creative crush: Amina Ahmad

This month’s creative crush is candle-maker and entrepreneur Amina Ahmad of Handmade Habitat. We first discovered Amina through her work: I bought one of her re-purposed limited edition vintage soy candles (in fruit blossom) at Beltway Vintage for my sister. I later met her at a paper workshop and the rest is history! Amina continues to inspire us as she grows her business and experiments with her many creative ventures. She will be co-hosting our March workshop Grapefruit Negroni & Paper Flower Crowns.

What do you do?

Hello! I'm Amina (ah-min-uh not ameena) and I am an aspiring professional hand letterer, crafty dabbler, yogi-in-training and the chandler, owner & operator of Handmade Habitat, an au naturel soy candle company based in DC!

When did you first discover candle making?

A few years ago I attempted to make candles as gifts and got hooked on it really fast! I've always loved candles and being able to control their scent, wick quality and what kind of glasses and containers to put them in was a really fun experience!

Why did you decide to pursue your creative business?

I started my business during college as a way to make a little money during the summers. Once I graduated, I got a boring temporary desk job that just wasn't for me. After it ended, I decided to play this game of seeing how long I could pay my rent by running my business and having a part-time gig. I'm three years in and solely running the business now! I love how it gives me total control over my life. I can expand and grow as much as I feel is right for me and there's no pressure to perform for anyone else. I can be my own boss, but I'm also just living my own life, doing exactly the most perfect thing for each day.


How do you combine candles and scent to make art?

Scent is the strongest sense tied to memory. The right scent can take you to a completely different place in your mind. For example, citrus scents can stimulate your mind (our Morning Mint is great for productivity) while lavender is the ultimate relaxation scent (our Savasana candle - lavender eucalyptus - before bed is ace). I'm a strong believer in the ability of candles to set just the right creative, meditative mood and I love making candles that help me get there, personally. Plus, as humans, we're drawn to the flame. There's just a sort of magical art to a dancing fire, isn't there? My packaging is simple as to not take away from the purity of the form. I pair scents with mantras and scents with my favorite yoga asanas to help direct the natural creativity of the mind. The more that I dive into this world, the finer the lines get between what is functional and what is art. I think that what I do is a great marriage between the two that can bring real experiences to our everyday lives.

What do you do to overcome a creative block?

I get creative block a lot, because I'm always thinking about my work. If it's really bad, I usually stop what I'm doing, have a drink, light a candle or cook a meal. If I can relax just a little, clear my mind, maybe even take a bath - the solution usually finds it's own way. Sometimes you have to step away and do something simple and almost mundane to clear your head, and then boom! The missing puzzle piece appears like magic. I also tend to get great ideas at night when I'm journaling by candlelight. I'm a visual person and I can create to-do lists on graph paper for days. My parents are both engineers and I think the art of planning, list-making and visual problem solving / mind mapping is something I really got from them and helped turn creativity into a fairly productive business.

How do you define creativity?

Thinking outside the box. Looking at things in a different way. Never reading the instructions, and always carrying a pen on you to jot down your ideas. That is creativity. I also think it's important to always adjust things. I'm constantly changing the look of my work - the packaging, the scents, the everything. Don't be afraid to evolve. Creativity should evolve.

What's one thing you have to do everyday?

I have tea or coffee everyday without fail. Usually both with my husband. A morning cup of coffee, an evening cup of tea - we drink something awesome every day. Brad is pretty great at making deliciously caffeinated drinks. This year we started this project where he makes drinks and I draw them! It's called #BraminaHouse and I just post the photos on my blog and Instagram. It's fun! The pictures aren't an everyday thing, but the drinks definitely are.

What one piece of advice would you give to an artist or entrepreneur just starting out?

Love what you do because as an artist or entrepreneur or a creative, artistic entrepreneur you are going to live this life. It's night and day. It's weekends and holidays. It's no sleep, it's exciting and it can really take you places if you commit to it.

What’s your favorite cocktail?

I'm a sucker for a good paloma outside in the spring. :)

Join Amina at our next workshop where she’ll be teaching us how to make paper flower crowns and share her lovely Atelier. RSVP here.

Follow Amina on InstagramTwitter and on Facebook!

Bio:  Artist and chandler Amina Ahmad came of age in the rolling hills and bushy woods of the less glamorous parts of Maryland. She studied the intersection of Environmental Science + Society at the University of Maryland and now calls the wild, tree towering neighborhood of Takoma Park, MD home.

When not neck-deep in soy wax, you can find her stalking out her neighbors' gardens while her mystery breed dog and sidekick Rosie hunts birds. Follow those adventures on the HH lifestyle blog, Sunday Blossoms. Amina is also co-founder of the Unofficial Hand Lettering Society of Silver Spring, a small creative business consultant and avid tea drinker.