Amira El-Gawly

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A few words...[prologue]...

Entrepreneur. Experience designer. Culture consultant. Career coach. Product developer. Beauty seeker. Mother to (35) plants. Soulful. Insightful. Loving. 

Living in Abu Dhabi, Egypt and now the U.S., Amira El-Gawly has spent the last five years building a design and experience agency here in the District. Hard working and active in the city, Amira sits on the board of a non-profit, coaches entrepreneurs, and loves to go to farmer's markets, concerts, shows, enjoying what the city continually has to offer. 

However, she is in a new season. Stepping back to take a much needed sabbatical from her design agency work, Amira is rediscovering and reorienting her skills, passions, time and resources. Renewal. The arduous but necessary work. The invisible work. The inner work.  

 

Meet Amira

Trusting that it will manifest. That it's already. 

Sometimes it takes the better part of a year. Maybe longer. But with it comes perspective, rooting, self-assuredness, and friendships along the way. Ours was a fast friendship for which I am deeply grateful. She has been a soul friend to me and to many others. Amira desires her life and legacy to center around love and it's evident in her way, her relationships, her home, her happy plants :).

I am jazzed to share Amira's interview and images that we captured on a chilly fall day in downtown DC. I love this chick! Enjoy learning more about Amira and her depths and heart for beauty, people, connection and the things that matter. 

xoxo, 

Sarah

 

What is different about you today than a year ago? 

 I started 2017 with a life-changing decision to leave a company I spent the last six years building. I was scared—it was risky and I had no plan for what was next. But anything I’m scared of doing, especially if others challenge me and tell me I “shouldn’t” do, I have a perverse attraction to doing it.  

It’s been a powerful and slow season of change and renewal, of grieving what I left behind, of rooting myself in courage and faith and love.

I’ve become more of myself. I’ve reclaimed control over my days, and have worked on designing them more intentionally to reflect what’s most important to me.

I’m more highly attuned to what matters to me, who matters to me, the people and experiences I believe are worth the investment. I feel a sense of presence and stillness that I haven’t felt in years. I sense God’s presence and touch in my life. I spend more time with the people I love and care about. I think what’s changed most in me is my desire and joy in spending my time with people after I’d spent years needing all my spare time to recharge alone, just to drain it all again at work

 

When you are at your most powerful, you...

love relentlessly, charge forward bravely and am in service of others.

What is quote you come back to time and time again? 

Amira's Quote
 
 

You have extensive experience coaching entrepreneurs and businesses as well as offering consulting services on organizational culture and leadership. What is an essential quality that every healthy company culture, no matter how big or small, must have or grow towards?

 
 
My Mother is a force in my life
 

Who is a force in your life (positive or negative) and why? 

My mother has been an ever-present force in my life. Over the last two years especially I’ve felt her support and love through this difficult time and important season. She is a force of beauty and courage and resilience and change, and I admire her ability to change herself, no matter her age. Just thinking about her puts a smile on my heart and face.
 

What rituals do you practice in your life?

Sunday mornings may be my favorite ritual. I wake up early, walk to the Dupont Circle Farmers Market and buy flowers and vegetables for the week. I visit with my favorite farmers, who always bring beautiful energy to the market along with their goods. I then go to my church and gather with the community there to worship and learn. Often, friends will come with me and we’ll spend time together afterwards over a cup of coffee, walking in the Shaw/Logan Circle neighborhood with no agenda in mind.

Another favorite ritual that I’m working on is a weekly early morning walk with a couple of friends (the lovely Sarah, founder of Kicheko, is one of them!). We meet at Wydown on 14th street for coffee at 7:30am and walk arm in arm (if it’s up to me), talking and enjoying each others’ company in the quiet early hours of the city.

 

When faced with a challenging situation, what is the first thing you do? What is the second thing? 

First, call a friend. Second, make a cup of hot tea. Third, write about it to work through it.

What are your favorite shapes, plants or materials currently?

