Interview with Brooke Alam, Creative Etsy Shopkeeper

Masha’Allah you are an Etsy shopkeeper. Please tell us about your shop.

My shop name is inspireDeen.  It’s a play on words, similar to ‘inspiring’, but inspireDeen – to inspire ‘faith’. My name is Brooke Alam. I made inspireDeen as a place for me to display and sell my works of art. At this time I do not have a set styling or product that I make or sell. Anything and everything I make I put on Etsy to see what responses I get. This has helped me learn what products people are looking for and are interested in. I do tend to work mostly with acrylics. My favorite projects so far are custom requests from buyers. I don’t want to limit myself with a set style.

20140829_095115Why did you start painting and what or who inspired you to open your Etsy shop?

I was actually encouraged to start painting again by my husband. I had initially been an Art Major in college, but had changed my career direction to Nursing. Since my schooling years I had not given time to my painting or my creative side. I have practised as a nurse since 2006 and truly love it, but have always kept the knack for painting and sketching in the back of my mind – never making the time to practice. In January of 2012 my husband and I were blessed with our first child, alhamdulillah.  Since his birth I returned to my job (after leave) on a part time/as needed status, once a week.

I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to spend all my other time caring for my son, masha’Allah. When he was between the age of one and two years, after testing and such, we were made aware of some issues involving his sensory system. He was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) which is a form of autism. I think it is normal for many parents to feel quite responsible or guilty when a problem arises with their child. But we also know that, alhamduliliah, Allah has reasons everything.

Still, the diagnosis was devastating at first for our family, but we quickly found that with therapy he can and has shown so much improvement, alhamdulillah! How fortunate we are to have the opportunity to get him the therapy he needs. This point in my life resulted in my having so much stress. I found though, if I took the times he napped to draw or sketch or paint, it was very therapeutic for me. After eight years I picked up a paint brush and it felt so good, alhamdulillah! With my husband’s encouragement I made the step to open an Etsy shop. Why not see what my craft could blossom into!!?! Alhamdulillah I have had a fair amount of interest and I am so very thankful, masha’Allah.

20141227_103535What is your favourite activity to nourish your creativity and why?

I love to go to flea markets if time and my son allow. Even looking at other artists’ work can spark ideas in my mind. I find ideas just come from the most random moments in life. Maybe when I’m just starting to fall asleep an idea will come and I have to put a note in my phone to remind me of this idea. My sketch book is full of random little sayings or colour schemes and things to help jog my memory later.

Does anything hinder your creativity? What is your top tip for recovery from such hindrances?

I would say being tired is my largest hindrance to creativity. I actually find I have so many ideas running through my head alhamdulillah, but never enough time to get them all put down on paper or canvas.

Who’s work has inspired your style?

I think I have a problem in that I LOVE so many different art mediums and styles! If you take a look at my shop you will see that I have many different styles going on. What I like is what I do and try. I hope that in the future I can settle into a style that I am best at insha’Allah. I adore work by Amira Rahim, a contemporary artist out of Dubai. Masha’Allah, she has a beautiful style and eye for colours and light. I so greatly admire her work. As far as Etsy shops go, Hafsa Taher is tops!!!!!! Her shop is a beautiful one with such a variety and scope of products. I have no idea where she finds the time!  Another artist I love to follow is Hafsa Khizer.  She has awesome Islamic Calligraphy that is very contemporary. And I have to mention Farrah Azam as being one of the first artists I found on instagram. MashaAllah her ‘Bespokehenna‘ henna designs and style are so unique and beautiful. All of these sisters can be found on Facebook and Instagram. I wouldn’t say my style is like any other theirs. I’m running in my own lane, but I find that their colours and movement, and love for what they do, does resonate through their work to me.

20141206_104531What advice would you give to aspiring Etsy shopkeepers?

Top thing is to listen to advice you are given from other fellow shopkeepers! I have found that the Etsy community itself is such a helpful group of people alhamdulillah!   Countless times I have been messaged with advice from random shopkeepers just wanting to add a bit of advice and encouragement. Listen to them and take heed of what they say; some are expert at this business. I found advice has always been helpful. I too am willing to help anyone needing a bit of advice! insha’Allah I too have much to still learn, as everyone is always growing and improving at their craft.

Young Muslimah Magazine loves to highlight good reads. What book have you read that you would you recommend to our readers and why?

It’s embarrassing to say, but since my son has been born my reading time has greatly reduced unfortunately. I find a bit of time before sleep to read Qur’an and that has been my routine for a while. I will say though that my husband and I have found another way to engage in Islamic lessons as a family including our son. We really enjoy watching Islamic lectures on YouTube. Omar Suleiman and Nouman Ali Khan are our favourites at this moment. Masha’Allah such well rounded speakers that really reach out to the younger population with words that engage present day problems and issues. So I would recommend giving them a listen. Their lectures always leave us with much to discuss and think about, as well as actions to apply in our lives. May Allah reward them in their efforts to aid our Ummah to find balance in our lives.

20141226_115431What new projects can readers look forward to from you and where is the best place for readers to find out about it?

I have many ideas literally running through my head and not nearly enough time or energy to put them into action. Insha’Allah I will accomplish some of them like more mixed media pieces including melted wax, crayon, and acrylics. I have really been inspired by the look it produces and I have not seen it in the art world in great numbers.  I also want to add more pieces of large watercolour pieces. For a while now I have been wanting to add an idea including cork board material with special custom messages put on it, Islamic in nature.

I think overall I want my shop to exude positivity and appeal to the Muslim and non-Muslim populations. I find that many non-Muslim people are drawn to sayings the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, and the actions he made his sunnah. Masha’Allah there is a bridge that can be made and used to teach our non-Muslim brothers and sisters and I want to help make that happen, insha’Allah.

I believe art, all arts, can convey these messages and build relationships and understanding between different peoples. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to make connections with all people, bonding our common humanity.

My Etsy shop is found at inspireDeen.etsy.com. My instagram is called inspireDeen and my email is inspireDeen@gmail.com. And I can be found on Facebook at InspireDeen Art and Islamic Art by inspireDeen.

Thank you for your time and support to our readers; jazakillahkhayr.

Thank you, jazakAllah khayr.

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