Marryam Lum is a Muslim photographer based in South Australia and the founder of Life of My Heart. I stumbled upon on her artwork on Instagram as it captured my attention – she creates beautiful brush lettering quotes inspired by the Quran, the central religious text of Islam. She is different. I decided to reach to Marryam to tell Leaders in Heels her story for the first of my “Make Your Mark” interview series.
(P.S. Scroll to the bottom of this article to download a high resolution copy of one of Marryam’s beautiful designs for Leaders in Heels)
Marryam, what do you do?
I do brush-lettered and watercolor prints of inspiring quotes and verses that showcase the rich spiritual tradition of the Islamic faith.
Is that your full time job or do you do something else?
I currently work on both Life Of My Heart and my lifestyle commercial photography business; however I am trying to find ways to integrate them both so that I will eventually be able to put all of my focus on one brand rather than two.
Why do you do what you do? How did you start?
I started university when I was 16, and if there’s one thing that is for sure is I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life as a 16 year old! I ended up doing an undergraduate degree in Psychology, and went on to do further studies in Counseling and Life Coaching.I’m a bit of a serial entrepreneur so I started my first business at 19, which was life coaching for teenage girls and creating self-development workshops, and went through the process of starting a few more businesses until I finally came across something that I love and felt passionate about – photography. Through this whole process I learned through my mistakes and experiences that it’s vital (at least, for me) to go into a business that I am very passionate about and that I truly 100% believe in.
This is one of the factors that led me to starting Life Of My Heart while also working on my photography business. However, many other factors also led me to Life Of My Heart.
My husband and I started our family in our early twenties and we now have 3 awesome little sons. As a parent you are tested in so many ways, and I never understood how difficult it can be – never have I appreciated my own parents more than now! Taking a non-conventional career path that involved growing a business from home while also caring for young children turned out to be a challenge that I loved but also completely stressed me out and I needed to find a way to keep motivated and inspired :D
As well as this, my husband and I are both practicing Muslims who are in love with our faith and it’s peaceful way of life – in current news we could see that our faith was being completely hacked to pieces by people who use the name of Islam to commit atrocious acts with the mainstream media so bent on portraying these horrifying crimes as Islamic – the complete opposite to the actual teachings of Islam that I and so many others know and love…I found myself feeling so frustrated and down about it all.
To help motivate me to take some positive action in regards to this entire situation and to help me keep going in a positive way in my daily life and my family life, I tried to find lettered artwork with the quotes that I love and am inspired by. I am obsessed with hand lettering and modern calligraphy, so I tried to find faith-based quotes done in that messy modern type of writing. But I couldn’t find any at the time, which led to me lettering my own designs. I posted a few on Instagram and it seems that it also resonated with lots of other people, so I just kept going :)
Since then, there’s been a huge increase in the number of Muslim artists doing lettering as well, which is great – I’m glad that there are many Muslim creatives taking on this lovely artform to achieve some more positivity in the world!
Islam is well known to have an amazingly beautiful and rich spiritual tradition, so I really wanted to share the actual beauty of the faith with others in order to inspire and motivate everyone to become the best people that we can be, and to not lose hope that positive change can and will occur.
All of this together was how Life Of My Heart came about, and I’m so grateful – it’s been an amazing learning experience so far!
What was the inspiration?
Apart from the factors I mentioned above, there is also so much beautiful Arabic calligraphy of amazing quotes that I love, but at the time that I started Life Of My Heart there were hardly any in English in modern brush calligraphy – so I really wanted to bring these translations to light, in a way that was modern, colourful, fresh and a bit messy!
(Thank you Marryam for creating this beautiful quote for Leaders in Heels.)
Why did you choose this quote to share with our community, a community of business women. Why love?
I once read a beautiful book by a Buddhist nun that encouraged the readers to pause before acting, and then choosing to act with an open heart and with love – it can all sound so fluffy but I decided to take this on and try it myself as a daily practice.I found that on a day to day level as a work at home parent, taking a second to pause when I’m faced with a situation that I find annoying or challenging or frustrating, and then consciously deciding to act or react with love and an open heart, made an amazingly massive difference in my relationships with my children, and connected us all in ways that a more disciplinary parenting strategy or ‘time outs’ could ever achieve. That realization helped me to realize that I truly, truly believe that love is everything, which is why this Rumi quote speaks to me so strongly. When I read it, it instantly connected with me. If we all had more open hearts and more acceptance of differences and just let love and compassion be the way we primarily live our daily lives then I really believe there would be immense positive change within humanity.
(It looks so easy when you are drawing the quote, but I tried and it’s not!)
Where did you learn lettering and how one can start?
I first started by doing a few online courses on lettering on Skillshare.com, there are so many amazing lettering and calligraphy courses on there! Also I spent a lot of time watching YouTube tutorials and reading blogs such as handletteringtutorial.com and handletteringlove.com which offer so many resources and links to learn from.
I found that lettering itself which is the art of drawing letters as opposed to writing them (which is calligraphy), was not the direction or style I wanted to take, but I learnt so much about creating letters, typography and spacing etc that was vital for my work. I then came across the amazing brush lettering artist Kal Barteski and did an online brush lettering course of hers that gave me the confidence to use my own handwriting and messy style to create my own style of brush lettering.
I also love the art of Modern Calligraphy, which I am currently learning by both doing online courses and reading/watching tutorials on blogs. The blog http://besottedblog.com/ has awesome tutorials and interviews with the best of the best modern calligraphers today :)
I suggest starting by taking some courses online or reading books on hand lettering, brush lettering, and modern calligraphy, and then finding which of these suits you the most – then practice daily, experimenting with different brushes and tools, as well as paints and inks. Experiment and practice until you find your own style, and then keep practicing and developing it further!
What keeps you going when you need to push, either for clients or through a creativity block?
What’s next for Life of My Heart and how do you want to see it grow?
Click on the image below for a complimentary copy of the “Love is Everything” print from our store. Download it in high resolution for your home or office!