Turning wasted natural resources into valuable and useful products - this is Ishraq's vision for her social enterprise. Born in Jordan, Ishraq studied in the US and Italy and discovered fibers as a powerful natural gift. With a wool processing and crafting business, she wants to empower Jordan people to take century-old handcrafting techniques with wool as a chance to become innovative.
Ishraq, who are you?
I was born and raised in Jordan in a large family. I am the third of seven children. My father was a pilot, and my mother did so many things, from working as a teacher to doing arts and crafts for the house and making clothes for us. Most of my siblings and I get out ‘artistic’ talent from her.
I have a bachelor degree in Architecture from Virginia Tech in the US and a masters degree in Textile Design from NABA in Milan, Italy. From 2011 and 2018 I lived in the Hudson Valley of New York, where there is a fiber agriculture movement. It sparked my interest in sheep wool as a fiber and started my self-designed research project on native Jordanian wool.
Since 2018 I have been exploring ways to process our wool and producing material samples out of the wool to identify potential end uses for it as a raw material.
My design practice bridges various design disciplines together, with a focus on and appreciation for craft as a means for effective economy. I am specialized in hand weaving, and can weave rugs using the centuries-old Bedouin weaving techniques.
I relocated to Amman in 2018 to pursue my research on wool and to be in Jordan, closer to
where I feel I can have the most impact in terms of applying my knowledge and skills.
I am married to an American, and together we have two daughters, Aaminah who is 9, and Mariam who is 4. We are raising our daughters to hopefully become people with a global vision and who will be positive examples of how different cultures can and should mix and create new knowledge and wisdom.
What challenges would you like to tackle in your community/country?
We have many misconceptions here in Jordan, like the belief that we have no natural resources. Wool is an abundant natural resource which can and must become a source of income for Jordanians. Another misconception is the idea that only individuals with ‘university education’ and office jobs can be smart and successful.
I believe that farmers, shepherds, crafts people, and manual laborers do not get as much credit as they deserve, and manual labor is something that people look at as the last option before failure. There is so much disregard in our region for ancient knowledge and skills which had been a source of income and prosperity for our people for millennia, which have recently been fully abandoned, risking the complete loss of this knowledge and these skills.
I wish for the Badia people of Jordan to realize the wealth they have right between their hands, and to believe that they can earn knowledge and skills to not just be followers but leaders in their own cultural heritage and crafts.
I believe that deepening one’s knowledge in one’s ‘work’ is a goal that everyone should have, whether it is a fancy office job or shepherding sheep. There is always room for innovation, improvement, and wonderful discoveries.
What is your vision?
I imagine turning a wasted natural resource in Jordan to useful products, and showing people that there is so much wealth all around us if we just stop to contemplate what exactly we have locally in terms of raw materials. I envision creating a social movement where people who see themselves as marginalized can become known as ‘innovative’.
Why have you decided to apply as a social entrepreneur in the Middle East Entrepreneurship Program?
I got to a point in my journey where I realized that I needed to work with people, in a community, and within an established entity which can guide me and help me move my ‘personal’ work into a ‘public’ project with real impact and tangible results. I have done many steps so far alone, but it’s time for me to join forces with others to grow and move to the next level. One hand cannot clap on its own.
What do you expect to get out of the program for yourself and for your community?
I expect to learn a lot about business planning and development, and to earn skills which usually we ‘creatives’ and ‘designers’ don’t perhaps naturally have. I expect to learn a lot from all the program facilitators who come from diverse professional backgrounds. Having direct and personal access to such a mix is invaluable.
I am looking forward to seeing how my ‘creative’ ideas can come to life with the guidance of people with real life experience and skills to become tangible products rather than just ‘great ideas’.