Deelaila Ramzi, 34, who lives in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, has always had an interest in creative pursuits since she was a child living abroad with her family.
“When I was nine, we lived in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, because of my dad’s work. My mum was involved in charity work and I’d often follow her as she taught English in orphanages during weekends, and to visit homes for the aged during the week.
“We’d bring fresh flowers and she would decorate the rooms to cheer the residents up. We’d spend all day there drinking ‘chai’ (tea), enjoying meals and folk dancing together with them,” she recalls.
“There was this babula (grandmother) living at a particular home whom I learnt how to make flower necklaces from.
“Everyone would wear the necklaces we made together. Their smiles and happiness were just priceless, and I told myself that when I grow up, this is what I wanted to do – make people happy and feel loved by creating beautiful gifts like jewellery and art, for them,” she says.
“As a young girl, I was also influenced by my mum who’s always elegantly dressed up and paired with the prettiest jewellery,” she adds.
Deelaila’s early childhood memories had a great impact on her life and have made her who she is today.
But it was only in 2017, at the age of 30, that the former interior decorator and stylist decided to turn her passion for art and creating handmade jewellery into her career.
It was mainly because of my children, says Deelaila who has three children aged 10, seven and three.
“When my family and I moved to Kota Kinabalu several years ago because of my husband's work, our children were still young and I wanted to do something that enabled me to spend more time with them at home while being able to earn an income,” she says.
“But the real transition to making jewellery as a business happened when my children started showing an interest and curiosity – asking me ‘why’ I do it – when they saw me working on certain pieces,” she reveals.
“It brought back recollections of my childhood dream. I started thinking about it more when I explained to them that I love doing it, it’s my passion, and that it also helps in building, triggering and developing a creative mind,” she says. “That’s how Deedoodle Design & Art was born.”
Deelaila who is home-based, decided to use her passion in jewellery making and art to teach her children about life.
“Working with beads, string and colours keeps the brain active as it requires imagination and creativity. It also has cognitive and developmental benefits, especially important for children who are still growing,” says Deelaila.
Jewellery making is an intricate process which involves developing a pattern or design, selecting and counting the beads or stones, remembering the design and learning the type of stones and colour hues. The actual stringing of beads involves hand-eye coordination too which is great for children, she explains.
So, while working on her creations, Deelaila was also able to occupy, entertain and teach her children at home. This has been especially helpful during the pandemic when they are at home most of the time.
“Not only do I get to focus on my designs and orders, but at the same time, I’m able to keep my children busy learning through playing and creating. And everything is done in the comfort (and safety) of our home where my art studio is located,” she says.
“After completing each piece, there’s also a sense of accomplishment and appreciation for the effort put into the whole process. And this is what I want to inculcate in my children – the importance of finishing what they start,” she adds.
Favourite family activity
Not only is my jewellery making and art a business, it’s also a time when my children and I can engage in our favourite family activity, together, says Deelaila.
“Besides beading, my kids have shown an interest in art and painting. Whenever I’m in my studio working on orders, they will often come and ask if they can help.
“I decided to say yes because I wanted them to have the opportunity to learn. I incorporated my artistic activities into my children’s play and learn time, and they’ve become a big part in contributing fun ideas and there’s so much joy in getting them involved,” she enthuses.
Creating something together as a family is meaningful to them and also makes each piece special, she adds.
“In this age of technology, there is also a lack of hands-on activities for children, and as a mum, I believe that there needs to be a balance of both – time spent online (for e-learning) and time spent offline. So, I’m thankful for the opportunity to bond with my children through beading and art,” says Deelaila.
Deelaila, who graduated in psychology from a university in New Zealand, reveals that she loves reading up and learning about the stones used in making the jewellery, and the properties and benefits of each stone. She also infuses the psychology of colour in her designs.
“Colours can trigger certain moods and feelings, and affect our mind and body,” she says, adding that she always selects the colours of her pieces carefully to suit the recipient and occasion.
“These are also important things that children can learn – indirectly – through their creative time,” she adds.
But her jewellery pieces aren’t just for adornment; they’re also functional.
“My bracelets are versatile four-in-one chains for children and adults, they can be worn as a bracelet or necklace, as well as used as a chain for glasses or to hold a facemask, which is good for pandemic times,” she explains.
Besides handmade jewellery, Deelaila also curates care gift boxes that contain items such as essential oil blends, balms, linen sprays, keychains, and tassel bookmarks.
Deelaila usually handpaints the care boxes personally but lets her children help paint the gift boxes for children so that they can be involved in the process.
“These are especially popular for sending to loved ones whom one isn’t able to see in person during the pandemic,” she says.
Making meaningful memories
Deelaila says that she loves creating customised gifts because she gets to meet people from different walks of life who are going through different situations, and also learn from them.
“Every piece created is sentimental and close to my heart as each piece is derived from an experience, stories shared, my family, and special times in people’s lives,” she says.
“Some need a little pick-me-up, or to get a friend a gift to cheer them up, or they wish to surprise their loved ones but don’t know what to get – so I’ll usually ask them to tell me more about the recipient and based on that, create something that’ll suit the person,” she says.
She says that her most memorable moment as a jewellery designer was when she had to make a piece for someone who was terminally ill.
“This group of friends had approached me to make something special for their good friend who had been diagnosed with cancer. She was so happy when she received it and it made her last few moments before she passed meaningful and special.
“That experience really moved me and it made realise that what I create can make a difference and bring happy moments to people,” she shares.
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