I’m loving contrasting textures—rough linen, rich velvets and raw silks. Also in awe of all things nature gives us — these days, I’m having a love affair with trees, vine plants (like the pothos and wandering jew) and, always, my sweet fiddle leaf fig tree Dolly.
Shapes, Materials, Plants

You are a seeker of beauty. Where have you found beauty in DC?

Beauty is all around us. We just need to invite it into our days, into our eyes and hearts. I find it in the people I meet. In the flowers and tree-lined streets. In the hidden alleys painted with art and plant-filled balconies. In my church and the soulful music it creates. In the makers and brave entrepreneurs who serve us with their businesses. And most of all, I see it in the faces of every person walking down our streets, determined to make a difference, change the world and be a force for good. We live in a special place.
 
 
 

What do you love about yourself?

I love the people I choose to love and surround myself with.

I love my self-assuredness and faith in myself.

I love my random and strange sense of humor (and the laugh that comes with it).

I love the color of my skin and the beauty mark above my lips.

I love the way I listen.

 

OOTD: Her Own // Make-up: Her Own // Necklace: Marble Moon Bar (Dark, White)

Make sure you're following us on Instagram to see more posts and highlights from her story this week. 

Stay tuned for our next week's feature, spotlighting culture consultant and beloved human, Amira El-Gawly


Posted on December 12, 2017 .

Caryn Cramer

Force of Texture

A few words...[prologue]...

I'm fairly certain Caryn's designs are 1/10 of the imagination that she thumbs through in her mind. I'm also fairly certain she is a textile fairy. Deeply studied, highly playful and experimental, while rooted in practical functionality, Caryn's interior and textile designs evoke referential wonder. I met Caryn at a show a few years back in Union Market's Dock 5. It was hard not to want all of her luxurious pillows wrapped in her unique textile designs.

Unafraid of challenges and complexity, Caryn's curiosities have taken her around the world and also across disciplines. Not only is she an interior designer but she also holds a law degree, and is a dancer.

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Most recently, I visited DC Design House with a few friends. An annual design showcase for charity featuring a select set of local interior designers, Caryn's design of the guestroom was one of our favorites. Her bold uses of color, fabric covered walls, and hair-lined furniture pieces sang harmoniously in an ode to history, culture, color and motif. In addition, Caryn manufactures all of her products in a sustainable and ethical manner. 

I'm so happy to share her interview and images that we captured on a chilly fall day in downtown DC. I hope you enjoy learning more about her and find inspiration to dabble with texture, take on a lingering curiosity, or go on more tech-free walks/hike around your neighborhood.

xoxo, 

Sarah

 

What are your favorite shapes, colors, materials currently?

 

What is quote you come back to time and time again? 

Caryn's Quote

 

Tell us about your textile collection and your design/manufacturing process.

ON DESIGN.
Each collection I do has a strong identity behind both the patterns and the colorways. For the Egizio collection, the patterns are based on my sketches at the Egizio Museum in Turin, Italy. I found myself fascinated with shendyt kilts - I saw them in hieroglyphics, sculptures, everywhere!  So I just kept abstracting them in my sketchbook and then painted them into the patterns they’ve become in my fabric collection.  The Inca colorway is based on Peruvian weaving, Swiss is from the colors of mountain chalets and skiing villages, and Canyon is inspired by Lake Powell’s red earth and teal water.

 

ON MANUFACTURING.
I manufacture in the most sustainable way possible. I import Belgian linen that is certified to have no chemical fertilizers or pesticides and also no water pollution in its processing.  I only print on linen for this reason, rather than cotton, as linen is amazingly resistant to insects naturally and is a fast-growing/easily replenishable species.  I print using the lowest-chemical digital printing technique available, it’s called pigment dye digital printing, and it uses water-soluable inks and, unlike silk screen printing, has no water washes to remove excess dye, so there’s no wasted water or any dyes or chemicals released into the water stream.
Caryn Cramer
Bordeaux Pom Threaders

Who is a force in your life (positive or negative) and why? 

