All images courtesy of Watermelon Ink
For Alleine Khalifa and her husband Omar, old bottle caps, discarded buttons and rusty rakes are not garbage – they’re the perfect raw material to make something beautiful.
The duo, who have lived in Qatar for the last nine years, are the co-founders of Watermelon Ink, a small business based on the concept of upcycling, where they sell reused and repurposed objects with a twist.
Speaking to Doha News recently about their new venture, Alleine Khalifa said:
“Take it old. Make it new – that’s our slogan. We like to rummage around for cheap or discarded things, and re-love them to give them a new lease of life. Tables, chairs, shelves, hangers, tins, clothes…and even a bathroom sink once.
We upcycle, chalk paint, decoupage, mosaic, build and stick things together for the love of making inspired and colorfully beautiful things.”
Khalifa, who is from the Philippines, said her affinity for all things old and repurposed stems from her childhood, during which she dabbled with cutting and pasting things together.
The technique, called decoupage, involves decorating objects with layers of glued-on paper cutouts, gold leaf and other 2D items until the final product looks like a painted-on work of art.
Khalifa added that years later, after a bout of what she called “post-partum-art-repression,” she and her husband decided to revisit the technique.
With an eye for creativity and a knack for upcycling, the duo decided to turn their hobby into a business, selling decoupaged globes, milk cans, wooden pallet benches and other furniture, oud burners and clothing.
With full-time jobs at Al Jazeera and the Film House, respectively, Alleine and Omar see repurposing old stuff into new treasures to be a form of relaxation, she said.
“We’ve found that a lot of products on offer to us here lack a bit of soul and charm, so…we just started to make things out of nothing as therapy. Our first sale wasn’t a sale at all. We like to give! Watermelon is still a hobby, and there’s a therapy to indulging in creative crafts when your day job is hyper-technical…like ours often are,” she said.
Their first project was turning several boxes of old fabric that Khalifa had purchased for a project in the Philippines into printed “Qimonos” (a take on the traditional Japanese Kimono) with pom-pom details.
To find materials, she and Omar, who is from the UK, look at their own trash, and scour bins, roadsides and Souq Haraj, Khalifa said.
“Ideas usually come in the form of dreams at 3am in the morning after we’ve had too much cheese the night before! That, and browsing Pinterest, websites and magazines we love from the UK and Philippines,” she added.
Some of their favorite projects include a worn-down set of drawers purchased for QR30 from Souq Haraj and repurposed into a white cabinet with quirky knobs; a rustic trike that they turned into a plant stand; a salvaged rusted rake found in an abandoned school that they turned into a house number plate with chalk-painted mason jars; and a second- hand sink that they refashioned into a bird bath.
But Khalifa added that their ultimate goal isn’t to make profits, but instead foster collaboration and give back to the community.
“One of our main objectives is to collaborate, in particular, with other people and places in Qatar, and we’ve done that by supplying gifts, charms and products for both individuals and events. It really feels like a buzzing shared and local economy here when you build a great network through social media.
We hope one day to garner enough interest to set up (a shop) here in Doha. We have a business plan in the pipeline, and we want to give back to the community. (It’s) right at the heart of what we do. (We want to showcase the) backstories of the people who make Watermelon Ink products, and how purchases will contribute immensely to a number of different people’s lives.
With two small children and full-time jobs, expansion plans for the company remain far in the future, but the duo hopes to encourage other people to follow in their footsteps.
“Start by finding something in their house that could do with an injection of newness, and go to town on it,” Khalifa said.