Our Islamic Art booth at ISNA 2016 - The Highs and the Lows

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Posted: 09-07-2016 05:56 PM

Many thanks to all of the neat people we met at ISNA 2016! Here's a review of one of the most tiring weekends of the year for us...

Wow, what an amazing trip! Thank you ISNA 2016 for all of your unexpected support and interest in our Islamic Art! So we had a very exhausting few days, flying into Chicago from California on Thursday night and setting up on Friday morning with almost no sleep. We would get sick, food deprived and thirsty in the hours and days to come. Some of our equipment didn't arrive as it was supposed to, we had to run around the city getting our shipments, and the turnout looked low on the first day as well. We got back to the motel bummed that first night of the convention, tired and pessimistic about what the next two-three days had in store for us. We figured this was all because our intentions were not clear. As the Prophet SAAS said, "Actions are by their intentions." Why were we out here in Chicago? Was it to make money? What a terrible reason! - money should not be anyone's goal we mused. It's all Allah's in reality, and none of us actually deserve it to begin with, so why bother running after it. As one of our beautiful Muslim Uber drivers was to share with us later that weekend, "Rizqun? Rizqun?" - i.e. what has been written for us all in terms of our provisions has already been written, so that should never be our focus. So we decided we were going about it all wrong. We were NOT there to sell art. That could not be the goal. We decided instead that we had a couple of intentions we were out there for:
1) We want to spread Islamic art and this beautiful tradition to every person who wants it, even if they can't afford it. Firstly, it honestly doesn't cost that much to make a beautiful work of art if you do your research properly on where to get supplies, etc, and second, with all of the ugliness coming out of our parts of the world these days, Muslims really need to do more to invest in the beauty that Islam teaches us. For this reason we sold everything at the lowest prices we reasonably could, and sooo many of our customers kept telling us that we were probably the best priced art vendors at the entire convention and we had some of the most eye catching and modern designs there. And because we framed it on the spot for free in a gallery-wrap style, it was totally worth it.

2) We're going to make as many people happy as we can this weekend. We gave away several art pieces for free to little kids that would stop by and also people that we developed a genuine love for talking to them about their passions and the things that they do to help our community.

A bunch of our Islamic art designs with sold tags on them.

3) We want to help promote this tradition of Islamic art which has been thoroughly neglected in the modern era by Muslims. Many of our eye catching designs were made by little known artists that we work with the world over who are struggling to make ends meet. By selling this art, we give them commissions and the time and money to make new designs.

Was our time at the convention a success? I think so. We were getting way more orders than we had man power to fulfill, and in the end had to stop taking orders because we were physically unable to fulfill them (keep in mind that we were framing them on the spot and there were only two of us). In the end, after manually stapling together so many pieces of art this last weekend, bruising up our hands and even bleeding at times in our own mini 'sweat shop,' what made this trip worth it for us was the sheer number of people that we were able to make happy. One of the highlights of the trip: as I was packing up our booth one of the other vendors of Islamic art came to me with some 'genuine' advice for my benefit. He said he made a fortune off of his art, selling pieces for apparently tens of thousands of dollars, and speculated to me that all we earned this weekend was probably just the cost of our labor and no more. Yes, we sold things so affordably that we barely broke even if that with all of our expenses coming from California. Yes, it was extremely labor intensive - probably the most labor intensive of all the booths there this year. But what this vendor didn't understand was that all of the standing, hunger and painful stapling away was extremely meaningful to us. The number of people we made happy by letting them beautify their homes without costing them an arm and a leg - subhanAllah! We have no doubt that our next convention will be even better, and the next even better than that. It was all worth it.

Me stapling away and building frames for customers of our Islamic Art


Muslim Bookmark Staff Member

P.S. Thanks to ZiggyZagZo (Zohaib) for taking photos at our booth!

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Muslim Bookmark

Muslim Bookmark aims to be the leading online Islamic store for affordable and high quality Islamic art, calligraphy and gift items. We also sell a number of other products at some of the best prices on the web, including a large number of Kufi hats and Islamic books for children and adults.