Taste and imagination combined can create wonderful works of art. This holds true in the case of Faisal Al-Ali, founder of the eponymous company Faisal Al-Ali Furniture. Ali’s shop is the epitome of creativity, innovation and hard work. Ali’s background is in mechanical and petroleum engineering, but looking around his shop, one wouldn’t be mistaken to assume Ali has always been an artist. “This mall is new – I started to display my items here only in December 2015,” Ali told Kuwait Times one afternoon at his shop at Creative Design Mall in Shuwaikh.
“I am not an artist, but in a way, I was born an artist because everything related to art is something I treasure and love to see and adore,” he said. “I started dabbling in art since I was eight. My father would help me make a toy car from a plastic bottle, and recycle old toys and make them better and more appealing. I got this attitude from my father,” he said. Ali’s father was a science teacher, and would always come to Faisal’s rescue when he got in trouble. He taught him how to survive, and still shares many ideas with him. “He never stopped and never got tired of sharing wonderful ideas with me, something that I will treasure for the rest of my life,” he said.
Take up your pen To be a calligrapher in Kuwait was a very challenging task, since there isn’t much interest in the society about it. “I will never forget the day in 1992 when he told me to get up and learn my first lesson in calligraphy. He said, ‘Get up, take the pen, imitate the work of others and train your hands. Your hand is a gift from God, but admit you are not perfect’,” Ali said, quoting Otaibi. Two years later, he began working at a stationery shop in Kuwait City, perfecting his calligraphy skills. “I was offered a job at a stationery shop. I accepted it to make some money. I was only 16. Then I got busy again with my studies. My father told me that I could continue with calligraphy while studying, but I felt very exhausted because I was at the university and my major was quite tough, so I stopped. Later at the university, I volunteered to teach calligraphy, so while studying mechanical and petroleum engineering, I was also busy conducting training courses in calligraphy. The university paid me for this,” he recalled.
Why interior design? When he completed his university degree, he was immediately hired by an oil company. He then got married, so there was a hiatus again, but in 2005, he moved to a new house. “I pictured my new house to be very beautiful and attractive, so I designed the interiors. I have lots of ideas in interior design because I believe my mind is really into designing. Engineering is somewhat related to design – it’s all about taste and imagination; you can do many things,” Ali said.
When relatives visited his home, they saw works of art and not any ordinary interior design. “They liked it to the extent that I had to redecorate their places too. I told them I didn’t have much experience, but they said you have the eyes and taste that no one else has. They even suggested making use of my interior design craft and earning money, but I told them if I did so, I would have to do much documentation, contracts and lots of paperwork, which I hate,” Faisal said. But he couldn’t say no to relatives, and found himself designing his uncle’s home. “I got grade A feedback again, and people would call me and ask to design their houses. I was finally encouraged to go out and start designing jobs outside the circle of my family and relatives. I didn’t need to advertise, since people were talking about my work,” he revealed. Faisal was making money, but he was forced to stop his part-time job because he moved to another job with greater responsibilities. “I got a much bigger offer but with more responsibilities as well, so from 2008 to 2010, I concentrated on the new job. But at the end of 2010, I went back to the ministry again,” he said, and planned to advance his interior design business and create his own brand. “In 2010, I thought of concentrating on furniture design. I found Kuwait had no company dedicated to furniture design, so I explored and went to several countries in the GCC. In 2011, I established my own brand of furniture called ‘Faisal Al-Ali’, using my name. This is my first store which I opened in December,” he said. Faisal’s shop at CDM is spacious, and the sofas, tables and chairs bear his own brand’s signature. The calligraphy and colorful images are noticeable in all the products displayed. “The furniture business is really booming – Kuwaitis and expats are now aware of my brand. All the furniture I am selling here is my own work. I have got many orders and I plan to go global,” he concluded.
By Ben Garcia