She spends her days in a small workshop in the heart of Khan El-Khalily. Last night she finished reading yet another heart-touching book that made her think of those tormented characters all night long. Now she has the book right in front of her while she attempts to sculpt its characters into rings and earrings.
Menna Khalil is a local jewellery designer who managed to make everyone revisit their favourite Kahlil Gibran books. For her autumn/winter collection, the designer decided to travel through years and decades to reinterpret Gibran’s most iconic lines and paintings.
The Lebanese poet and author defined literature in the early twentieth century. However, his books remain, dominating this year’s best-seller charts. Kahlil is one of the many literature fanatics that depend on Gibran’s works to find metaphysical romance and peace.
Daily News Egypt met the jewellery designer to discover more about the new collection, Gibran’s massive impact on the designer herself – and the customers’ feedback.
What was your main inspiration behind this collection?
This collection is about Kahlil Gibran, the famous poet. Everyone knows Gibran as a poet and a writer; yet, nobody knows that he is also a painter. He studied fine arts in Paris for three years and he held many exhibitions. He also used to draw a painting with every one of his renowned books. So I used his paintings and his beautiful metaphysical romantic unconditional love as the main source of inspiration for my winter collection.
I love Gibran so much; he is one of my favourite writers. Every season I come out with a collection based on a theme; but, I have to choose something that goes with the season itself and its vibes. Gibran had this brilliant combination of dark and light; lots of contradictions. He always played with opposite concepts, such as hope and despair, life and death, man and woman, platonic love and desire. I felt that his colours and concepts will go perfectly with the fall/winter season.
Tell us more about the pieces
This collection consists of 11 pieces: three earrings, three rings, four necklaces, and one bracelet. I used the usual sterling silver, gold-plated copper and precious stones. Also, this time, I used actual bones for the sculpture; the earring of a man and woman’s body, as well as the ring of the prophet’s face, are made of camel bones. Everything was manufactured entirely in Khan El-Khalily. Even the sculpting was applied in a workshop, where a very talented artist sculpts beautiful accessories out of bones and wood. I gave him the paintings and he sculpted the pieces, then I continued and enhanced some minor details.
My stone selection was very specific this time, because I wanted to communicate certain vibes. I used mother of pearl to capture the serine mood of the sea and its waves. Gibran used very rare oily colours, water colours, and his pallets were often pale and dreamy, while the silhouettes were usually minimalistic and surreal. I wanted to carry on this mood and reinterpret it with my jewellery.
I also tried a new technique this time for the fire-and-light earring. I intentionally crushed the silicon carbide stone and then reassembled the fractions around the ring, because I wanted this specific texture.
How long did the research and manufacturing take?
I always spend a month on every collection. I studied him and his work closely; I read every word that he ever wrote. I have all of his works at home. Even though I read them all back in 2006, I had to re-read each and every word to choose my favourite lines. At the beginning, I had two pages of inspirational words. Then I had to filter them to reach the key points that could be used as a basis of the collection.
Which of Gibran’s works formed the primary basis of the collection?
I was inspired by all of his book, but I think the collection was highly influenced by Broken Wings, because I was really touched by it. He wrote this book when he was still in Lebanon; Gibran lived his entire life away from his home-land. He left Lebanon at the early age of 19 and immigrated to the United States, then France, then back to the States.
Therefore, Broken Wings is very intense, especially the parts that discuss his relationship with his own country, its nature, his first love and how she died. Meanwhile, I was also inspired by Sand and Foam, the Prophet, as well as few others.
As for the paintings, there was one particular painting that inspired me the most; it featured the two naked bodies of a man and his sister. The way Gibran managed to make them look utterly platonic and unattached to earthly matters inspired me to create the earring of a man and woman’s body.
What did you aim to communicate through this collection?
I wanted to manifest my passion, love and gratitude towards Gibran’s art. I also had one main message: I wanted to tell people that heartbreak is not bad. I went through a break up three months before this particular collection; therefore, I wanted to communicate that through pain comes beauty.
How is the feedback so far?
Gibran is an international sensation. Therefore, I have received countless orders and messages from all around the world. The feedback was really overwhelming since the very first day. Just a few hours after the launch, I was on air for a TV interview.
This is the second time you have based a collection on literary works. What makes you favour this type of theme?
I did not intend to base another collection on literature. I just base my art on my personal journeys and I happen to be a literature student. Therefore, it is very natural for me to lean towards this type of theme. I believe each and every one of my collections was based on a book.
Meanwhile, my personal journeys are always manifested in the pieces. I am a person who appreciates nature and tends to roam free into the wild, away from any urban restrictions. This personal preference was highlighted in one of the pieces – which was sold-out in one day. This made me realize that my customers now share the same lifestyle and ideas with me.
How did this link between jewellery and literature start?
I had a huge phobia of snakes; it was my only fear. When one of my friends learnt this, he told me that I should not fear snakes because women are essentially snakes. He said it in a very poetic way that intrigued me. Then he gave me a book called “Woman’s Shadow” by Youssef Zidan; that was in November 2013. A couple of weeks later, I launched my Pharaonic collection, which was based mainly on snakes. Later on I did the Gypsy collection. If you check the photo-shoot closely, you will notice a book that is present in all of the pictures; that book is called Women Who Run with the Wolves. Each and every one of my collections was based on a book, but with different variations.
What can you tell us about your upcoming collection?
I am still developing the concept. But I can tell you that it will be based on art as well. It is mainly inspired by a very famous painter from the 17th century, the father of impressionism. I am still not sure about the details, but that’s what I’m planning to do next, because I have been dying to implement this particular theme for two years. I believe people are now finally ready for this theme.