Miriam Walsh is the founder of ARTE Image Credit: Supplied

In 1990 we took up the challenge and arrived in Dubai during the Gulf crisis with a new baby. The company accommodation which was provided for us at the time was in Jumeirah, so that is where we started our life here and it is where we are still living all these years later. The compound where we first lived near the Jumeirah Beach park has now been demolished.. it would have now been located at the bottom of the canal!!

Back then our life was truly amazing with quiet roads and no traffic. We seemed to be the only ones in the supermarket, and to buy a pair of jeans we had to go to a mall on the Deira side, the Al Ghurair Mall. We had easy access to traditional souqs, such as the gold and spice souq, the fish and vegetable markets at Shindagha, as well as the fabric shops and tailors in Cosmos Lane in Bur Dubai and Satwa which we frequently visited.

Starting ARTE

Image Credit: ARTE srtarted at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza Hotel in 2005

In 2000 I started to slowly look beyond motherhood and with much support from my loving mum I started to craft with felt, and took to the markets at nursery schools and clubs in our area. Over time the vendors connected and after some chats among a small group of fellow artisans we decided we had enough vendors to set up our own market.

We opened ARTE (Artisans of the Emirates) in 2005 in the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza hotel on the ground floor, and immediately saw great success. The reason why we started the market was mostly to focus on the handmade aspect. We have never stepped away from our model that has turned out to be so successful.

We grew very quickly due to the appeal of the brand and the opportunity which ARTE created for budding crafters to showcase their work… and within three months we featured 90 vendors at a Christmas event and ten years later we often saw up to 200 vendors at our Times Square Center (TSC) markets, where the location and space layout lends itself perfectly for the set-up of market stalls.

We started in the community square of the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza along Sheikh Zayed road and moved on to Al Ghazal mall when the parking became an issue. This small mall at the start of Al Wasl road was lovely, but when we were offered a place at TSC we quickly jumped at the opportunity.

Spreading our wings

ARTE vendors having fun Image Credit: Supplied

We have since then been invited at different locations across the UAE in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah to bring ARTE, including in residential communities, schools, malls, free zones, golf clubs etc. The platform provides an opportunity for vendors to showcase their product at Dubai’s original art and craft handmade market. As a platform, ARTE continues to grow as there is a never-ending 'pipeline' of potential new vendors as families continue to relocate and take up residence in the UAE. The ARTE brand of handmade in the UAE has an attractive and enduring appeal. We have gained so much knowledge over the past 15 years and we now coach the start-ups to success.

The pandemic and arts

This year has been an interesting one, and I personally found the lock down very hard. I had worked for many years tirelessly day after day for ARTE and all of a sudden my routine was broken and I have been very lost, even though I was yearning for a break. Since March all market events were cancelled. In the meantime, a few of the vendors in our community survived by selling online, while others took the opportunity of the lockdown to re-build their stocks and focus on creating new designs and products. As soon as the restrictions were lifted in mid-September however we have seen a healthy interest from our vendors to return to participate at the ARTE markets, a sure sign that everyone missed the camaraderie and community buzz.

I am immensely proud of what ARTE is and what it has become over the years. Moreover, I am forever being impressed by the abundance of awesome talent and creative skills that exists within the UAE community, from all different cultures and from all parts of the globe.