Intimacy is an overused word, yet rarely associated with fashion. A firm believer in the power of jewellery and its intimate proximity to the wearer, she pours her heart into each of her creations. Inspired by the ability to hide in plain sight, she is always keen on displaying the most personal stories around the necks of braver women and on the sleeves of outspoken rebels.
Adorning sterling silver with hand-crushed stones is her personal signature. Sourced, crushed and arranged by hand—each of her pieces is a personal diary entry that many cannot help but relate to. Suhayla Al Sheikh is a nonconformist, who sees inspiration in each of her surroundings. Whether it is geometry or the proud scars of burn survivors, Al Sheikh’s Sandbox is an elaborate jewellery brand with many stories to unfold.
For the summer season, the human-oriented brand chose to concentrate on a beautiful moment that is often missed amidst every day’s loud hype. Keen on her connection with her customers—the designer reinterpreted her favourite moment of contemplation, utilised two of her personal favourite images and personally hand-crushed a rainbow of stones.
Daily News Egypt sat down with the designer to talk about inspiration, breath-taking sunsets and, near-future plans. The transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
Ever since I was a child, I have always deeply enjoyed moments of silence on the shore; looking out to the last point my eyes could reach as the sun sets. Sounds like an overused cliché; but, to me every time I did that I felt time freeze, power fill me, and just felt myself getting in touch with “ME”.
From there, I started exploring the stages of a sunset: the Golden Hour, the Civil Twilight, the Blue Hour, and the Nautical Twilight. I began building my concept/designs around that and around aspects from my own personal experience with the sunset.
What made you favour imagery for your summer’18 collection?
I like to view my pieces as works of art, and I feel like using less calligraphy helps enhance the experience of each piece in a way that allows the bearer to interpret it as they please. However, I do use calligraphy when I feel it can enhance or feed into the concept of the design.
Imagery to me is very powerful in general. What if my pieces could tell stories through imagery? We introduced this technique in our last winter collection! We got awesome feedback and decided to run with it. Expect to see more of it moving forward with even higher enhanced technicalities and the incorporation of coloured photographs!
Images work well with this collection because they pose a form of contradiction to the very concept. A challenge in a sense. The collection is all about using summer/the sunset to pause, put everything aside and just reflect and get in touch with yourself.
On the contrary, you find most people during these times so detached; bringing out their phones during such times to capture the moment/experience without really delving into it and experiencing it. I always enjoy playing with this idea of contradiction; it is part of our human nature and I always love playing with it in my pieces.
What is the source of your imagery?
These images are initially photographs shot with a camera, hence “sterling silver photographs.” The image of the palm tree was photographed by me in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, where I was raised. That beach where the palm tree is was a location I always cleared my mind at. This image was photographed during a moment of reflection I was having during sunset. In front of me was this lone palm tree moving so beautifully with the calm Arabian breeze. I had to capture it.
On a personal level, it is a documentation of the state I was in that day, which goes perfectly with the overall concept. The second image was photographed in Turkey by my husband, also during a sunset he experienced there!
I knew from the get-go that imagery would play a major role in this collection. However, the specific images I would use were still unclear to me at first. I built the concept, and the designs then started exploring my options for the imagery. The designs incorporate lots of obvious clear circles to mimic the shape of the sun as it sets, and the curvature seen when you look at the horizon in the distance.
What stones did you depend on for this collection?
Orange agate, red jade, and navy sandstone. The orange agate captures the golden hue of the Golden Hour. Meanwhile, the red jade reflects not only a sunset colour, but also the active and energetic experience of witnessing a sunset.
Finally, the blue sandstone resembles the after effect. It has a beautiful sparkly surface that mimics the fall of night as well as the colours of the nautical twilight.
Why do you choose to crush your stones instead of regular setting?
Initially crushing stones was a result of failing to find anyone in Egypt who shapes stones as I wish. I reached a point of hopelessness and began experimenting on my own until I reached this technique!
Dainty stacking is a current global trend in terms of jewellery. Why did you include a couple of bulky statements?
I don’t prefer bulky pieces actually. I almost do not own any bulky pieces (ironically); I am all about the stacking and the small jewels that last lifetimes. However, as I mentioned earlier, I like regarding my jewellery as art pieces.
I used to paint and draw and create impactful paintings. When I moved into the art of jewellery designing I wanted that part of my work to remain. As a result, recently, you will find a statement piece or two in each collection for the sake of creating an impact, making a statement, so on. I may never wear them, they may not sell as well as all the smaller designs, but I love the visual and treasure-like impact they have! They’re one timers and I love that.
What are your near-future plans?
Get an office. Launch my flagship store. Help provide jobs for the less privileged. I hope to go international in the near-future. Find my pieces reaching more people in stores all over the world. I also want to begin customising Sandbox Solos: pieces that are only designed and produced once for a single client.
I envision them to be super artistic, statement, and red-carpet worthy. I intend on going all out with these! With mass-produced pieces it is sometimes hard to bring out all the tricks up my sleeves the way I want to, and with single pieces customised and designed for only one person, there are no limitations to what I can do!