Avital Ronell is one of the most inspiring professors, thinkers, and women I have ever known.  I studied under her while pursuing my first master's degree in critical theory at NYU. The mental gymnastics we did, and the way she helped me understand Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in ways that blew my mind - I will never forget and am forever grateful.
 

 

When faced with a challenging situation, what is the first thing you do? What is the second thing? 

The first thing that comes to mind here is a renovation situation - like there’s a stud in the wall right where I wanted to center some plumbing pipes.  Eek!  I find contractors like to just say “we can’t do it,” or they think of only one solution to the issue.  I am the exact opposite: I like to think of at least 3 solutions, preferably 5, and then weigh them based on time, cost, and aesthetics. My favorite solution is probably going to be the one with the best look to the design (admittedly) but I like to get the client’s priorities accounted for, and then we move forward. My dad always used to say to me, “there’s nothing more dangerous than an idea, when it’s the only one you’ve got.” Better to have three….
 

What rituals do you practice in your life?

Dog walking is my most important ritual - I do all my best thinking!  And it’s important to be present for little Chester and make him feel like the focus of that time, rather than pulling out my phone every 7 seconds… So it’s a pretty strict 'No-Technology-Time' for me too. Just dogs, nature, and movement!  The other ritual I practice is that I clean my whole house every morning before my employee, Marine, comes to work. I cannot stand having things out of place or dog hair lying around…  I like a clean home and office.  I’m a you-could-eat-off-the-kitchen-floor kind of clean person. But still, the piles on my desk persist somehow…. Nobody’s perfect.
Caryn's Way to Handle Challenges

When you are at your most alive/powerful, you __________________.

dance or hike. With dance, I like being in a studio, working at a piece with other dancers and a choreographer/instructor.  For many years I practiced West African dance - we rehearsed with live drummers in the studio!  Gosh that was powerful, the intensity of the sound and the pounding leg movements.  Both dance and hiking are about giving yourself up to something bigger - music, choreography, nature, landscape, earth... It is both empowering and restorative.

What do you love about yourself?

I love my silliness, playfulness, and my insatiable curiosity. I’m not sure clients get to see the silly side as much, but gosh you should see me with my brother. And we get some laughter in at the office too.

OOTD: Her Own // Make-up: Her Own // Earrings: Pom Threaders (Blush, Black, Bordeaux)

Make sure you're following us on Instagram to see more posts and highlights from her story this week. 

Stay tuned for our next week's feature, spotlighting culture consultant and beloved human, Amira El-Gawly


About Caryn

Visit her design site here // Shop textiles here

Caryn Cramer lives and designs with curiosity, depth, and passion for detail. A native of Washington D.C., Caryn holds an English literature degree from Carleton College, a law degree from Vanderbilt University, and a master’s of interior design from the Corcoran College of Art & Design. A trained painter and dancer, Caryn sharpened her visual-spatial ability from an early age and continues to create compositions in both 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional formats. Caryn’s interior design firm creates bespoke spaces with an infusion of history, art, concept, and complexity. In addition to interior design services, Caryn Cramer LLC produces printed products in the form of upholstery fabric and wood veneer wallcoverings. Her textile collections juxtapose memories, wanderings, and scholarly curiosities across bold patterns and colorways. Caryn enjoys mixing practicality with the visionary and welcomes any creative challenge.


Posted on December 5, 2017 .

Aphra Adkins

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[A few words before we go into Aphra's interview] ...

I first met Aphra over three years ago at a craft fair in Silver Spring, MD. At the time she designed and made clothes. Over the years, I've met many vendors and some interactions stick with you. I remember our interaction and over the years it has been a joy to watch Aphra iterate over and over, constantly evolving.

From her own line, to curating a clothing and home decor boutique, to running operations for Sally's Middle Name        (named to Washingtonian's 100 Best Restaurants 2017. a must eat/drink spot. go go go) alongside her husband and a team of dedicated staff, Aphra's creativity and abilities express themselves in a multitude of ways. She is also a mom and she and her husband, Sam, are expecting their second baby this year.

