Virginie Dreyer, Jewellery Designer & Founder of TinyOm Jewellery
“I grew up in the South of France and moved to Paris when I was 15. In those days you were often labelled from an early age as being ‘academic’, ‘sporty’ or ‘creative’. There was a tendency to classify children as being one thing at the exclusion of another. I was seen to be a studious child. I did well at school and went on to study Law at University. I chose Law because that was what I wanted to do at the time and perhaps because it was one of the paths expected of someone who had shown an aptitude for studies.
Art was all around me when I was growing up and I have the most wonderful memories of my grandmother’s creativity and eclectic taste. As a young woman, she had spent time in Senegal and had learned the art of stitching and making beautiful handmade dolls. As a little girl, visiting my grandparents’ home in the South of France was like entering a treasure trove; it was filled to the brim with some of the most exotic trinkets and fabrics I had ever seen. I found my grandmother’s passion for dollmaking and dedication to her art very inspiring. My mother too was good with her hands and enjoyed pottery and painting. Though I appreciated beautiful things, I was occupied with studies and never had the patience or time to focus on art.
My husband and I moved to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as a young couple twenty years ago. When I first arrived in the Middle East, I wasn’t working so I decided that this was my opportunity to tap into my own creativity. To now have the space and time to do this was a luxury that I had never had but one that I had always longed for. I initially began my creative journey through taking illustration and Photoshop courses and I soon realised that I had an interest in visual design. After pursuing online programs and short courses during my visits back to France, I became adept at designing. Within a few years, my skills and confidence had grown, and I created a line of unique children’s pyjamas which I produced in Europe and supplied to children’s boutiques in France. I was pleased to get my small business off the ground.
Soon after I moved to Bahrain in 2004, the complexities of managing the production of the garments abroad whilst juggling our family life (as by then we had two young children) became quite overwhelming so I closed the business. I devoted myself to life in Bahrain and it immediately felt like home for our young family. Having always been interested in yoga, I pursued my yoga teaching certification at this time and enjoyed the great sense of community on the Island. I found the environment to be relaxed, multicultural, friendly and welcoming.
As I gained a deeper understanding of yoga, the symbolism of the chakras (wheels) resonated with me and I was inspired to share the positive message of the yoga philosophy. I decided I wanted to create jewellery that was delicate, luxurious and wearable with a symbolic value and meaning. I remember playing with my mother’s jewellery as a child and being intrigued by the stories behind her heirlooms. For me jewellery has always been about meaning.
I also decided I wanted to create something in Bahrain, utilizing local resources and craftsmanship. Finding the right goldsmiths to work with was not easy at the start, but then a friend referred me to Al Zain. I approached them with my drawings and they agreed to create my designs. When I got the prototypes, they were perfect. It was amazing to see my designs come to life exactly as I had imagined them. I knew right then that I had something unique, valuable and impeccably crafted. The pieces were fine and strong; ideal for everyday wear, just as I had intended.
My brand TinyOm was born and through my partnership with Al Zain, we successfully launched the Chakra collection. It was an instant success in Bahrain and to date remains our signature collection. As people wrote and blogged about TinyOm in France, we were also able to gain recognition abroad. The jewellery is now also available in London, New York and a couple of other international locations. Despite the growth, I always come back to the DNA of the brand as being something pure and meaningful. As a reflection of this, I am committed to donating 10% of the profits from our online store to a charity that is close to my heart, I’Association Presence, for people with disabilities in the South of France.
Since the initial launch, TinyOm has produced several other collections. Currently we have a Bahraini pearl collection where simple natural Bahraini pearls are the focus and inspiration. Some of our other collections are Dreamcatcher, Flowers of Life and the Wave. For each collection there is a meaning and inspiration. The idea behind all of them is the concept of ‘oneness’ or ‘unity’.
My advice to women in design is not to be afraid. Now, when you study design, you can do so many things. For me it was about experimenting and having the opportunity to recognise that I am creative and do have a flair for design. Living in the Gulf gave me the space and time to discover those abilities. Bahrain will always be close to my heart as it is where my children grew up and it is where I evolved as a designer. Because of my experiences here, I now have confidence in my creativity and the courage and determination to try new things, because you don’t know what you are capable of until you try.”