In The Workshop: Saman Sohail of Warq Paper Products

In The Workshop: Saman Sohail of Warq Paper Products

‘In The Workshop’ is a new series I’m starting on the blog, purely born out of my love for seeing how things get created and the stuff that we use on the everyday, how it comes to life. I want us to experience in whatever tiny way, the love and hours that go into making something special and meeting the human behind all the hard work. I wrote a bit more about it here, so you can check that out if you’re interested. If you’d like to be a part of this feature, you can check out all requirements right at the end of the post.

For the very first installment of ‘In My Workshop’, I’m introducing you to  the uber talented and beautiful, Saman Sohail, founder of eightsevenstudio, a design space for many things including Warq Paper Products. I met Saman online through Warq for a blog giveaway and was instantly impressed with the quality of not just her product but the language she spoke through the beautiful visuals on her social media. You don’t run into many small businesses our side of the world that give as much love to every stage of their final product so Saman’s work was a breath of fresh air and I was thrilled that she wanted to be a part of this.

I asked Saman questions about her work environment, studio space, everyday routine and then some casual talk about her favorite beverage and work attire. Saman also shared the step by step process of everything that goes into bringing the Warq paper products to life. I hope you love this feature BECAUSE I REALLY, REALLY DO.

Note: No badtameezi of any sorts about the work or contributors of this series will be accepted. Just a casual FYI. 

Hi Saman! Tell all of us something about yourself and how did Warq really happen?

I was born in Saudi Arabia and like a typical third culture kid, raised in a number of places around the Middle East. I think moving around a lot growing up gave me an edge in my work because I was able to expose myself to various cultures and visual narratives.

I moved to London for a few years after school, getting my Masters in Graphic Branding and Identity from the London College of Communication in 2011. Being a lecturer in graphic design at a university shortly after was a fulfilling job but I always felt this need to create. While helping others create and ideate, I always felt like I was missing out on my own creative expression. This is how my design studio, eightsevenstudio, was born. The studio has been an umbrella for me to experiment and start a few other initiatives and ventures that I’ve always been passionate to explore, including Warq Paper Products, a range of limited edition stationery and paper products.

What’s a typical day at work like for you?

I’m not an early riser by any means, so I would wake up around 10am, have a quick bite and come to the studio (yes I work from home in my pajamas!) with a cup of chai. First order of business is always checking my email(s) and replying or coordinating. I check my socials and respond or schedule as most of my marketing works through Instagram and Facebook. The rest of the working day is different everyday depending on whether I’m working with clients, attending meetings or working with my Warq products: preparing orders, developing products or samples for my retailers.

Since I work on a couple of different things, it’s always important for me to set aside time for creative exercises and self expression. A lot of my products and product ideas for Warq come out of this exercise, whether it’s illustration, calligraphy or design.

Do you have a dedicated work space? Where do you work out of? (For a few months initially, my very glamorous work space was my couch, by the way)

Working from home can be tricky! To begin with, it takes a little bit of time for people to take you seriously. Luckily, we had a spare room in our house which I have converted into a dedicated office. I treat it like I would treat a normal 9 to 5, going there only in the daytime (unless a client is panicking at night!) and spending all my proper office hours at work.

It’s also very important to create a space and environment that would motivate me because it’s where I spend the better part of my day. It often helps to change around the layout of the studio to keep things fresh.

I know this could be the equal of asking someone to pick their favorite child but I’m going to do it anyway. What’s your most favorite piece that you’ve created so far?

I experiment quite a bit with modern calligraphy and expression of word through the written form. My Rumi calligraphy pieces are always my favorites. I also love the Wandermore journal series from Warq as it perfectly captures my love for calligraphy, illustration and travel.

What would be your ultimate, stuff-of-my-dreams kind of project?
On a deeper level, I truly believe in educating people about design and the various avenues within it. If used correctly, it is an important tool to inform and enlighten as well impact the way society functions (think political campaigns, books, advertising etc). A dream project would be anything that combines design and education backed up by a worthy cause.

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SO TRUE. Okay, now we’ve come to the part about exploring your process and I’m VERY excited. Run us through everything you do to create a Warq product?

Happily! Here’s topline what I do to make each piece happen.

Step 1: Observation Most of this comes very naturally, whether it’s trends or seasonal changes in demand. My own interests play a big role in this, because I always want to create products I would buy myself. Travelling is a huge part of getting a load of inspiration. I collect tickets, postcards, stickers, labels: anything that I find visually interesting.

Step 2: Visual research Spending countless (productive, I promise!) hours on Instagram and Pinterest and using my personal library for visual research on color palettes, styles and general reference.

Step 3: Sketching and calligraphy process: Depending on how the product is being developed, I do a lot of sketching and tracing as well as variations in calligraphy. Most of the time only one or two of those would get printed on actual products but I keep my better rough sketches for future use.

Step 4: Scanning and cleaning Investing in a good scanner is key to getting all the details. Some people prefer to use graphic tablets to draw digitally but it usually doesn’t give me that imperfect hand-made quality that I love.

Step 5: Layout The design arrangement of calligraphy and/or illustration. This would take a few days of trial, error and printing. I was once told by a teacher of mine to ‘live with your work’, put it up on the wall and see how you feel about it every single day before you use it anywhere. I also share a few images of this process on social media to get feedback from people who are actually going to purchase the product.

Step 6: Liaise with suppliers I work with a couple of different product, paper and print suppliers locally in Saudi, in the UK and in China. There are also some limited quantity products that I print myself in the studio. This is one of the most rewarding part of the process as I can see my vision coming to life.

