Egyptian culture is more than just about pyramids and museums; bellydancing and shisha; it is about the burgeoning local crafts scene which has had an exciting resurgence in recent years. One of our favorite examples of this is ‘Pretty Practical’, founded by Sherine and Ahmed, bringing gorgeous hand-made wooden furniture and utensils into our homes. So we sat down with this creative married couple to find out how a love for working with their hands and exploring the natural beauty of wood has turned into a fast-growing business.
We can all admit to slightly falling in love when we see authentic wooden furniture, but for Sherine and Ahmed wooden crafts are the ultimate passion. Ahmed, who trained as a fine artist tells us, “Wood is amazing to work with because each tree has its own pattern, it is like a finished canvas. It is a responsibility to end up with a beautiful piece and not just waste the wood”. This passion led Ahmed to build on the skills that he had picked up during his studies through extensive research and practice.
Ahmed saw within his then-girlfriend, now-wife Sherine, a talent for the craft, sharing with her his skills. She explains, “The first thing we made together was a smoking pipe. Even though I have built up my own skills now, I still see him as my teacher. He gathers so much knowledge and always passes it on to me”.
“We were so surprised; we took 45 pieces and left with only three.”
Their joint love of woodwork did not inevitably turn into a business, a blend of luck and Sherine’s risk-taking made ‘Pretty Practical’ possible. “I really wanted to start making kitchen utensils because there is not that much on offer in Egypt. So we started making some pieces just for us to use. Without Ahmed even knowing, I sent some pictures to Mada Market asking if we could have a stall. When they said yes, I told Ahmed, we have a month to make as much as we can!” Sherine excitedly reveals. After a month of hard work and intense commitment, it all paid off; the market was a huge success. “We were so surprised; we took 45 pieces and left with only three”.
From that point onwards everything changed. Ahmed tells us, “We didn’t plan on anything coming from it, but then people started contacting us to make orders. They saw pictures of what we sold at the market and wanted pieces of their own”.
As their hobby turned into a business, chopping boards and spoons turned into tables and sofas, “We slowly started making furniture as well, which was what I knew Ahmed had wanted from the beginning. However, if we had started with furniture, it would have been too intimidating”, Sherine explains.
“Our aesthetic changes with every trip, which means we mix everything. It is like a collage of inspirations.”
Although the pair has different styles, with Ahmed taking a more technical role whilst Sherine brings in a contemporary perspective, creative differences between the two are a rarity and squabbles are minimal. Coming up with designs together, their inspiration often comes from their travels, “Our aesthetic changes with every trip, which means we mix everything. It is like a collage of inspirations”, Sherine tells us, with Ahmed adding, “We collect tools from each country we travel to. Each country uses different concepts related to wood reflecting their individual culture”.
“Our pieces are not just made with love, they are something to form memories with.”
Increasingly here in Egypt, we are bringing flatpack, mass-produced furniture into our homes, making the hand-made, one-of-a-kind ‘Pretty Practical’ stand out. According to Sherine, “Nowadays everything is so electronic, people are not really connecting, so for us going back to basics with wood is so powerful. Our pieces are not just made with love, they are something to form memories with. The most important thing for us is not to design for the sake of having a design. At the end of the day, we want to make things that are practical but look good; things that we would have in our own home”.
With their stunning products taking the Egyptian market by storm, what is the future for this fantastic couple? Sherine reveals, “Now that we have a lot of orders, we have started working with others to keep up with the pace. We would love the business to grow more, but we will make sure not to lose the personal touch”.
Sherine and Ahmed’s excitement for crafts doesn’t stop at their own work. Their enthusiasm for the future of Egypt’s local crafts radiates out; “Local products are the future of Egypt. This generation is a bit freer with how we think, we have more choices and take more risks. I believe a lot more in the generation younger than us, because we have laid out a foundation for them”, Sherine expounds with Ahmed concluding, “If we don’t provide new things to take Egypt to another level, we are going to be stuck with what we have, which is sadly nothing. As long as there is passion anything is possible”.
To find out more about Pretty Practical and its stunning work check out the Facebook page here.