Golden circles, sometimes concentric, sometimes misshapen, as if the hand had trembled at the passage of a bird. Miniature gardens, an imaginary cosmos where flora marries mineral in poetic harmony. Water lilies in still water set in gold hang delicately from the ear or neck, their reflection cut from the same precious material. For the judges of the FTA 2022 award, the choice of Fatma Mostafa in the Jewelry category was obvious. The pieces in her collection are unlike anything you’ve seen before. They are the fruit of her culture, passions and dreams. All this, and the painstaking process of making them, adds to their value. 

Here, she tells Pulse about her journey. 

Mixing techniques and materials

“I feel that it all started in my early childhood, when my mother taught me to embroider. There was no specific reason for it. It’s something you naturally do at home. But after that, I focused more on painting. I wanted to learn painting and enter the Cairo School of Fine Arts, and I did. During the last two years of my studies, as I like experimentation, I started to mix all kinds of materials and techniques. I started adding threads to my oil paintings. Then I made canvases with thread and embroidery alone. 

“When I graduated, I looked for a job that had something to do with drawing. At the same time, I was participating in exhibitions, but I felt that I could do more. These little canvases that I was embroidering, I could combine them with another skill and turn them into something that people could wear, as if they were wearing works of art. I felt I had to learn new techniques. 

“I started with easy objects, a necklace with an embroidery pendant, for example. So I learned jewelry making to be able to combine several techniques and materials together.”

Fatma Mostafa
Fatma Mostafa

Siwa, Sinai and the parks of Cairo

“There is nothing special to my daily routine. I spend my mornings doing sketches. I take any canvas, I paint with oil or with colored pencils. My hand has to be constantly busy to help what’s in my head come out. I watch movies, anything that can inspire me.

“I have not traveled much outside of Egypt, but I have visited every corner of my country. Most of the landscapes in my embroideries are from Siwa, Sinai, my favorite places. In Cairo, I like to go to the parks and gardens, where I sit to draw. When I start embroidering, these are moments that I love, that I live like a form of meditation. The pace of embroidery is regular, I don’t know how to describe it, but it brings me inner peace, it makes me feel good.” 

Fatma Mostafa
Fatma Mostafa

“Enabling people to make a living”

“My life after the FTA award? I feel like I’ll be able to realize the plans I’ve had in my head for a long time without knowing where to start. I have artisans, embroiderers, jewelers who work for me part-time, or when I need them. I will be able to hire them full time, so that we can work together at all stages of production of an object. I’ll have my own workshop for my brand and allow a lot of people to make a living from it. I will also be able to continue experimenting with materials that were too expensive for me, like gold, or better quality canvas. Right now, that’s what I want to do the most, and have a team working on the brand to take it to its highest potential.

“My wish is for my brand to be known outside Egypt and that people from all over the world will wear these creations made by Egyptian hands, and that everyone who owns one of my pieces will be happy to wear it. I don’t have any other wish except to have my freedom to create.”