At the age of 13 years old, Mariam Satour’s passion for the arts became her gateway into a world of embroidery and fiber artistry. Although she was a teenager when her mother introduced her to needlework—still grappling with school and extracurriculars— she had known then that it was her calling.
Fiber artistry is a type of fine art that uses fabric, yarn, and natural and synthetic fibers.
Egyptian Streets spoke to graphic designer turned embroidery and fiber artist, Mariam Satour, about her passion for embroidery, and how she turned her hobby into a job.
When and how did you get into embroidery?
At the age of 13, my mom got me a needlepoint kit and taught me the basics of it. I was hooked right away. I loved how meditative it was, and the calming effect it had on me.
At that age, I was a professional swimmer. The pace of my daily life was hectic and exhausting, and embroidery was something that I loved doing between training because it kept me grounded between all of this.
Why did you choose to be a fiber artist?
The amazing variety in the materials of fiber arts makes it very interesting. This variety gives me endless possibilities when it comes to the piece that I’m working on.
At first, I considered myself only an embroidery artist, but then I started showing interest in different types of fiber arts, like punch needle, surface design, and weaving. I didn’t want to limit myself in just one aspect to give myself the space to learn different types of arts, be more flexible with my craft, and evolve more.
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How did you turn your hobby into work?
I had the idea in the back of my mind for many years, but only found the courage to take the leap I needed and quit my full time job as a graphic designer and start my own business in 2018. I was pregnant at that time. I wanted to pursue my love for embroidery and turn it into work. I decided to give it a year and see what would come out of it.
Did you face any challenges?
Many! At first, I didn’t know what I was doing. I knew my work was embroidery, but I couldn’t figure out what types of products I would be selling, my style of work, or how to develop any of it. Then came the challenge of finding the right customers and marketing my products. And the real, constant challenge is that I run my business alone. It’s a one woman show, I do everything on my own, from creating, shopping for materials, photography, art direction, filming, content creation, to customer service, inventory, social media, packaging design, fulfilling orders, and much more.
If you are going to do it on your own, you really need to put in the effort, curiosity, and time to learn many different skills, and many of them have nothing to do with what your original skill is about (in my case, embroidery).
What were you hoping to achieve when you began?
I was hoping to be where I am today. I work from my home studio, I do what I love, and I get to spend time with my daughter and family. I wish to inspire others and make a difference in people’s lives, even if it’s a tiny difference, when they see my work. I still have many dreams to achieve, and they need more work from me, but at least I know I’m on the right track.
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How do you differentiate yourself from other embroidery artists?
I believe that the journey itself defines the artist, each and every one of us has his or her own story and creative journey. How we start out and how we evolve and learn everyday over the years makes us who we are as artists. This is what differentiates an artist from another.
In my case, the learning process I had to go through was a very long journey, full of mistakes and failures. But it got me where I am today, and I still have a lot to learn and do. Evolving is important, and in order to evolve you have to experience your own journey, not someone else’s.
Can you tell us about #Egyptian Stitchers?
I came up with the idea of creating #egyptianstitchers to connect all Egyptian embroidery and fiber artists, so we’d become more visible to each other, share our work together, and communicate better.
In Egypt, we face a lot of challenges, as makers, when it comes to learning a new craft: from finding the right inspiration and supplies, to introducing ourselves to the market. But if we look at it from a different perspective, it can be a great opportunity for us to create a space, share the knowledge, and move forward as a community.
What’s your advice to someone who wants to start embroidery?
Start with something simple, nothing complicated. Attend a workshop, take a course, buy a kit, find a calm corner, put on some relaxing music, and enjoy the process. Good lighting and sitting posture are very important. Always remember that embroidery is a slow art, don’t rush it. Embroidery helps us unwind after a long day, and teaches us patience and mindfulness at its best.
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