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Sisters Mentalla and Asmaa Said on creating a design studio that breathes life into its emotive objects.
Words by Janice Rodrigues in Design & Architecture · Dec 29th, 2022
There are many words that can be used to describe product designers Mentalla and Asmaa Said' s quirky creations but "emotive" is one that comes up repeatedly. The sisters behind the design studio Doodle and the Gang have a knack for making unique pieces that blend traditional craftsmanship with contemporary aesthetics. In fact, even the name 'Doodle and the Gang' is a tribute to the fact that their designs feel like individuals, each having its own identity and narrative.
Having recently debuted their first collection, Volume 1, at Downtown Design, they let us in on their creative process, the importance of supporting local, and what it takes to be a part of the gang.
Mentalla: We're both product and interior designers by background. Since we were kids, we were both interested in art, sketching, and doodling. And for the longest time, we did our own thing. In 2020, with the pandemic and everything slowing down, we started brainstorming ideas together. We've always liked collaborating and bouncing ideas off one another so it felt like a long time coming to do something for ourselves.
It took us from then to 2022 to launch Doodle and the Gang. We would always say, "I'll just doodle around and see what comes up". So, in that sense, every piece started off as a doodle and kept evolving to reach Volume 1. It's almost like they became a gang in their own right; like they're individuals, and that's what inspired the name.
When we launched Volume 1 in November, we heard many people saying it reminded them of someone, as if they saw them as more than inanimate objects. Some of the pieces were inspired by the people in our lives so it came full circle for us. Giving the studio that name took our creations from objects to living things.
Asmaa: If we had to describe our creations, what comes to mind is that they're emotive. In the design scene, we see a lot of beautiful, well-made pieces, but they don't necessarily invoke a feeling. What we've tried to do with our pieces is have an identity for each one. And that's why they resonate long after you've seen them.
Colour is an integral part of Doodle and The Gang’s identity, it evokes emotions that otherwise would be lost in a more neutral representation of our work. We like to experiment with our compositions which is apparent with the gradient tones of Peanut or the playful outlines of Blink. The design scene lately has been void of colour, which has its own strength, because a piece void of colour is seen purely for its form. But what we’ve tried to achieve is both. Our pieces are sculptural, but also colourful, which helps connect with people and invoke these emotions.
Mentalla: A lot of it comes to our individual styles. We like working together and agree on the aesthetics of things. However, we have our quirks. I'm more contemporary, abstract, while she's more maximalist in her approach. We complement each other, and that helps us achieve something that's very much both of our styles.
Asmaa: As for the individual pieces in Volume 1, each has its own backstory. For example, Her, is a celebration of the strong women in our lives. It started with the inspiration of our grandmother. As you can see from the shape and form, it's quite curvaceous and we tried to keep it playful, with striped feet, each at a different angle. It almost gives it this sense of motion. You get a juxtaposition of the traditional elements and crafts while the shape is still very contemporary.
Meanwhile, the ceramic mirrors were something that we quite loved because they're handmade. It's the opposite of other pieces where you have to have exact drawings and dimensions. With clay, there's flexibility, it almost tells you what it's trying to become.
Which brings us to another thing we wanted to do and that was to make things locally, as much as possible. Although we knew that this was going to be more challenging to find the right artisans in the UAE, it was really important for us.
Mentalla: We've been living in the UAE for 14 to 15 years now so it is home to us. Also, from a practical point of view, it didn't make sense to design something here, have it made outside the country, and then bring it here to exhibit. There's only one product we did that with, the rug, and that's because we felt like no one could compete with Indian craftsmanship. This approach also helped us shine a light on local makers.
We took a break after Downtown Design but we're back to the drawing board now, with a focus on larger ceramic pieces. We want to see how we can push the material and our skills to create bigger, more sculptural pieces.
Asmaa: So, in a way, we are trying to bridge the gap between designer furniture and art.