Link Love: Interview With Hayatco Arts - Handmade And Humble Islamic Carvings

'In the name of God', HayatCo Arts is carved out of Islam

What: HayatCo Arts, a handmade Islamic crafts business that began 20 years ago in Jordan and grew in the US.

Who: Originally founded by Idrees Al-Sweis in 1993, Brooklyn, New York, this highly skilled art of wood carvings eventually moved to Chicago in 1999 where the community pulled in greater popularity for HayatCo Arts.

I got the opportunity to interview the artist on what inspired him and how HayatCo models good Islamic business for Muslims by keeping the art "old school".

Tell us a bit about HayatCo. Who’s on the team?

"It started about 20 years ago in Jordan before I moved to New York. I did it as a hobby using different photos from the family that I wanted to kind of spice. But it became more of a business in 1995 to 1999. I moved to Chicago; stopped HayatCo for about 10 years to focus on my auto repair shop. My family kept telling me to get back into it so I started working more seriously on it about two years ago.

My family is pretty much the team. I named the company after my wife Hayat meaning life. So I wanted a name that means something to the art, and the Qur'an - as it's our life source as Muslims. My daughter does henna art and has become very good at it."

What inspired you to create this project?

"I was in a time were business at the repair shop was very slow and I felt very stressed over it. I needed something to help with that stress so I thought what other way to feel better than reading Qur'an through art. I can take a break from the stress of this world. Our Imaan (faith) is never constant, it's either getting higher or lower, so this project for me was a great spiritual uplifting trade that I loved and really wanted to get back into."

'In the name of God' - Tasmiyah

'Great' - Allah is the Creator and Mighty

How does the art process begin? Have you had any exhibitions?

"I see a font, calligraphy or design I like, and I think about developing it in my shop. I start drawing something on paper before putting it to wood. I'll get it ready, finalized and once finished it's placed in my basement display area for people to see.

I have been going to a lot Islamic conventions like ISNA, MAS, and ICNA. The feedback has been great!"

'Palestine' with bullet fence

'To Testify' - the Shahadah, declaration of faith

What makes Hayatco Arts different from other Muslim calligraphy artists?

"I don’t know of anyone that takes something as beautiful as Arabic calligraphy and recreates something completely new by transferring it to wood. And nobody else does this with only their hands from beginning to end - machines and laser cutters are used. This is just my small way to inspire other people Muslim or non-Muslim to get involved in crafts".

What do some of the various calligraphy mean in English?

"Each ayah (verse) has its own meaning [the names of God, chapters from the Qur'an]. I take different surahs or ayahs and add dimension through wood. They are all Allah words and therefore deeply respected by Muslims."

Do you believe that Muslims have a role to play in creativity and business?
"I think Muslims have always played a big part in art and business from architecture to beautiful mosques."


What 3 tips would you give to Muslims for starting a creative business?
  • Work as if you are doing it for yourself
  • Be honest with your self and others
  • Please Allah on all levels of your life

Muslimness would like thank HayatCo and its entire family!

Check out the latest collection on {hayatcoarts.com}

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