Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Azza al Qubaisi won two categories at this year’s Emirates Women Award.
Azza al Qubaisi won two categories at this year’s Emirates Women Award.

More than a jewellery designer, a sister and inspiration

Emirates Women Award winner and jewelry designer Azza al Qubaisi literally brings culture to the fingertips.

ABU DHABI // Every day, Azza al Qubaisi has the pleasure of working with items that sparkle and shine.

But the Abu Dhabi jewellery designer did not choose her profession because of the glamour.

She chose it because it provided her with a creative outlet.

And this year, her passion and charisma helped her to win the Emirates Women Award in two categories: community contribution, and overall winner for business achievements.

The jewellery scene was not always on her agenda. Having the opportunity to travel to London to further her education, she had planned to pursue "something more academic".

However, after attending two elective art classes during her first year of college, everything changed.

"I immediately realised this is what I wanted," Ms al Qubaisi, 32, said. "It was like a curtain had been lifted."

The real turning point came later that year when she attended the Sensation art exhibit in London. It showcased the work of young British artists such as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, and portions were considered so graphic that they were restricted to those over 18.

"It really shocked me," she said. "It broke boundaries I never even knew existed in my mind. There were works made out of meat and maggots, and others that explicitly expressed issues about sexuality - things you would never see in the Arab art scene."

Although the exhibition was a little too provocative for her taste, the "shocking" level of self-expression that art could provide evoked in her a sense of unlimited possibilities. She decided to pursue a degree in jewellery design and silversmithing at London Metropolitan University.

After completing her degree in 2002, Ms al Qubaisi returned to the UAE with ambitions to open her own business.

"I needed to feel independent," she said. "I had the business background and I wanted to prove my potential to the world."

The Abu Dhabi art scene posed a significant challenge. "Such a field was not available locally at the time," she said. "It was almost impossible to even meet another artist. No one knew who I was or what I was capable of."

The aspiring designer pressed on and launched The Arabian Workshop for Jewellery and Gems, where she moulds her creations. She uses unconventional materials to create jewellery that reflects the culture and heritage of the UAE, at prices ranging from Dh50 to Dh2,000 per piece.

From prayer beads carved out of camel bone to pendants created from incense, each creation is made by Ms al Qubaisi.

Her Angel Tears collection features gold that is moulded to symbolise aspects of pearl diving. One piece, a golden necklace, represents an injured pearl diver's finger, with a diamond as a drop of blood.

Although jewellery design is her passion, Ms al Qubaisi also has a side job to keep the business afloat: she designs and produces corporate gifts and trophies with the help of her workshop team.

Her contributions to the community, including the launching of two art galleries that support emerging artists and setting up an initiative last month to help boost the art scene in Al Gharbia, is what helped her win the second award.

The Al Gharbia project, called "Lamset Ibdaa", or "A Touch of Creativity", brings together women from many backgrounds and provides them with the resources they need to develop their design and business skills.

Hamda Mubarak al Hamili, 33, is a member of the group. Along with a classmate, Ms al Hamili approached Ms al Qubaisi for help as she was preparing to graduate from the design programme at Al Gharbia Institute.

"We were only two girls at the time and Azza took us in and trained us. We fell in love with design even more because of the way she treated us," Ms al Hamili said. "She became more than our trainer, she became our sister."

Ms al Qubaisi then decided to open the first and only jewellery workshop in Al Gharbia.

"Before this, women here didn't have access to the empowerment and knowledge they needed to bring out all the potential that was in them," Ms al Hamili said. "Azza's initiatives have provided them with this opportunity."

Lamset Ibdaa will hold its first art exhibition later this month. Members said it will be the first of its kind in Al Gharbia.


Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Hajer Almosleh, the winner of the last year's short story competition, at her home in Dubai. Duncan Chard for the National

Get involved with The National’s short-story competition

Writers have two weeks to craft a winning submission, under the title and theme "The Turning Point".

 It is believed that the desert-like planet of Tatooine is being recreated for Star Wars: Episode VII. Could that be where filming in the UAE comes in? Courtesy Lucasfilms

Could the force be with us? The search for Star Wars truth

On the hunt for the Star Wars: Episode VII set, which a growing number of people are sure is in Abu Dhabi, but no one can seem to find.

 With an estimated 18,000 comic and film fans having already paid a visit to this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con, organisers are hopeful they will have surpassed last year total, of 21,000, by its close. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

In pictures: Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai

Dubai's World Trade Center was awash with people visiting this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con. Here's some of our best pictures.

 Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, presents Quincy Jones with the Abu Dhabi Festival Award as the Admaf founder Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo applauds. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival.

A candid talk with Quincy Jones about the UAE, Lil Wayne and the Abu Dhabi Festival award

The Abu Dhabi Festival honoree Quincy Jones discusses his legendary career as a music producer, the return of Dubai Music Week and why he can’t handle the rapper Lil Wayne.

 Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge arrive at Wellington Military Terminal on an RNZAF 757 from Sydney on April 7, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand. Chris Jackson / Getty Images

In pictures: Will and Kate visit Australia and New Zealand

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge are on a tour Down Under for three weeks.

 A protester gives a victory sign during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo in November 2011. Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Street life: humanity’s future depends on ability to negotiate and sustain public space

Negotiating our ever more crowded cities and maintaining vibrant public spaces are among the major challenges facing humanity in the coming decades.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National