Artist and designer Samar Megdadi's Schererville home tends to double as a gallery and interior decorating kiosk on many occasions when she welcomes guests.
"I notice that whenever someone comes over to my house, they are really interested in my work," she said. "They ask, 'Can you sell me something? I want two of those pieces and three of these pieces.'"
Born and reared in Jordan, Megdadi takes her artistic lead from her father, an artist and calligrapher, but was encouraged by her family to find a niche for herself outside of art. Before making her way to the States in the mid '90s, she received a bachelor's degree in computer science at Yarmouk University in her Jordanian hometown, Irbid.
Megdadi furthered her studies after making her way stateside in the mid '90s, settling in west suburban Downers Grove first before setting her sights on Schererville and receiving a degree in civil engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology. Married to pediatrician Zuhair Aslakaji and a mother of four, Megdadi worked at a handful of Chicagoland engineering companies before deciding to focus on her longstanding passion for art full–time about a year and a half ago.
A calligraphist, painter, photographer and creator of mosaic works from a fine arts standpoint, Megdadi exhibited her creations last spring as part of a group show held at University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.
"Art to me has no limits," Megdadi said.
A few months later, she was introduced to Sam Dalkilic–Miestowski, founder of St. John's Steeple Gallery, which represents Megdadi in her fine-arts pursuits.
"These are very textural, they're very colorful, they're bold, they're decorative and I think it plays into her Middle Eastern background of ornamentation, of repeated designs," Dalkilic–Miestowski said. "She definitely has this Middle Eastern flair with the ornamentation, with the opulentness of that culture.
"She's incorporated some Arabic symbols in some of her pieces that look very modern, but to the naked eye, for those of us who can't read Arabic, it looks like a pretty design."
Since showing her works at Steeple, Megdadi has proven a success with area art consumers; past large Megdadi paintings have sold in the $400 range.
"We put something up here one week, and the next week, even before we put a tag on it, it's sold," Dalkilic–Miestowski said. "She wants to make art, beautiful art, affordable for regular people."
As a decorator, Megdadi designs a myriad of items such as vases, mirrors, decorative plates, picture frames, candleholders and tabletops. Some of her creations are available for purchase locally at Schererville's Monarch Gifts and Flowers.
When creating her home decorating and accessories, Megdadi primarily uses rhinestone as her material of choice. Some of her pieces are created on three-dimensional design software and she is hands–on when dealing with fabricators, manufacturers and suppliers of her works.
Her approach to creating her pieces can be traced to the tools of the trade she picked up in her engineering days.
"I used the term 'cradle to grave,' which is a term used in engineering a lot," she said. "There's a strong relationship, I think, between what I'm doing (with her home accessories) and my engineering degree when I go by all of these steps."
"The process of creating these items takes a lot of time for me, because I have to do it right."
Stylistically, she has veered towards renaissance design for her accessories pieces, rather than the Middle Eastern influence found in her fine art.
"I noticed that people like it," she said of her renaissance-inspired creations. "I created a thing or two in my house and I noticed the reaction of other people. They really loved it, and I decided to go with that ... I noticed that people have renaissance style on bags, on glasses, and I was thinking, 'Why not create renaissance style silverware? On cups? On plates?'"
In January, Megdadi showcased her creations at the Chicago Market, an interior design and decorative accessories tradeshow, which saw her rubbing shoulders with movers and shakers in those industries at Chicago's McCormick Place.
"I had the chance to meet other business owners, and it was really good for business for me," she said. "I talked to so many people who are into creating and design, and they are amazing. And I learned so many different things about (making) my (accessory business) succeed more. It was really helpful to me. I'm happy with the results."
Megdadi hopes to expand her interior works to other retail outlets over the course of the year. She is also planning to try her hand at other home accessories.
While wowed by the pieces Megdadi submits to Steeple, Dalkilic–Miestowski is equally awed by her endeavors in the home décor strata.
"Now she's appealing to the marketplace (with her home designs and accessories), and I think that says a lot about somebody who came from another country and who's taking risk and is very passionate about what she does," Dalkilic–Miestowski said. "I'm just happy to be a part of it."