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Sometimes it’s can be a real trial to find a gift to take back home to family and friends over the holidays or perhaps for friends moving away; A gift that’s actually from the UAE and is not your regular camel or Burj Al Arab souvenir.

Enter Katie, the designer-maker from The Arab Doll Project. Fujairah based Katie only recently started her business and currently makes four doll designs, two men and two ladies. Although very child-friendly, these delightful little characters are not just for playtime, making them wonderfully original souvenirs.

Saffron Souk
had a virtual chat with talented Katie and this is what she had to share with us…

1. Here they are, Katie’s current collection of Arab dolls…

What sort of products do you market?
Hand stitched dolls in traditional Arab dress, as well as other products featuring our Arab dolls!

When and why did you decide to start your own business?
in January 2014, the idea just came to me and within a week I had stitched up my first prototypes and set up my website!

What’s the best thing about setting up your own brand?
I find it a lot of fun to figure out how to do it. Everything from product design and production, website upkeep, and communicating with customers, it’s all an exhilarating experience for me!

1. To make a saving, Katie’s dolls can be bought in pairs. This is Shamsa and Ahmed. Each doll’ is hand stitched and made from locally sourced materials

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced?
My husband has a very busy job as a pastor, and I have three small kids with another on the way. The biggest challenge for me has been balancing family and work. But that’s why I only offer limited stock, my family always comes first.

What do you love about selling online?
The fact that my product reaches SO many people I never could have imagined!

Where do you source your materials?
Most of them I have been able to find in Fujairah, amazingly! But a few things I have brought over from the USA when I visited, like embroidery thread. It’s so expensive at the craft store in Dubai! 🙂

This is where all the magic happens – Katie’s work space. Hmm, we suspect her fabric collection is stashed away in those piles of boxes!   2-3. Dolls in the making

What sets your products apart?
They’re completely unique. Plus they’re a great souvenir from this part of the world, for friends or yourself!

Where do you get your inspiration to be creative from?
All over! And I do a lot of creating in my head, sometimes I can’t get my brain to shut off!

Who’s your favourite designer?
Because I’m a fabric hoarder, I love Anna Maria Horner. She has a gift, people.

Any exciting news to share?
TADP has some exciting new products coming really soon! I’ve been working on some new ways to put our dolls in your home. I can’t wait to get them up in my Saffron Souk shop!

The Zahara doll has to be Saffron Souk’ favourite   2-4. She’s available in red or blue and is shown here with the very fetching Ahmed

What’s your favourite colour?
It changes almost daily.

What are you reading right now?
Glimpses of Grace, written by a pastor’s wife who lives right here in Dubai!

What’s your favourite film?
Charade, with Audrey Hepburn and Carey Grant.

When did you last laugh?
With my kids today. My four year old is hilarious!

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would procrastinate less.

1. Katie in colour

Do you collect anything?
Fabric. Wooden kids’ toys. Organic Food.

Did you ever run away from home as a child?
Yes, I walked around the block for about an hour when I was about 10 without telling my parents. They freaked out, almost called the police, and grounded me from our upcoming Chuck E Cheese adventure. I never did it again.

What is your golden rule?
Love God, love people.

Who is the best super-hero? Superman, Batman or Spiderman?

1. Katie’s Hussein and Shamsa dolls are featured here in an interiors photo shoot. Clever styling!   2. Hussein   3. Shamsa

What’s the best career advice anyone ever gave you?
Everyone sits down to poop.

What is your greatest aim in life?
To glorify God and enjoy him forever!

How many foreign languages do you speak?
I speak a little Arabic, studied it for a few years. But sadly, like most Americans, I’m pretty uneducated when it comes to foreign languages.

What are your 5 favourite finds from the Saffron Souk market?
Well, I don’t have a lot of extra time to shop, but these things caught my eye!

1. These fun and fabulous cut-out artworks can be found at B&D Art and can be made in your colour choice. These are the kissing camel and Dubai skyline designs   2. Pebble’s range of crochet baby toys and accessories are handmade in Bangladesh and these delightful little pixie rattles are Saffron Souk favourites too!   3. This divine baby gift set is made from Liberty fabric and can be found at Les Bobos Chics   4. The Linen Souk’s ever popular embroidered linen apron for the aspiring chefs out there

Thanks Katie. We’re quite excited to see what new things you have planned for The Arab Doll Project and your career advice is giving us a good old chuckle!

Visit The Arab Doll Project and be sure to stash a few of these gorgeous treasures in your suitcase this Summer. We just know the folks back home will be delighted.