Creative Spotlight: Emma Apple

For our August Creative Spotlight, we speak with Emma Apple, the multi-talented author-illustrator-designer and founder of Creative Muslim Women. She also has 2 Amazon bestselling children’s books under her yellow belt (her signature colour!), “How Does Allah Look?” and “How Big is Allah”. Read on to learn more about this inspiring, quirky New Zealand native!

 


 

1. Tell us about yourself (name, location, affiliations, your story)! 

I always find these questions really hard to answer. Where to start? I call myself Emma Apple, which has been one of the names I answer to since I was very small. I’m from NZ where I grew up in an unconventional way. I come from a long line of writers and educators and quirky people, I’m probably mostly the latter, I’ve always been an artist who also loves to play with words. I converted to Islam as a teenager and not long thereafter moved to Chicago to start my life with my favorite person. Around that time I had a piece of creative writing published in an anthology about being a teenager in NZ and that was the first glimpse of myself as an Author.
Fast forward past myself as a web designer, print designer and logo designer, and stop at me as a children’s Author-Illustrator. That’s now. I’ve written 2 Islamic children’s books so far – How Big Is Allah? and How Does Allah Look? – and am working on the third in that series and others. I’m constantly growing as an illustrator and a writer and am also continuing to work in the online community, as I have since the early 00’s, to help uplift others like myself through my Creative Muslim Women network and website.
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Emma Apple 6
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2. What inspired you to enter the field you work in? 
I know everyone says this, but I’ve always been an artist and a writer, so it was a natural progression. However, looking for halal outlets for my illustrations led me to children’s illustration, and my own children inspired my books and continue to inspire my work. My son (8) struggled with some concepts when learning about Allah, so we had to think outside the box, as he did, when we were answering his questions. He’s always been a huge space fanatic and both our kids are science nerds, so my books come primarily from them. My daughter (10) is also incredibly creative so she inspires me to continue working and learning, the way she does, and so that we can learn and grow together.
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3. How does your faith influence your work? 
My faith influences my work profoundly, I would say this is true of most creative people of faith. As a non Muslim in my early teens, my creative outlet was to draw people, I drew people from magazines and magazine ads, I tried my hand at life drawing (but didn’t stick with it) and it is and was what I’ve been drawn to (pun always intended). In my middle teens and up, I began learning about Islam and inevitably discovered the different opinions on drawing animated beings. It was a huge conflict for me and for years I abandoned my work almost completely. In my 20’s I couldn’t shun such a huge part of myself any longer, so I started looking more closely at the opinions, the nuances, the specifics, and came to the conclusion that drawing for children’s benefit, was something I could do that would satisfy my need to be true to my faith, and true to my calling. I rarely speak about this, lest anyone follow my own conclusion and it be wrong, but to be totally honest, this is a huge way that my faith influences my work. I’m constantly checking my intentions against these years of introspection, and I’m constantly considering the benefit my work could have for my kids and their peers.
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4. What was the best gift you ever received and why? 
Would it be shallow if I said it was my new Star Trek purse? Or cliché if I said my introduction to Islam? Or sappy to say my kids? Honestly, I find this really difficult to answer. I am immensely grateful for any gift, and it’s the thought that means more to me than anything. I was recently sent a box full of yellow by my friend Amnah from Little Life Of Mine. She had collected everything she could find that was yellow (including a beautiful citrine bracelet from Bidaya Jewelry and a lovely nail and thread ornament made by Amnah herself). If there’s one thing the world knows about me, it’s that yellow is my color, so this was such a fun gift to receive and such a lovely thought. On my 18th Birthday, my husband paid a street vendor to carve my name in sandstone, I guess that’s what this particular street vendor did, and brought it home for me after his very late night shift at work. That gift is still a very important part of my workspace. I could name so many little things I have and have been given over the years, how long do you have?
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5. What would you like to see on Muslim Gift Guide? 
I might be biased, but I’d love to see more work by creative Muslim women, there is already a whole lot of amazing work by us represented, but there can never be too much! I think we’re such a unique group, many of us choose a life at home with our families, as a matter of faith and principle, so there is often an opportunity to find and pursue a creative outlet that you may not otherwise have while living a different lifestyle. Honestly, more of everything! It’s a great resource and a great platform for Muslim creatives and businesses alike. I’m looking forward to seeing the platform grow and develop.
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6. What does it mean to be an entrepreneur? 
It means a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of coffee and a lot of self doubt. It also means hard work driven by clear purpose, incredible bravery to put oneself out there, great strength to endure all the negative feedback, the hills and valleys that inevitably come, and a whole lot of dua and putting trust in Allah. It means being true to your calling, whatever that is for you, and that’s a very powerful thing.
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7. How do you balance your creative business with personal life? 
What is this “balance”, you speak of? It’s really tough actually, I’m not a naturally organized person, but my work is trying hard to force me into some sort of routine. It’s sort of a fluid thing right now, but I try to make sure there is quality and focused time put into both areas of life. I’m doing a lot of self education as we speak, podcasts and tools and YouTube videos, to try to learn to compartmentalize more, to make use of organizational tools and to find some sort of structured time management. I don’t know that I’ll ever be that hyper organized business owner, but as my business and responsibility grows with my work and my community work, it’s quickly becoming clear what a necessity that balance is. Evernote, lists and google spreadsheets are becoming faithful friends.
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8. Where can you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 
I’m such a now person, I never looked this far into the future before I started building my business. I’ve learned though, that goals and visions of the future of the business, are incredibly important to growth and stability as an entrepreneur. InshaAllah, with the permission of Allah, as an author I see myself with at least 4 more books published in the next 5 years, and I see that number staying steady over the next decade. As an artist, I see myself moving into a creative business selling my work as standalone products (as opposed to illustrations in books) and exploring other directions with my design and illustration skills, an established creative business 5 years out and a thriving and growing brand at the 10 year mark. For Creative Muslim Women, I see the membership growing, not necessarily in numbers but as creatives, in strength and influence, I see inclusion of non members in meaningful ways and a growing interactive presence on social media. In 10 years I see it as a hub for creative Muslim women and a place of uplifting and empowerment for them in their work, I have big plans for expansion that I’m working on right now, I hope your readers will stay with us because I see huge growth in the next 10 years. InshaAllah, all with the will and permission of Allah.

Follow Emma Apple:

Author of How Big Is Allah? and How Does Allah Look? The Children’s First Questions Series.
Photo credit: Emma Apple

 

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