Art is a common method of self-expression. Even though forms of this expression may vary from one person to another, based on talent or preference, it remains one of the most evident non-verbal methods of communication.
Autism is a daily challenge that one million Egyptian citizen go through every minute of every day.
While many stereotypes interfere with the way autism is understood and perceived, the society often falls into the trap of applying further isolation upon autistic individuals.
Sandbox is a local jewellery brand that aims to prove the importance of art communication. Suhayla Al Sheikh is an artistic visionary that considers jewellery to be the most intimate form of art.
Since establishing Sandbox, Al Sheikh has tackled a few contemporary causes and dilemmas, including women empowerment, as well as the political turmoil taking place in Syria and Iraq.
This season the designer aimed to take her personal form of communication to those who need it the most.
Through a limited-edition design in collaboration with the Egyptian Autistic Society (EAS) and advertising agency Momentum Egypt in EAS’s sixth campaign, the designer opened a communication portal with mothers of autistic children.
The designed necklace embraces the international symbol of autism, while highlighting the names of the mother and her kid. Meanwhile, she has also created a second variation that supports the cause without highlighting any names—in an invitation for more people to join the movement.
Daily News Egypt sat with Al Sheikh to talk design, communication through jewellery, and the contemporary causes that need instant support.
Why did you choose the design’s main shape to be a puzzle piece?
The puzzle piece is autism’s main symbol worldwide. It reflects the mystery and complexity of autism. It reflects the puzzling condition of autism, and the hope of being able to fit in.
Initially, we agreed with the Egyptian Autistic Society and Momentum on incorporating the symbol. It was a main condition from the start.
On a further note, for me, it was very important to use this renowned symbol, so that the design is recognisable as a jewellery piece in support of the cause.
Incorporating the puzzle piece also makes the design much more intimate to those who deal with autism; more than any other design.
What are the main stones used in this limited-edition design?
Blue is a sign of hope for autism. The entire campaign we did in collaboration with the EAS and Momentum Egypt revolved around the colour blue.
Therefore, to incorporate this element of hope into the design, I decided to use a blue stone as part of the design, implemented in the crushed stone technique used in Sandbox designs.
There are various blue stones; however, the kyanite stone is believed to bridge gaps of communication, evoke loyalty, and embrace the fair treatment of others.
All these characteristics are crucial in improving the situation of autistic children in our society. Therefore, I chose to use the kyanite stone to evoke not only a sense of hope, but also a sense of communication, loyalty, and positive treatment towards autistic children.
What is the main message that you would like to communicate through this particular design?
This design is placing autistic children on a high pedestal; acknowledging their unattested vibrant minds and the strong artistic elements that many of them have.
As a detailed description of the design, I chose to make the side with the autistic child’s name more artistic and vibrant due to the colourful minds and skills many autistic children tend to have.
On the other hand, the mother’s side is simpler and less vibrant to emphasise a sense of maturity and calmness in relation to the other side.
Moreover, given that the puzzle piece is used as a symbol of autism to symbolise the mystery of autistic children and their lack of ability to fit in, I made sure to close in the gaps of the puzzle piece itself (as evident on the right and left circular parts of the puzzle piece) in order to indicate the fact that autistic children do actually belong and should be accepted as such.
Closing in the gaps of the puzzle as part of the necklace’s design is a subconscious message conveying the anticipated progression of autistic children fitting in.
How would you evaluate the feedback?
Well, I do not think that anything is ever 100% successful. I am one of those people who find that anything done could have ALWAYS been better.
With that being said, the feedback was great! People reacted positively to the design and the campaign. I got orders for the necklace by people who are directly affected by autism and by others merely wanting to support the cause.
That is what we were initially aiming for. So in that sense, I would say that the campaign was a success.
What other causes would you like to shed light on through your brand?
For me, shedding light on any cause that does not get enough attention and is in desperate need of being widely discussed is something I hope to do with Sandbox as often as I can.
If it is an issue that already gets enough attention, but my work can create a further reason for improvement, then I am all for that as well.
I want to work on causes where I am genuinely generating change, not just participating or working for the sake of attention or self-satisfaction. That is what truly matters to me.
As cliché as it may sound, I am very passionate about improving issues that affect our society and people negatively. This can come in the form of all kinds of causes.
I have touched upon that in Sandbox’s “Rising from the Ruins” collection, by turning Syrian and Yemeni war ruins into beautiful art. Furthermore, I will also be doing so once again later this year through a special jewellery collection, in collaboration with an unexpected twist to a very specific cause.
So, as long as Sandbox continues to grow, I hope to continue rendering positive change through meaningful causes; through the art of jewellery.