As part of a series on the creative talents behind original Maldivian products, the Maldives Independent spoke to Khadeeja Suzeena, the founder of SuzieCrafts.
I was always interested in crafts. During my schooling I wasn’t really interested in arts as such, but I had this desire to create things. I used to make rings and ornaments, even when I saw a piece of wood I used to think what can I do with it?
I first started doing crafts with paper and sold handmade cards, wedding cards, parcels and goody bags.
My family was my first clientele. I saw images of felt toys on Pinterest and thought I should try this. So I got the material and worked on it, copying images from Pinterest. Family members supported me and used to buy my work. In 2014 I participated in the Arts and Crafts bazaar and people liked my work. Until then I was just trying to see if this was something I could do.
It is difficult to get good quality material in the Maldives. The felt available here isn’t very good. Maintaining quality is important to me. There are some who do this line of work more as a business. For me this is a passion, so finer details like the finishing are important.
SuzieCrafts sells well. My clients are mostly local. I sell toys, key chains, bookmarks and other felt items in Island Bazaar, the bookstore My Wonderbox, and some resorts. The Maldivian dolls Keyolhu and Goma are very popular along with mermaids and sea creatures like whales and manta rays. Some tourists seek me out via social media and buy from me when they come on holiday to Maldives. I also get orders to make custom dolls.
We had a meeting with the newly elected President Ibrahim Solih. He met with women entrepreneurs. We told him that that there is no place to sell handmade stuff. At the airport also there is no place to sell artisanal Maldivian products. He has said he would facilitate it. We had met with previous government officials also who said they would do something about it but there was no action taken. We hope this time it will be different.
In the future I would like to expand SuzieCrafts. It takes me about three hours to do a doll as everything is done by hand, so I need to build a team to produce more. Someday I would like to open my own shop. I am planning to hold workshops for children, even adults request me to hold workshops for them. At the moment I am working on creating bigger dolls. I taught myself how to do this by copying images from social media, now I work on creating original products of my own.