I have a soft spot for embroidery. I remember my grandmother, and then my mother, trying to teach me how to embroider. I loved the idea of it – my grandmother had beautiful hand embroidered pieces that had been handed down through the family. And I thought I would love to make something so beautiful.
Embroidery is crazy hard. Particularly for me, who is always in a hurry, and not particularly neat. I remember my grandmother actually laughing (kindly) at my efforts, with regular exclamations of 'Small stitches! Not dog stitches!’ – none of which helped. In the end I reverted to less precise crafts, like tapestry (which is essentially colouring in with thread).
So when I see beautifully done hand stitching, I really appreciate it.
The eye catching jewellery is made by Sshhh Chic, a design company owned by Sharmeen Shahidullah.
“I did the unthinkable,” says Sharmeen, “in the height of the GFC, I quit my job to start up my own design company.” Sharmeen took some time off to travel around Bangladesh and Northern India, where she found the inspiration she was after.
On returning from her travels, Sharmeen started Sshhh Chic which specialises in jewellery made with a mix of western contemporary and eastern traditional styles. No two pieces are the same.
“Travelling through Bangladesh I felt a reconnection to my cultural heritage,” explains Sharmeen, who’s cultural roots span the UK, Australia and Bangladesh. “I was fascinated with their natural use of materials and colours and wanted to capture that in my designs.”
In her design and manufacturing process, Sharmeen collaborates with Fair Trade organisations that help educate and train disadvantaged tribal people from remote regions of Bangladesh. This starts with an acknowledgment and understanding the cultural differences between Bangladesh and western countries like Australia.
Sharmeen spends time in Bangladesh each year to understand their traditional designs and processes. Sharmeen then works with the her suppliers on understanding how to transfer these designs and processes to new materials, and in some case designs, that she uses for her jewellery.
“The communities I collaborate with have never used the materials in the way I have designed them for my ranges. So for them it is a new and welcome challenge. It gives them something new and different to work on and learn from.”
The workers then manufacture the core jewellery elements, and Sharmeen handcrafts them into jewellery or household items in Australia.
My favourites will remain the embroidered pieces. I think my grandmother would like them.