Maker Spotlight: Shaya AlArfaj of Shaybazaar


We grabbed a drink with Shaya AlArfaj at Brooklyn Bazaar in Greenpoint to discuss Shaybazaar: a new online marketplace for makers and creators run by Brooklyn-based designers.

Canvas & Cassette: What was your trajectory into design?

Shaya AlArfaj: During my first semester of senior year, I decided to take a mixed-media class. At the end of the course, my professor sat me down and told me about all the different layers of thought she could see I put into my work. She recommended some more classes that I should continue to take—which sucked because I was graduating that year and couldn’t take any of them. When I told her I only had one semester left, she was like, “well, you really have to do something with this.” I took three design classes during my final semester of college and realized I loved it. I immediately began to research Industrial Design programs.

Three weeks before grad school application deadlines I quickly threw together a portfolio, applied to four art schools and was accepted into Pratt. I was excited but anxious the entire summer before classes began. I felt like a fraud. I luckily met one of my now best friends that first semester and found out she felt the exact same way. We struggled through our first year together and by the second year of school, we were like, “we’re actually really good at this!” I don’t think I would’ve found myself on this path if it wasn’t for my mixed-media professor.

C&C: How was Shaybazaar born?

SA: My partner, Joey, and I went to an open studio event at Industry City. There were so many amazing makers and the entire time we were thinking, “these artists are great. How can we connect with them more regularly outside of studio visits?” We started discussing the current maker platforms and how nobody is encouraged to spend their time on those sites, because they’re always over-saturated and notoriously take advantage of the sellers. We decided then that we were going to create an approachable platform where everyone can buy handmade items while truly supporting the artists who make them.

C&C: How will this experience be different from the other “independently made” marketplaces out there?

SA: Shaybazaar’s very easy to use, for both the creators and people just looking to spend time browsing through cool pieces. The artist side’s our priority. We take the burden of managing another online store away by working with our creatives and handling their page for them. Our goal is to make the platform transparent and simple to use—no hidden costs or fees to upload a new listing, just another chance to get your pieces seen.

Visibility’s very important to us. Something we’ve heard a lot from creators we initially reached out to was that they felt like their work wasn’t given the chance to be seen. The artist could’ve been making the most unique pieces and it wouldn’t show up until the tenth page of a search on some of these larger websites. We want to make sure every artist on our platform gets an equal chance. We manage all the tagging to guarantee their pieces shows up exactly where they should.

C&C: What’s your hope for the future of Shaybazaar?

SA: We want it to be a supportive community for creatives and want them to feel good about themselves and what they’re making. We’re here to push and support them as they grow and will always put them first. We would love for this to eventually manifest into a creative community that lives within Shaybazaar.

C&C: You’re empowering other artists to do what they want, while following your own dreams by creating this platform. What’s your personal philosophy when it comes to following your inner creativity?

SA: I’ve realized it’s important to explore the moments you have when you’re doing something and completely forget about everything else around you. It’s also very important to support the people around you. Support is everything.

I get butterflies in my stomach every time I start thinking about this project. All of this random stuff that I’ve been doing has finally found it’s space in the world.

- Autumn Fox