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Effortlessly poised, ready with a warm expression, wisecrack or bit of wisdom, Aphra's quiet strength and honesty are qualities we want to celebrate and encourage in one another. 

In addition, her sensibility for local sourcing, taste for good food, emphasis on gathering around the table, and creativity in activating the upstairs of Sally's for events and co-working space (home to co-working collective Locale Workspace), are all reasons why we named her a force of taste.  I hope you enjoy learning more about this amazing lady and come to find common ground and your own force in her story. 

xoxo, 

Sarah

 

You are a wife and mother, maker, restaurant operator - to name a few.                 How do you find centering and balance?

In the routine of home. Sunday is the only day we get to spend together as a family, and every Sunday night we have dinner at my Godparents' house. It's a place that's been home my entire life (which has always been hectic). Sometimes visiting family or friends are also there; sometimes it's a big elaborate meal, and sometimes it's take-out from around the corner. But the comfort and familiarity of the space and the people always leave me feeling grounded and ready for whatever the coming week has in store.
 

 

What is different about you today than in the beginning of the year?

At the beginning of the year, I was still clinging to a certain expectation of the timeline and path of my life. Today I am (a little bit) more accepting of the fact that I don't know yet where my life is going. I'm only 28, there are a lot of things that are still unknown. I didn't expect to be pregnant with my second child by the end of the year, and yet here we are!
 

 

When faced with a challenging situation, what is the first thing you do? Then, what's the second?

The first thing I do is ask myself "What's the worst that could happen?" if this fails or doesn't end the way I want it to. Then I usually make a step by step list of what I need to do to overcome the situation and who I can ask to help me. Throughout any challenge I am usually also texting my sister every 5 minutes for advice and comfort.
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Aphra Quote
Aphra

 

What is a piece of advice for keeping the spark alive and connection strong in a longterm relationship?

Don't be afraid of confrontation or change. Find joy in rediscovering the person you're with, because chances are neither of you are the same person you were a year ago (five years ago, ten years ago). I've had moments of fear and frustration when I've expected my husband to be someone he isn't anymore. Stepping back from the situation to ask "Who are you? What are the things you want/like/dislike/need?" of him and of myself gets us through almost every major conflict.
 

 

Who is a force in your life and why (positive or negative)?

  • My family. They are the hardest workers I've ever met.
  • Seda Nak. It was an unexpected friendship but one I don't know how I ever lived without. She is an invaluable sounding board and a fiercely loyal person.
  • My son. He forces me to be the best version of myself no matter the situation.
 

 

When you are at your most alive/powerful, you __________________.

Try and share that feeling as much as possible. Usually by baking something for someone.

 

What are your favorite foods and smells right now?

Pancakes hot off of the stove with warm strawberry jam and a big dollop of cold yogurt. And generous side of breakfast sausage.
 
Aphra
 

 

What do you love about yourself?

If I had to choose a single quality, it would be my ability to find humor in almost any situation. Of course I feel stress and anger like everyone else, but being able to laugh through those moments makes life feel a lot more worth living.

Coat: Shopkeepers // Dress: Dolce & Gabbana // Make-up: Her Own // Earrings: Silver Plume Tassels

Make sure you're following us on Instagram to see more posts and highlights from her story this week. 

Stay tuned for our next week's feature, spotlighting interior + textile designer, Caryn Cramer

Posted on November 28, 2017 .

Happy International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day and every year on this day is an opportunity to rally together and invite everyone to celebrate the women in our lives and across the world. On this day, we recognize the passion, intelligence, strength, compassion, resilience and inner beauty that make women a formidable force - one that brings incalculable value, nuance, balance, structure, and cohesion to our companies, organizations, homes, schools and small businesses. 

