The room is a typical teenager's den, walls covered with pictures, a table cluttered with books and the pride of place occupied by a computer.
A closer look, however, reveals that 17-year-old Ashley Darmanin is a bit different from other youngsters her age. The pictures on the walls are photos of the many cats she has rescued and her own oil and watercolour paintings (even the phone in her room is spray painted).
A sewing machine sitting next to the computer looks well used; Ashley who is of Dutch and Maltese origin, has been tailoring her own clothes since she was 13 and makes her own prom gowns because she likes to wear something unique. One entire shelf is lined with bottles full of colourful beads and bead jewellery seems to be spilling out of every box and drawer in the room.
Of all her artistic pursuits, jewellery making is the one Ashley enjoys most. She made her first pieces from a set of beads she got as a sixth birthday gift from her mother. She has never had any formal training because she feels that learning from others will stifle her own creativity.
"Over the years I have learnt from my mistakes and developed my own techniques for making new designs and ensuring that the knots are strong and the jewellery has a good finish," says Ashley.
Initially she took inspiration from jewellery she saw at stores, but now she creates her own designs. Besides beads she uses sequins, feathers, stones, wire twisted into different shapes and even discarded tubing from her brother's fish tank to make interesting necklaces, bracelets, anklets, earrings, hairpins and belly chains.
She often takes the beads to school where she teaches her friends her art, though very few of them have the patience for it. Ashley's ornaments are in great demand with requests coming from schoolmates as well as teachers.
It was Ashley's classmate Shabab Attarzadeh who suggested that she should try to sell her jewellery instead of giving it away as gifts.
Both Shabab and her best friend Amira Hussein learnt the techniques from Ashley and together they set themselves a target of making a thousand pieces for a stall during the Dubai Shopping Festival.
The three teenagers have been working hard for the last four months. Despite the busy school schedule, each of them tries to make at least four pieces every day. They spend all their pocket money on buying beads, chains and clasps and on the weekends they get together to sort and catalogue the jewellery. "Having a goal keeps us motivated and we don't mind missing out on movies and other teen stuff," says Ashley.
Their enterprise is named Orion Accessories after Ashley's favourite constellation and each article they make is systematically tagged with their logo, a serial number and the name of the designer. They are also in the process of setting up a webpage Orionxsesory.8k.com, carrying pictures and descriptions of every item. The collection includes jewellery for all ages and is reasonably priced.
"The prices charged for this kind of jewellery by boutiques are too high; our work is as good but much cheaper," says Amira.
Ashley makes the more complicated designs and puts the finishing touches to all the pieces. Amira prefers to make designs that are wearable rather than funky and likes to use traditional Sudanese beads that she buys on her visits home. Shabab, who is from Iran, uses a lot of blue beads and usually makes name bracelets and jewellery for boys. "Most of my friends think I am crazy to be doing such a 'girl' thing but I don't care; I enjoy it and I want to earn some money so I can take flying lessons," he says nonchalantly.
Their parents have been supportive and had offered to contribute towards the cost of the stall. "As long as her grades at school don't get affected, I am happy that my daughter and her friends spend time like this rather than watching TV or spending money at coffee shops," says Ashley's mother.
Despite what they have saved and their parent's contribution, they were unable to afford the price of a stall during the Dubai Shopping Festival. Fortunately a friend's mother has offered to share her stall at Wafi Mall with them and also look after it while they are at school. "The theme for this festival is 'the family' and now we feel a part of it," says Shabab excitedly.