Q&A: ByPapousa’s Maha Shoukry
Maha Shoukry creates bespoke furniture which she hand paints in her 6th October studio. She has been taking creative courses her whole life and is finally applying everything she has learned on her products. Vintage, baroque, distressed, floral, dip dyed – a tangible combo of the Pinterest, Instagram and Etsy images we all have archived on our desktops. Her brand, ByPapousa, was created in 1999 but has just started to flourish.
Tell us who you are?
I am half Italian, half Egyptian. I grew up in Pakistan and lived away from Egypt most of my life. Even though I did not spend a lot of time here, I am very patriotic and feel very passionate about this country. I have two kids, I play golf and love being outdoors. I also have a fine attention to detail and believe every thing living or not deserves its merit.
Which courses have you taken?
My first class was pottery in the Philippines. This class brought a deep sense of satisfaction and I realized in order to be happy, I need to be working with my hands. I then ended up in Marbella, Spain, where I worked for Sean Connery for 10 years. I loved my job but had an immense urge to be doing something creative. In my free time, I took carpentery, wood carving, tromp l’oeil, paint techniques, sculpture, etching, basket weaving and interior design.
How did you end up back in Egypt and why furniture?
The way my career was going, I would have ended up traveling six months out of the year with Sean on different film locations. I had two young kids at the time and it was just not feasible to be absent myself for so long. The risk was big but the decision was easy, and the experience I had received through endless classes made me confident. So I decided to plunge in. In addition to classes, I did a two-year apprenticeship in a furniture manufacturing company in Marbella. This is where the idea of returning to Egypt really sparked.
Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration comes anywhere! It can come from a tree or a city – if you take the time to look, you can find inspiration everywhere. Obviously traveling and smelling new air helps a lot and my archive of books. You see things around you being used for specific purposes and think, well why don’t I use that for something else? If you take the time to observe and slow down, you can find inspiration for any idea you may have. We are so lucky to live in such a vibrant city with so much untapped talent.
How does your typical day unfold?
A typical work day for me is an early rise, obviously, and straight to the studio where my projects, notes and paints await me. I visit my factory in 6th October to inspect what is on the production line and return back to the studio where time flies. I hand paint or stain the furniture myself with the help of two other talented employees. Farida is an Anthropology student at AUC and Kenzie is a graduate from the University of the Arts London. It is very important for me to either be alone or in good company whilst working. If you love what you do, you will constantly do it well.
Do you limit yourself to residential spaces?
Not at all. I have decorated and designed furniture for numerous commercial locations. It is challenging because it is not only the furniture aspect directly under my control, but I have to outsource so many aspects that it turns into a balancing act to finalize the project. I just finished a beautiful American cherry wood wall paneling for a new burger place in Maadi!
What are the upsides of running your own business in Cairo?
In Cairo specifically, there are a lot of craftsmen about and I can constantly incorporate these skills into my work. Raw materials are plentiful, and I am always surprised at how, when given the chance, people can be so creative and inspiring. On a labor level, it is refreshing when I can see someone’s lifestyle improve through hard work at ByPapousa.
What are the aspects of running your own furniture business that drive you crazy?
Space, investment, the fluctuation in price of raw materials, traffic, logistics, people’s desire or lack of desire to work, trying to constantly reinforce quality control, excuses and imitation. It is also difficult to find continuity in hardware, as when I find a good supplier, it’s not long before Chinese replicas overtake his stock.
Do you think creating an “On Trend” living space is as important as self-image and fashion?
It’s more important to have a beautiful home, because that is your comfort zone. You have to come home to something you love, because you spend a lot of time there and this is where you host your loved ones. Fashion for me is more superficial.
What is your overall aim?
I do not mass produce and I never will mass produce. My pieces are all unique, as they are hand finished; you will never come across the same item of furniture in anyone else’s home. I don’t believe in charging surreal prices, I work for peace of mind and hope my work brings this same ease to anyone that owns it.
So how can we get our hands on some ByPapousa furniture?
WE SAID THIS: Also check out ByPapousa on Cirqy!