Taking a day to celebrate and recognize women for their achievements in moving the needle forward economically, culturally and politically is one step in the right direction. Our goal is to bring about a more equitable and bright future where boys and girls & men and women enjoy access to the same positions of education, employment, and roles of decision-making power, and respect. #pledgeforparity

Here at Kicheko, we want to provide hope and a brighter future to both boys and girls. Mango Tree School is our first partner school and an educational institution that educates over 200 students in eastern DR Congo. Through a grant administered and managed by Mango Tree School's leadership, Kicheko supports the costs of tuition and attending primary school to over 71 students in Mango Tree School, who have varying levels of financial and circumstantial need.

While progress is happening, approximately 7 million Congolese children are out of school - with an estimated 53% of this number being girls. The disparity gap in literacy rates remains substantial with approximately 79% of boys ages 15-24 able to read whereas girls in the same age range remain at an estimated 53%. That is why we are privileged to partner with Mango Tree School in their goals of bridging the gaps to provide safe, quality and consistent education to this future generation. Mango Tree School also engages with families in the community and employs both male and female teachers and staff, providing much-needed jobs to a post-conflict area in need of development, governance, and investment.

We can all do something. Start by recognizing and celebrating the women in your life and begin to draw the circle out and around. Who are the women in your workplace and communities that propel all of us forward? Who are the women around the world you admire and inspire? Take moments today offline and online to write encouraging notes, letting them know we're all in this together and that you appreciate them. 

To the women in our lives and around the world, we recognize and celebrate you. #iwd2016

New Kicheko Goods on TOMS Marketplace

From earthy textures to sunset hues, Kicheko's new pieces are inspired by the colors and warmth of spring and we are excited to share that these pieces are now for sale on TOMS Marketplace. With two new necklaces and a pair of druzy earrings, this batch is composed of the Soleil necklace, Queensland Arrow necklace and Prism Aura Druzy Studs. Learn more about the collection below!

Soleil Stone Necklace

A statement necklace that gives off vibes for the sun, beach and outdoors, this necklace is made out of agate and quartz in a unique color matrix that gives the wearer a truly distinctive piece. Edged in gold-plate and set with a matte gold-plate brass bar, the Soleil is set on 14kt gold-filled chain.

  • Imported Materials. Made in the USA
  • Quartz/Agate, Gold–Plate and Gold-Filled Brass
  • Stone color may vary from translucent yellows to deep orange
  • Dimensions: Stone is approximately 30mm x 30-40mm. Necklace is 30” in length

Queensland Arrow Necklace

A beautiful stone of royal and historical significance, this necklace is made of bright and deep green chrysoprase edged in gold-plate. No two stones are alike as each piece is fashioned uniquely from specific raw material. An elegant statement piece, the Queensland is set on 14kt gold-filled chain.

  • Imported Materials. Made in the USA
  • Chrysoprase/Agate, Gold-Plate and Gold-Filled Brass
  • Stone color matrix varies between green/browns and teal/turquoise
  • Dimensions: Stone is approximately 30mm x 30-40mm. Necklace is 30” in length

Prism Aura Druzy Studs

Brilliant in color with a naturally velvet texture, the Prism Aura Druzy Studs feature tiny crystals that have grown slowly over millions of years on top of quartz stone. Finished and refined with a layer of titanium on the outside, these studs are beautiful additions to your accessories line. Stones are set on stainless steel posts and earnuts.

  • Imported Materials. Made in the USA
  • Genuine Druzy Quartz, Stainless Steel
  • Dimensions: 10mm (diameter)

As spring draws even closer, the warmth, greens and flora of the season will inspire a season change of wardrobe and accessories. Think of us as you edit your wardrobes and curate for the sunnier temperatures. Remember, each purchase sends one child to school for one month in eastern Congo. We can't wait to see how you style your new Kicheko pieces. Tag us @kichekogoods and use #kichekostyle. Shop your new looks and the sale on TOMS Marketplace

Thanks to the ever-talented Erica Baker @ericabakerphoto for the gorgeous photography. It's such fun making pictures together. Thank you to Theresa Bennett of @madebytheresa, Amanda Lee of @shopkaleidos and Carolina Soto of @cdsoto for modeling for Kicheko. Your spirits are so so bright! xoxo