Not everyone has what it takes to dare; daring to be different, daring to be themselves. As humans, we all have different interests, different likes – and that’s what makes one person and their creativity all the more intriguing to others. While a majority of us create art, it takes striking creativity to really make an impression – and what is displayed by Aishath Zeeshan Hassan is more than enough to leave a lasting first impression.
Some would be quick to dismiss her hobby activity of creating ‘mermaid crowns’ as useless, or simply ‘silly’. But, not for once would they think of the actual amount of work being put into every single one of them; and that’s exactly why these crowns have spread like wildfire among the Maldivians who have a keen eye for art.
Though they are a visual feast to the eyes that look quite simple and easy to achieve, they are much more complicated than that. Especially since Zeeshan collects the shells on her own, it’s a constant tire to collect and to keep cleaning them.
“I have to make sure there is no sand left inside the shells, so I wash those a couple of times. I put them in a huge bowl and take one shell at a time and take the sand out of them. It takes about an hour to clean just about fifty shells,” Zeeshan said as she described the process. Her work has now been made easier, as her mother and grandmother helps out in the cleaning as much as they could.
Though it’s pretty hard to make these crowns, the biggest challenge she faces is not making them, but being able to sell them at a reasonable price. Living in Addu, she has a hard time trying to move past society’s perception of such crafts.
“People aren’t ready to pay a price for the hard work, because they’ve got a bunch of seashells at home too. They aren’t unfamiliar to anything beachy and feel it’s too much of a price to pay for something they could find after a stroll along the beach. And shipping the crowns to Male’ is hard as well. I don’t want to send through air freight because then I can’t be 100% sure it’d be safe. So I just find someone going to male’ and hand a couple of crowns to each person,”
When asked about how the whole idea of mermaid crowns came into her mind, the 19 year old’s reply echoed desire and creativity. She first discovered their existence on her Facebook, and after initially wanting one but being unable to get her hands on them for they were too expensive – she started creating her own crowns. After several evenings of tagging along with friends, collecting rare seashells from the new reclaimed area in Addu and a backyard full of shells – Zeeshan borrowed a glue gun and began to create the first of many crowns that would soon spread around like the scarcest resource.
“At the time I only posted a picture of just one crown, and a friend of mine wanted to order one for her best friend’s birthday, I got really excited and I didn’t want to make it exactly like those Pinterest crowns so I added my own little twist and added little ribbon flowers instead of the beads and stones. The girl who bought it was very pleased with it. Even then I wasn’t planning to start selling the crowns, it was just something I liked doing. But when she posted a picture on her Instagram thanking me for my work, a few people started asking about it”
As a girl who loves everything about the beach, seashells, and even the ocean in general, Zeeshan says that it doesn’t matter even if people stop buying them and that she will continue to make the crowns. She intends to further explore her creativity, revealing that she is considering creating floral crowns and maybe jewelry as well.
What started as motivation from her friend Ammi and boyfriend Aly has now indubiously become an integral part of Zeeshan’s life – and she thanks her family, for always encouraging her to be ‘stupidly creative’ and believing in her crazy ideas. And Ammi for gifting her equipment to make shell crowns, Maani for the amazing makeup and the dress for the photo-shoot, Rafil for the time and effort put into taking pictures of her. She also thanked her boyfriend Aly the most, for waking up at 6 am to go collect shells, to encourage her when I she was down. In her words, he has put in as much effort into it as her.
“My entire life, I’ve always thought I wouldn’t be appreciated, recognized or even achieve anything as an artist. I would like to tell all the creative people to attempt new and different things, even if people say you’re not good enough or that you can’t do it. If you’ve got any kind of talent, don’t let it go to waste, you can always find a way to make it useful in some way, even if it’s not your career option. Don’t be shy to share pictures, videos of your work, you never know, it maybe that one picture that you were hesitant to share that’ll get you somewhere as an artist”