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RAW: Sandbox by Suhayla Al Sheikh Crushes the Jewelry Game

RAW: Sandbox by Suhayla Al Sheikh Crushes the Jewelry Game

Every woman understands the power of jewelry in harnessing the essence of who we are, where we were in our lives at the time when we bought it, and in carrying great sentiment by being constantly in contact with our bodies.

Suhayla Al Sheikh is an Egyptian Conceptual Jewelry Designer, who founded the Cairo based brand Sandbox in 2014. Her approach to jewelry design touches on the idea of the amalgamation of art and function. Her pieces tell a story that can be carried by the women who wear them, elaborated on, and interpreted in more ways than one.

Origins, Visual Arts and Jewelry Design

Suhayla's love for jewelry design started at a young age when she would join her mother, also a jewelry designer, at trunk shows and bazaars in Saudi Arabia where she grew up. She would watch her mother - known for her stone work and intricate techniques - create each piece by hand and try to work with her, producing beaded bracelets and key chains, which she was allowed to sell at the markets alongside her mother's work. 

After moving to Cairo for university and studying Visual Arts, she focused on her studies for a while, delving into the art world and learning more about research, conceptualization and the importance of creating a story behind your work.

On a visit to local workshops with her mother in Cairo during university, Suhayla had the idea of purchasing some materials and starting to revive her childhood love for jewelry creation. Just for fun at first, this hobby quickly turned into a fully fledged passion. She would create pieces and sell them under no particular brand or name, but people loved them, and through the use of Visual Arts studies she was able to create pieces that were based on strong concepts rather than simply pure inspiration.

On creating a brand identity and building Sandbox's look and feel ...

"When I started the name was not Sandbox. I didn't understand much about marketing. There were no rules ... until things started to get more serious ... I wanted to build something that reflects who I am. I wanted a strong name; that speaks to my identity. Something that has a story, a name that means something to me. And so I thought about my roots, and where my love for art, for jewellery, emerged. It all started in Saudi Arabia, the land of sand. I am from Egypt, known for the Sahara Desert. Everything originated from this region, known for its desert lands and so I chose the word 'Sand' as the base of the name. 'Box' refers to that special place where women store their jewelry, in a jewelry box. 'Sandbox'. A name that is very personal to my story." - Suhayla Al Sheikh.
Bedouin Arabian Woman with a Tribal tattoo

Bedouin Arabian Woman with a Tribal tattoo

One of the first things I noticed about Sandbox was their logo, I couldn't tell if it was an ode to cultural heritage or a modern take on pattern adaptation. After speaking to Suhayla it turns out it's a little of both. Extracting inspiration from the women of the desert region and their iconic tribal body and face tattoos, the logo pays homage to the dots and lines of the chin tattoo, donned by Bedouin Arabian women. 

Finding a balance between using inspiration versus conceptualization to fuel her jewelry design is a big part of Suhayla's philosophy. Something I practice as a writer, but was never really explained to me in this way, is the difference between inspiration and concept.

As Suhayla put it, quite simply, inspiration is when you think of an idea or see an image that sparks your creativity into action. Conceptualization, which is what she works with exclusively, is when you back this inspiration up with extensive research, knowledge, archives of references and a genuine understanding of the story you are about to present to your audience. It is one step deeper into the creative process, and makes all the difference.

As an experimental brand, the purpose of conceptual jewelry is to evoke minimal questions and tease people's curiosity. Sandbox pieces are both vibrant and dark, the jewelry steers clear of commonly used boho and hipster motifs. The Sandbox woman is daring and elegant, wearing high end pieces that bring forth concepts that are challenging and unusual, with an eccentric edge.

Cue: The RAW Collection AW'17.

Conceptualization, the Future and RAW

In a collision between conceptual and modern aesthetics, Sandbox aims to make conceptual jewelry wearable rather than just exhibitable.

The latest collection, RAW, is a striking conceptual and artistic feat. Utilizing crushed stones, and adopting the idea of putting forth shamelessly your raw state and most raw self, exposing the juxtaposition of the human psyche, and allowing the contradictions in human character to seep through. Raw is a collection that celebrates genuine people, unfiltered emotions, and truth. "To Crush and Be Crushed" is the title of the editorial shoot that accompanies this collection. A mesmerising, striking and bold example of fashion photography.

The shoot was done in collaboration with Maison Pyramide; shot by Amina Zaher, Art Direction by Ikon Chiba, make up by Aisha Taha, and modeled by Mayar Moussa and Zeina El Sokkary. The images are unapologetic and stark, showcasing the power of statement jewelry pieces.

*Note: This shoot was released as a result of RAW being relaunched with additional pieces such as earring and chokers. 

"In the future, I want Sandbox to be a brand that Revolves around meaning and powerful words. I want the jewelry to empower women of course, but this is not the sole purpose. I see jewelry as the most intimate form of art, it is something that is touching you, that allows for physical contact. It belongs only on the body. Sandbox brings to the surface the power of jewellery through its intimate form on the human body. I want to take jewelry to the next level mentally, physically and in every sense." - Suhayla Al Sheikh.

Jewelry is a delicate form of self expression. It says a lot about the person wearing it, and more about the designer. Sandbox is a brand that respects the process, craft and creation of a piece of jewelry and for that and much more it was a pleasure to feature them on Radical. Check out the rest of the collection and shoot on @sandboxsu on Instagram.

All of the significant art of today stems from Conceptual art. This includes the art of installation, political, feminist and socially directed art.
— Sol Lewitt
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