Step 7: Product photography and marketing Once the products are received and ready, I would style a simple or themed photoshoot for marketing purposes. I often do behind-the-scenes Instagram stories so people can be involved in the process.

Step 8: Send samples/work with existing retailers OR exhibitions/pop-up shops Once everything is ready and sent out to retailers in the form of samples or photographs, I am able to collect orders and start supplying them with the finished product. I also love doing pop-up shops and have done quite a few across Saudi and Bahrain when I started off. It’s such an amazing experience to speak directly to the audience and you get to meet so many people who are interested in your work.

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Thank you SO much Saman. That was incredible. Are you up for some casual Q&A now?

Yep!

Where would you be a on a typical weekend morning?
Doing my second favorite thing in the world, sleeping!

Favorite work attire?
Pajamas!

Favorite comfort beverage?
Chai! Or a skinny caramel macchiato from Starbucks <3

Who’s your favorite person to bounce creative ideas of?
My long-term (and long-distance) friend and forever partner in collaboration, Anushka Gupta. We haven’t been able to meet each other in 5 years but talk multiple times a day on the phone and share even the minute details of our work on WhatsApp to get each other’s feedback. We learn off one another, and empower each other’s skills. I’ve generally been lucky to have really supportive friends and family who understand what I do and give some great feedback!

Where’s your ideal studio space and what is it like?
Working in isolation might sound boring to some but I love having my own time and space to create, think and ideate. Although the studio is my permanent space to work, I do enjoy the flexibility of taking my work with me while I travel, which in turn influences my work for the better.

What’s coming up for Warq?

Lots! We’re always adding new products to our range as well as doing commissioned illustrations and calligraphy work (Sidenote from me i.e. Shehzeen: My best friend Sumika ordered me a custom notebook from Saman some time ago, it’s such a great gift to give). Our newest collection is the Wandermore journal series for summer. I’m currently also working on a new range of products inspired by vintage products and patterns. And then we’re always looking for retailers to collaborate and stock with to get our products to be as accessible as possible, so there’s that.

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Warq is available online at eightsevenstudio.com/thewarqstore. with worldwide shipping available. Saman has very generously provided a discount code, WARQWONDER, for all blog readers with which you can get 10% off all orders online, valid until 31st August 2017.

 

In physical form, Warq Paper Products are also available at the following locations: Papermoon Gift Stores in Rashed Mall/Dhahran Mall (Khobar), Faisaliah/Kingdom/Sahara (Riyadh), Prince Sultan St. (Jeddah), City Center (Bahrain) and online at Kitabi Keera (Pakistan).

If you’d like to follow Saman’s work for Warq, here are all the accounts she shares her beautiful content on:

Instagram: @warqpaperproducts
Facebook: Warq Paper Products
Saman’s personal instagram: @samansohail15

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If you’d like to be a part of the ‘In The Workshop’ feature, I’d be thrilled to have you. Anything you work with – fabric, wood, beauty products, rugs, paintings, shoes, ANYTHING – email me with the following, 1) A little bit about yourself, 2) Your craft (I’m not looking for arts & crafts projects guys, by craft I mean craftsmanship) 3) The understanding that you’ll be able to provide high-resolution imagery for all the steps of your process. I, unfortunately, cannot accept poor or incomplete photography. If you’re in Dubai, I can come shoot your work myself, for all other locations, you gots to make it happen, bros. If it works out, you can expect a response email from me in two weeks. No emails with ‘I’m interested, what do I do’ or ‘I want to be a part of this feature, here’s a picture of my dog’ – send enough information to introduce yourself and your work. Thankyoo.

Bubyee.

23 Comments

  1. I loved this so much! I’m amazed by the blogs you keep putting out there. This is like nothing you get to see in local blogs or mags! Thank you so much for making your blog better and better each day! Love your work Saman!!

  2. Shezeen!!! Thank you for this new column! I admire you so much and how you come up with ideas for new posts. Saman’s work is amazing and the point by point explanation of her work was very refreshing. Keep em coming!

    1. Author

      Thank you, thank you so much! Saman was incredible with all the detail and the images. She made the feature completely!

  3. Ahmazing I’m impressed. This is like an inspirational and motivational workshop esp for those who work from home. Keep it up Shehzeen ❤ your blog.

  4. What an awesome feature! I have been following Saman on Instagram for a while now (actually, got to know of her through her friend, Anushka Gupta, whom she mentions here) so it was wonderful to get an insight into her work, her creative processes, and more over here. Look forward to reading more!

  5. Loved this series. Its such a great idea. Your content always keep me hooked to your blog. Loved Saman’s work. You guys are inspiration.

    1. Author

      Yay. Thanks Maryam 🙂 Saman did such fab work on the images too, totally made it so easy.

  6. Ma Shaa Allah.. Loved to read about your journey saman… May Allah SWT bless you with lots of success ameen….awesome work place and lovely ideas ma Shaa u

  7. I love this Shehzeen!! You always keep your readers entertained and informed and I truly enjoy Hat about your blog! It’s not a typical run of the mill blogs… I admire that you really take the time out to keep introducing new columns and series here! It’s great!! Keep it up!!
    So inspiring to see the whole process here, Saman’s work is incredible! The photos are beautiful!! Good job:)

  8. Absolutely love this feature! Saman is a powerhouse of creativity and it gives me immense happiness to read this beautiful article. Shehzeen, I’m new to your blog and I look forward to reading all your stories 🙂

  9. This was the collest feature ever and saman is fantastic.. loved readin this completely

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