As Sarah Zaki, then 32, placed stone next to stone on the necklace she was creating for her mother, something suddenly clicked.
“I had always had a passion for art, mainly drawing and any handcraft,” she said “I grew up taking it as a hobby while studying and working in different fields.”
“But the passion for art was inside me, wishing one day to know what exactly I want to do.”
Having always had a passion for arts and crafts, she had never quite figured out how to turn this passion into a profession. That was until she was creating a gift for her mother: a necklace made out of semi precious stones and silver units, when somehow things just fell into place.
“Here only it flashed to me,” she said.
Even then though, the decision to start her own jewelry brand wasn’t quite obvious or easy.
While attending high school in England, her teachers constantly encouraged her to go to art school, and make that her life goal. But before her final exams, Sarah returned to Egypt to finish high school and then joined the Faculty of Law in Cairo University where she eventually earned her degree.
“I entered the regular career path at a telecommunications company and it was going very well but the passion inside me for art was much stronger than me,” she said, “I fought it for years; I tried to shut it down but I couldn’t.”
It wasn’t until she created the necklace for her mother that she knew she had to take some action.
“At that time I couldn’t take any step forward till I took a decision to leave my job & focus on studying jewelry and jewelry-making at 38,” she said.
Sarah started slowly at first, creating more and more jewelry then experimenting with other techniques, such as wire work. Then came the design phase: but she couldn’t figure out how to create “what I draw or draw what I want to do.”
Sarah visited Khan El Khalili to find workshops to work with in implementing her designs, but she struggled to find the right workshops.
“Either they don’t know how to do what I want or they refused to do it because it is difficult or time consuming,” she said.
It was then when Sarah decided she needed some formal jewelry-making training.
In her search for the best place to learn jewelry-making and design, she found The Design Studio by Azza Fahmy, and she knew she wanted to join as soon as she could.
Sarah had always known that jewelry was her passion.
“Jewelry combined [all my passions]: the drawing & the creating in one place & this is the beauty of it,” she said, “Also through jewelry I can merge all kind of arts & use them.”
“I think literally it runs in my blood; I think jewelry, I talk jewelry. Jewelry is not art and not work; it is life that I love to live.”
From the inspiration to the design and creation, Sarah loves it all. It is the thing that brings her “happiness & joy even in the hardest times.”
“By doing jewelry, I found myself. I became me.”
Sarah aspires to do the same for other woman through her brand, Sarah Zaki Jewelry Designs.
“Our jewelry is made with so much passion and by heart beats, hoping to reach the hearts of our collectors to cherish it and pass it on.”
While her jewelry collections are always characterized by fine and intricate details that drive you to think of their inspiration, Sarah argues that inspiration is not found; it’s learned.
“Inspiration is actually a process you learn, it is not an angel that falls from heaven with ideas,” she said.
“If the designer only depends on his or her ideas, they will end up either copying themselves or copying someone else,” she said.
Sarah’s process includes “continuous study, research, knowledge, reading, observation and lots of work and effort.”
She finds her inspiration from different things; whether they’re words someone spoke to her, beauty, nature, life, people, music or other forms of art.
“I actually feel I have a problem of being over inspired,” she said, “I have millions of ideas in my head and I don’t have the time or the capacity to do them all. But hopefully by time I will do many of them.”
Sarah also finds inspiration through creating. Moulding a piece of jewelry with your own hands lends way to different shapes, varieties and possibilities that can be created and they expose new inspiration.
This inspiration through creation is also a way to experiment through trial and error.
“Studying your mistakes & faults is important to help you search in yourself first and around you for new inspiration,” she said.
While inspiration is tricky to find, it is even trickier to maintain.
“I keep being inspired throughout the design and creation process by keeping the passion for what I am doing, by studying more, checking more possibilities and challenging myself and my skills,” she said.
“Being positive about all of this is the main reason for being always inspired and passionate about what you are doing.”
Creating jewelry is Sarah’s way of helping a woman realize her full potential.
“Jewelry when worn right, with the right clothes and right outfits add so much to a woman’s look,” she said, “I also like [any piece of jewelry] when they make the right dialog with what the woman is wearing or feeling”
That is why Sarah struggled to pick a specific piece of jewelry as her favourite. “All for me are perfect.”
But if she had to pick a piece, it would be earrings.
“Earrings are not just a piece of accessory: they give power to women, they give confidence and they complete their looks. They add direct reflection of beauty to their faces,” she said.
But creating a collection from the ground up as a “one-man show” definitely comes with its struggles. For Sarah, every collection poses a different challenge.
The major struggles include funding, and starting a business all on her own. But there are also smaller challenges like managing to create unique pieces “in a field that has been up & running for 6000 years.”
“Jewelry making is one of the oldest crafts in the world and almost everything has been done before, so it’s always a big challenge to be unique among all of this,” Sarah said.
Sarah is already working on her next collection, which she teases will be very different than other Egyptian jewelry art, with a different “technique & look.”
She adds that it is inspired by the work of an international artist.
Ultimately, Sarah shares MITCHA’s goal of making “Made in Egypt” a trademark.
“In general, I want this brand to represent Egypt,” she said, “I want people around the world appreciate our work, our art and our quality. This is how I want to be perceived.”
She also hopes to continue making her work speak directly to the hearts of women.
“I do my work with so much passion, taking into consideration how a lady wearing my piece would feel when she is wearing it,” Sarah said.
“I [work] with so much passion because I wish that every lady who buys my pieces would treasure them and pass them to her daughter.”