While some Millenials waste their time away on social media, confirming the title of
“Generation Me” that has been given to them in order to underline the alleged self-obsession and vanity of those of us born in the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties, Alisa Khan has decided to utilize social media for another important purpose, one that is perhaps related to her own purpose in the Guyanese artistic landscape, that of marketing her crafts and artistic products that she creates.
Ms. Khan, keenly aware of the reach social media has on her target demographic (young people, Millenials like herself) has begun using her Facebook page, “Adornments”, to sell the array of exotic and intricately made pieces – everything from delicate and beautifully pressed and framed flowers to seashell necklaces and dream-catcher jewellery – that are starting to represent her own persona as an artist and craftswoman. Although her long term goal is to establish a store, her own space where people can come in and see all the items she has to offer, Ms. Khan seems perfectly at ease with the way she has incorporated social media into her business strategy in this initial phase.
Although the business aspect of her craftwork has only recently started, Ms. Khan says that the response to what she does has been encouraging and that people are supporting her by
buying the items she makes. She credits her start to a small Craft Show that was held at the Saint Stanislaus ground where she got her first large scale opportunity, albeit at a small show, to offer the world insight into her talents and skills. It is important to note that in true Generation Y fashion, Ms. Khan is self-taught and uses online blogs as her main source of learning more about the crafts that she makes.
It is interesting to note the shift when it comes to crafts in Guyana – how in the past such skills were handed down in families and people were physically schooled in certain crafts whereas, the craftspeople of today are diligently using newer forums to both share and get access to knowledge. Ms. Khan relies on the online community not only as a means of selling her products but also as a way of getting feedback and criticism from people which she can use to improve her items.
Ms. Khan, a former Science student at the Saint Stanislaus College, admits that making pretty knickknacks was not her first choice in terms of a job, but that it is has always been a
hobby and arts and crafts were always what she was into. In many ways, this makes her similar to many other artistic people in
Guyana who at one point or another shaped what were initially mere hobbies into businesses over time. She is also similar to other Guyanese craftspeople in the way a lot of what she makes is both inspired by and is created from material that comes from nature. Her jewellery, for example, is made of seashells that are all hand-collected at various seashores in Guyana, including locations like 63 Beach, that are not exactly within walking distance for her.
Her framed flowers, arranged to create various designs, patterns, imagery and even portraits utilize a wide range of local flowers. And one of the perks of taking from nature in order to create art, to create something that will last a very long time is that nature is so bountiful and willing to give, making access to needed materials relatively easy. In fact, the most difficult materials to get are the synthetic pieces like the wiring, hooks and chain links that are difficult to find in Guyana.
Commenting on the requests she has gotten from those who are interested in buying her products, Ms. Khan, like all good artists, does not enjoy doing the same thing over and over again. So when requests come in for a particular piece that several people are interested in (such as the framed world map made out of flower petals), she tries to make each one unique and special, different from the others in some way (whether it’s by changing the colours, etc.) while essentially remaining the same piece that is desired by the customer.
When asked whether she sees herself as an artist and what she does as art, Ms. Khan answers in the affirmative, noting that although she does not use conventional methods that are designated to be “artistic” she does still very much consider herself to be an artist and her work art. She also says that her products are similar other forms of art such as drawings and photographs, the only difference is the method she uses to convey what she wants to say. A good example of this is found in her piece entitled “Breathe”, where the flowers are arranged in such a dense and compact manner that it does have a stifling effect on the center of the piece where there are no flowers, but simply the word “breathe” existing in, and making, a space for itself, immune to, and rebelling against, the claustrophobic and beautiful effect of the flowers. It is almost as if the word “Breathe” is itself breathing.
Ms. Khan’s crafts are undoubtedly special and it is obvious that she does have a lot of skills in her area. One can only hope that her work is among those that continue to inspire Guyanese people to buy crafts from our local artists and that as her work grows and evolves, so too does the appreciation and need for art by the Guyanese populace.