your greatest challenges since you started? How did you work through them?
I think one of the biggest challenges I faced was when I left my day job to dive into something that though felt familiar, was almost unknown. Thankfully, many around me were supportive of my decision and helped me get through this, carefully and comfortably. It wasn’t easy at first however, I would still get up early, and dress up for my day job, days after I resigned. Old habits always stick. It took me a while to let go of my strict day job routine and realise that I can and should start managing my time and work my way.
Another one of my greatest challenges is dealing with copyrights in Bahrain. It’s really tough getting your art copyrighted in Bahrain, let alone the GCC. It’s sad that most don’t respect other people’s work and ideas enough not to infringe on their rights. I did discover though, that you can only protect your work if it’s tangible, which is what I’m currently working on.
If you could do this all over again, what would you do differently?
There’s nothing that I’d do differently! One of the things I learned is to take every opportunity that comes your way, embracing the challenges and rewards as one. Opportunities are only threads leading you to bigger things.
What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs like yourself?
First and foremost, believe you in yourself. Respect your work and that of others. Be positive and draw this positive energy towards your passion, what you do best.
How do you use technology in your line of work?
Social media has been a huge part of my growth and the growth of my business. My exposure on social media has opened endless doors to expand locally and abroad. It’s one of the ways I was able to sell my products overseas.
Can you tell us about your experience working in Riyadat? How has it helped your career?
As an artist with a business to run, it’s incredibly important to showcase your tangible products somewhere, in my case a shop/gallery. It adds value and credibility to what you’re selling.
We can’t all sell our products on Instagram forever. Instagram is one way of marketing your products; it’s not the only one.
How would you improve the entrepreneurial scene in Bahrain?
I’m still young, own a business, and consider myself successful. I encourage others to take the risk, as I did, and jump into the entrepreneurial world. Many people email me letting me know how my work has inspired them to start painting again or consider starting their own business. This is flattering. I pay attention to all those emails and try to help out as much as I can, in the same ways others supported me and continue to do so.
We heard that some of your products are being sold at Harrods. Can you tell us more about that?
Having my products sold at Harrods is truly a surreal experience that
I’m endlessly proud of. As you know, there’s a ton of Arab footfall in Harrods, especially during the Eid, Summer, and Spring holidays. That was one of the reasons Harrods wanted to sell something familiar. I was contacted and offered a section at Harrods on the second floor to display my work. I couldn’t be happier. As of today, I currently have phone cases, cushions, iPad covers being sold over there. So far, I’ve received great feedback from customers there, Khaleejis and locals both. We sold out in a matter of weeks.
What’s next for you?
I can’t go on day by day without knowing what to aim for. I currently have a five year plan to work through. It includes opening a branch in a Gulf country, where we make most of our sales. I’m also planning on experiencing the art scene in Europe, where I hope to introduce a Bahraini touch to the world of art.
Originally published on Startup Bahrain Download Starup Bahrain for free on the App Store and Play Store
This interview was originally published and conducted by Startup MGZN here: [Link]
Photo Credit : Ali Alriffai