Trash to treasure, Mariska Nell shows off at Dubai Design Week

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An example of Mariska Nell’s innovative work.
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The artist uses used Nespresso pods in her art.
Updated 15 November 2018
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Trash to treasure, Mariska Nell shows off at Dubai Design Week

  • Mariska didn’t focus only on creating art, but on educating people as well, on the sustainability aspect of turning trash to treasure

DUBAI: An interior designer from South Africa, Mariska Nell, has introduced her own style of art at this year’s Dubai Design Week, which will run from Nov. 13 to 17 in the Design District.
As an artist and environmentalist, she shared with Arab News her passion for creating art out of waste.
“It started at a really young age, when I spent time at my mother’s studio making arts and crafts from anything that I found around me,” she said.
The inspiration that kick-started Mariska’s trash-to-treasure career in Dubai were the Nespresso coffee capsules that she found too beautiful to throw away.
“Once you find something to create out of waste material and single-use items, you are giving things a second chance at life,” she said.
The artist then started collecting all the capsules she could get her hands on.
“I needed to purchase a lamp for my living room and the idea to create a lamp out of these pods came to life,” she said, introducing her first official art piece that was made out of 913 capsules.
This lamp will be part of her “Coffee Addiction” collection which is included in her exhibit “A Million Bottles Per Minute” at the design festival.
“Why would I want to paint a whole canvas if I can go for a different medium? This led me to experiment and incorporate trash with other forms of art, creating a whole new medium,” she said, talking about the ideas behind the pieces to be showcased at the exhibit.
As a South African living in Dubai, Mariska shared her opinion of art in the Arab world. “I’m excited about it ... There are so many unique elements like the history and calligraphy that makes art in the Arab world really stand out.”
Mariska didn’t focus only on creating art, but on educating people as well, on the sustainability aspect of turning trash to treasure.
“Just pick something that is easy to give up, whether it’s a water bottle that you would replace with a water filtering system in your house, and go from there,” she said, explaining how she started a zero-waste initiative in her home.
“I know that what I’m doing is a drop in the ocean, but hopefully with more people being educated about this concept, we can create a ripple of change.”

The artist's works for Dubai Design Week will also be showcased at the Rove Downtown's Sustainability Corner from November 13 to 16. 


Startup of the Week: Coco Sabon’s natural skincare

Coco Sabon. (Supplied)
Updated 21 May 2019
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Startup of the Week: Coco Sabon’s natural skincare

  • Coco Sabon’s customers are mostly Arab women aged between 20 and 40, “though we have many loyal fans that span different age groups and come from all over the world”

RIYADH: The healing and relaxing powers of nature are at the heart of Coco Sabon’s philosophy.
Launched by Dr. Cynthia Mosher — an American living in Riyadh — the skincare firm is committed to sourcing high-quality, natural oriental ingredients that provide the skin with gentle care and nourishment.
“I launched Coco Sabon in November 2015 at Alfaisal University’s first bazaar,” she said.
Mosher, who completed a bachelor of science in natural health sciences, said she hoped to do something more than simply diagnose illnesses and prescribe treatments. She also wanted to have time for other important things and people, so now she is working as an educator, training a new generation of medical students.
She encourages people to make healthy choices when it comes to ingredients they use on their bodies.
“I fell in love with formulating and creating beautiful, natural skincare products. I continued my creative journey while pursuing my medical degree, which deepened my commitment to develop ‘do no harm’ skincare based on natural ingredients,” she said.
“Layered with my admiration of Arabian culture, the rich regional ingredients, and my passion for integrative medicine, I developed a deep sense of holistic self-care that guides my formulations. My love for the fragrances, natural remedies and skincare routines of the Middle East are the heart and soul of Coco Sabon.”
There is a growing demand for Coco Sabon products. “After years of requests from family and friends to make and sell my products, I tested the waters, so to speak. We sold out of everything that day.”
She added: “About six weeks later we were invited to participate at the Gathering in Al-Bujairi in January 2016. We had a crowd of customers nonstop for three days and again sold out of everything. It was a decisive weekend. Coco Sabon was born and we have not looked back since.”
Mosher’s family and friends offered encouragement, but one of her strongest supporters was her best friend, Audrey Wilkinson. She said: “Audrey was my supporter, helper and adviser. She now works with me, formulating and producing our candles, cremes and face care line.”
Coco Sabon’s customers are mostly Arab women aged between 20 and 40, “though we have many loyal fans that span different age groups and come from all over the world.”
The brand offers a wide range of products, including soap, bath bombs, scrubs, cremes, face and body oils, perfumes and candles.
“Everything is produced by hand in small batches here in Riyadh using natural, safe and organic ingredients, sourced locally wherever possible,” Mosher said.
Coco Sabon believes in supporting local businesses and in sourcing the best ingredients possible. The store also designs its packaging and hand packages, labels and wraps each item, selling through an online store (cocosabon.com), Instagram, WhatsApp, and local popup shop events.
Mosher has also started offering workshops on making her products.
“Some might think that to be unwise because I could very well teach a future competitor,” she said. “Well, that’s true for the medical students I teach now. Should I withhold my knowledge for fear of them becoming better doctors and doing better? Of course not. The more knowledge we put out there, the better our society will be. The workshops also help build community.
“I connect with people who are curious, who want to learn how to create and how to make good choices for their health. I welcome workshop students young and older (my youngest so far was just 6 years old), and I encourage them to take what they learn and use it to improve their lives and that of others around them. If they make a business out of doing so, then good for them. We all have something to offer the world,” she said.
Mosher is happy that she created a job she loves. “Sometimes I miss practicing clinical medicine, but I remind myself that I am helping people make healthier choices for their bodies, their minds, their souls and the planet,” she said.
“That’s a special kind of medicine that I believe can help heal the world.”