She was all of seven when she began sewing, she informs. “It’s something I did mainly as a hobby throughout my studies and during my career in the private and public sectors. I also did a lot of crochet work and ran a garment shop in Seeb for nine years. After I retired, the Public Authority for Craft Industries granted me a licence to operate from home. That’s when I started focusing on designing and manufacturing items which reflect our heritage,” she says.
Salma’s handbags for girls are in the shape of conventional Omani outfits that come in 4 sizes. “As people are increasingly wearing Western clothes nowadays, having an accessory which reflects our heritage is a positive thing,” she noted, adding, “Also, these outfits can be expensive. Families that can’t afford new outfits for their daughters sometimes give them bags as accessories.”
The bags are created by Salma, her younger brother and son. They have 3 sewing machines, such as a single donated by the Omani Women’s Association in Seeb which has supported her more than the years.
While rendering the outdoors visually attractive is pretty straightforward, picking tough and washable components so that the bags sustain their shape demands considerable analysis and improvement. “The smaller bags are popular during Eid, when adults traditionally give children money. The larger bags are used for Qaranqasho, when children go house to house collecting candy. All our bags are also used for decorations; the keychain sized ones can be hung from a car’s rear view mirror. Bags in the shape of dishdashas are also available,” Salma mentioned.
Salma believes that playing with dolls wearing conventional dresses is a excellent way for small girls to discover about their culture and heritage. “We have a range of dolls wearing colourful national costumes and jewellery. Tourists often buy the smaller ones as mementos of their trip to Oman. Apart from being used as dolls, they are also used as decoration or learning tools to showcase the styles worn in different regions of the country.”
She also tends to make traditionally dressed brides and grooms, and different other objects such as telephone/tablet bags on a tiny scale, mainly for unique orders.
Salma participated in the inaugural Muscat Festival 21 years ago, possessing missed only two editions because then. “I am encouraged by the genuine interest people show in my work, as well as the support I have received from the public and private sectors and various organisations.”
A couple of years ago, a group of female pilgrims took her bags to the hajj as a way of identifying themselves in the crowd, and her function has been displayed by Omani students studying in Holland, provided to vacationers by travel operators in the sultanate and showcased in a quantity of nearby exhibitions. “The Ministry of Health once placed a big order of dolls which had to be dressed up as doctors and nurses. When large orders come in, friends and family pitch in to help,” she mentioned.
Information Source: Muscat Daily