Mariam Elias' unique furniture line has been turning heads, as she exhibits Paradoxia in various art and design hubs across the city. We talk to the up and coming designer to find out more about her East meets West aesthetic.
Mariam Elias’ Paradoxia line caught our eye at a recent furniture exhibition at Vent. Copping on to well known trends in the world of art and design, as well as taking inspiration from iconic pieces of furniture and adding her unique twist, she sources different Oriental-infused materials, making for stunning, stand out and abstract pieces, that you’d imagine Piet Mondrian himself would happily settle down in to paint…
When and how did you get into furniture design?
I have studied In the Faculty of Fine Arts, in the interior design department. This was my second BA, as I decided to study in two universities at the same time because of my passion for design. In October 2012, I went to Souq El Gomma and bought a few spare parts of wall lightings fixtures (appliques lamps) and a tapestry tableaux, which inspired me to reuse them and turn them to another furniture pieces so the glasses were turned to side lamps and vintage canvas was turned into a coffee table. After these pieces, I did the first collection of Paradoxia entitled “Homemade Baroque and Spare Time Rococo,” in which Gobelin was used with new colours and designs to create a new aesthetic that fits our contemporary living style. The collection was later launched in March 2013 at one of Designopolis’ events.
Where do you source your materials from?
I source my materials from various local shops. In fact, materials are a highly important element for Paradoxia, as the main target of our brand is to promote heritage, artisanship, handicrafts and the various elements of design. For example, in the first collection, I tried to rescue the dying art of embroidery by giving it a contemporary twist and save these discarded tapestries from oblivion. While in the second collection, “Bauhaus of the Orient,” had the aim to research the local craftsmanship use of motherpearl and Arabesque but with international modern designs. In later collections, I am thinking of experimenting with bronze, metal, leather, Bedouin cloth, woven fabric, pottery...
Where are your pieces manufactured?
In various local workshops and each time I work with a new craftsman or carpenter.
What would you say is your design ethos?
Paradoxia is an Egyptian multidisciplinary design label that aims to promote history of design and the heritage of artisanship through redesigning iconic furniture, mixing various schools of design, the reuse of an old craft or modernising antiques with new concepts of today’s vision to produce a paradoxical art piece.
Each collection has a different theme that aims to document history of design in a specific era, look through the heritage of a certain region, re-examine modern designers or challenge the function of our day to day props.
Can people have custom pieces of furniture designed by you or is it only from your catalog they can order?
I have done several custom pieces with several clients and sometimes they like things in my catalogue but they want to do changes with the piece to fit their house, so together we would design a collaborative piece.
What are your favourite materials to work with and why?
I like all materials and I wish to use all of them in various collections. I believe materials are very important and a subtle aspect in design. My aim is to combine materials that are not usually used together and to experiment it with different forms in an unusual way. However, there are materials that I like but I need to have factories to implement the idea, such as plastic, which needs molds and mass production. For that, as I am in this starting phase, wood is still a dominant material in most of my designs.
Do you feel that the niche designs compromise the comfort of the pieces at all?
On the contrary, a good design is the one that has all the ingredients of aesthetics, originality, functionality and comfort. For example, there were some pieces in the new collection that looks like a piece of sculpture but when people tried to sit on or use them, they would comment on how they are comfortable and durable.
Do you have a favourite piece so far?
In the old collection I like the “Romeo & Juliet” (pictured above), a three seater purple sofa, and in the new collection I like how the Arabesque fitted the ladderback of a Charles R. Mackintosh Hillhouse chair perfectly. It proved what I wanted to say in the collection “Bauhaus of the Orient” that Oriental designs can be juxtaposed on European iconic furniture pieces without creating any conflict or drastic intervention.
For more information and orders visit Paradoxia on Facebook here or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit Paradoxia's corner corner inside Terraco's showroom at 63 El Horraya St, Heliopolis, Cairo.