A shining example

September 28, 2011 Posted by Mgguzman

After about five minutes of meeting with Mariam Polding, the jewelry designer behind the newly launched MeeM brand, you feel like you’re on a sugar high. Her contagious energy and amusing verbosity lends her an eccentric comportment that while common for creative makes, it’s hard to believe that her first “occupations” are as super-mom, competitive tennis player and editor.
A talkative half-Saudi, half-Brit with a quirky ability to effortlessly interchange from her British accent to one of an American Valley Girl (no doubt due to her upbringing in the United States) multiple times within a single sentence, she, herself, is an animated blend of inspiration and creativity. Therefore, it is not surprising that Polding branched out into the design realm and was able to exact her energies into a full-hearted journey, becoming a paragon of how to take one’s passion and transform it into one’s profession.
“I always love taking up new hobbies, especially when I can use my hands and fall into a meditative state of mind,” she revealed, “I got into jewelry making and design, purely out of curiosity.”
Her interest in jewelry designing soon turned into an obsession to learn more. “I learned about the art and trade through artisans, mostly male, working in jewelry workshops with kaleidoscopic strands of semi-precious stones hanging in shop windows and a hot, dusty and chemically filled air metal-smithing workshop below,” she explained.
It was only after completing workshops and courses in order to acquire the proper technical know-how that Polding decided to launch her own jewelry brand, MeeM.
“Jewelry making is a passion and MeeM is about sharing this passion with people that can feel a part of themselves in unique, handmade pieces that are easy to wear and have a personal connection to the wearer,” Polding enthused.
Inspired by the colorful, modernized streets of Cairo and mesmerized by its vibrant artistry that pulsates throughout its old quarters, MeeM successfully fuses traditional technique with contemporary aesthetic.
With her recent Saudi debut this past Ramadan, and the anticipated launch of her “Twinkle Twinkle” Zodiac Collection, which consists of matching Zodiac bracelets for mother and child, Polding is already explaining to me her next collection’s inspiration. To the delight of fashionistas, there seems to be only one speed for MeeM and that is full.

The Zodiac motif was born from the observation that I tended to gravitate toward jewelry that had/has a personal connection to me, the wearer. I would always buy something with my astrological/zodiac sign, has an initial “M” charm, or the letter “S” (for my daughter, Sophia), or contains an amethyst and/or turquoise, which are my planetary and mystical Zodiac stones.

I use various research online sources and books from my personal library and chart the various stones that partner each sign. Some of these sources are conflicting, so I try to make MeeM more inclusive to give people more options. The semi-precious stones are always in sync with the astrological/Zodiac sign. That’s what makes MeeM creations so personalized. Of course, MeeM can customize everything, from the stone to the charm design and even the word charm in English or Arabic. Throughout Ramadan, I had a lot of orders from people to customize charms with names, initials and even wacky adjectives, which are obvious inside jokes, to give as gifts to friends and family. MeeM is about having fun and self-expression, and a customized MeeM charm is a fun, yet urban, chic way to express yourself and your friends.

I only use high-grade semi-precious stones that are sourced from all over the world. I don’t use any plastic or acrylic because I like every component I implement to be of high quality. All the metal components are 925 sterling silver and 18, 21 or 24 carat Italian gold plate.

In the Zodiac Collection, some are standard symbols that represent the sign. Other charms are existing visuals that I played with and modified. The calligraphy is always from a talented calligrapher I collaborate with. We discuss the script, vibe and feeling of what we want to create, and the calligrapher will then share a few options.
I have taken courses and completed apprenticeships in metalsmithing and plating, but I haven’t set up a workshop here in Jeddah yet, so I am still outsourcing metal production from Egypt.

Egypt has a rich history strongly influenced by Turkish and European aesthetics, which manifests in the handiwork of local artisans today. I, too, have been influenced and touched by this and other artisans throughout the Arab world, and this is reflected in the MeeM Ramadan Subha Collection. I work with a few talented Egyptian calligraphers that have designed all the names of Allah charms for the MeeM Subha collection. Their sensibility toward intricacy on one hand and simplicity on the other, coupled with the ability and efficiency to execute both styles, has kept me in collaboration with a workshop there for the last five years.

I’m a writer and a bibliophile, so it’s always about meaning over aesthetic. The reverse, to me, is pointless.

MeeM celebrates a part of you and a part of me. I created it because I personally wanted to have a variety of daily accessories that had meaning, are easy to wear, but yet are eye-catching pieces.
I would like to think that MeeM are pieces that will weather the trend and will be keepsakes that will grow with people and be passed down to their daughters because of their sentimental value. Design is about innovation and interpretation, so I look forward to constantly developing my skills and creating new pieces that people will naturally gravitate toward, feel connected to and find a part of themselves in it.

MeeM can be found in Sawani at Red Sea Mall, Jeddah and S*auce Boutique in Dubai.

Article by Marriam M Mossalli – Arab News