Expat Woman Entrepreneur of the Month - Marielle Zatar

For this talented German knitter, a two-month job offer in Dubai turned into a 10-year long chapter of her life. Now in Amman, Jordan she tells us what she does to pursue her passion and promote her love for needlework.

Marielle Zatar from Zatar Knits is a knitting designer and tutor living in Amman, Jordan.

Marielle Zatar from Zatar Knits is a knitting designer and tutor living in Amman, Jordan.

It was 2006 when Marielle Zatar was offered to work on setting up a new branch for a German software company in Dubai. Marielle had just finished her studies in Germany as a sports therapist when she accepted the temporary position.

Initially, the assignment was for eight weeks, but that felt long so she negotiated to work there for six weeks instead. Within this short period of time, they offered her a permanent position in the newly opened office, and she accepted.

After living there for some time, she met the man who would become her husband. And although the idea of living overseas had always crossed her mind, it wasn’t until she moved there, temporarily at first, that it became a reality.  

Marielle carefully selects the type of yarn and the color palette she will use for every design.

Marielle carefully selects the type of yarn and the color palette she will use for every design.

 “It was not really a plan, but I was always open to live somewhere else. I’ve always travelled a lot, visited different countries and cultures. And I always thought that living your whole life in the same spot is boring. In my case it was not planned to move to Dubai, it just happened. I decided to stay longer while I was there and things led to another, I got married and so on.” Marielle explained.

Ten years is a long part of your life, especially if you live faraway from home. As an expat, you plant your roots knowing that in a few months or years you will have to leave again. By realizing how helpful it is to take with you what brings you joy, you’ll be doing your future self a big favor.

Some of the tools that help you are practicing spiritual rituals like meditation or journaling. Some others could be spending time doing something that uplifts you.  Similarly, taking your passions along is a powerful catalyst to help you settle-in more smoothly in your new destination.  And why not, perhaps start a business or a creative project? This is how Marielle did it and now her passion is fuelling a whole new set of exciting possibilities for her.

Mastering the art of knitting is not easy. It is not only colors and patterns that come together. You have to learn different techniques, abbreviations and even do math formulas! Each one of these beautiful designs by Zatar Knits has incorporated such complexity in the making.

Mastering the art of knitting is not easy. It is not only colors and patterns that come together. You have to learn different techniques, abbreviations and even do math formulas! Each one of these beautiful designs by Zatar Knits has incorporated such complexity in the making.

When I asked Marielle about her most rewarding experiences as an expat woman she said: “Getting to know people, different places and becoming more open minded for sure. I have friends around the world.” She added.

And what about the challenges? Living in a vibrant city like Dubai or in a historically ancient country like Jordan has a downside too.  Marielle shared: “Saying “good bye”. That’s a big down point of being an Expat. You always have to say your farewells when someone or you move on. Maybe it makes some friendships more intense as you know you only have limited time, but it’s hard every single time. And it gets even harder when you have a child who has to go through the same. It can be heart breaking. 

Another challenge is not having your family close by. Sometimes I wish I could just sit in the car and quickly visit my mum or grandmother. But I believe it’s sometimes even harder for them. Luckily Skype, WhatsApp & Co make it easier these days. In my first days in Dubai I had only email contact with friends and family back home.” 

Despite not working in a creative setting for most of those years, one thing remained constant in Marielle’s life: the longing for using her hands and creativity to make something beautiful.  “During the time I wasn’t knitting I felt like there was a void in my life. I later realized that I was missing my art. For me knitting is my happy place.” Marielle stated.

This multicolor piece is one of the recent creations Marielle made.

This multicolor piece is one of the recent creations Marielle made.

“When I was pregnant with our daughter, I stopped working and therefore spent my entire summer in Germany. I grew up in a family where the women always knitted, crocheted and sewed.  Anything really fibre related. This was their first grandchild so my mother and grandmother crafted their hearts out with everything baby related. I knew how to knit from before, but had not touched knitting needles for many years. One day that summer, I decided that I had to knit a little baby vest and from that day on I did not stop. I started designing my own garments and knitting patterns soon afterwards. “

Once in Jordan, Marielle connected with a group of expat women who wanted to pursue creative activities of all sorts. She became the lead of a knitting club and has recently started a series of training for knitters and enthusiasts of all levels.

These are some of the warm tones and patterns of Marielle’s winter designs.

These are some of the warm tones and patterns of Marielle’s winter designs.

Her advice for those expat creative entrepreneurs that don’t know where to start? “Open up to your surroundings. Get inspired by culture, religion, traditions and food and try to include them into whatever you create. Don’t stick to the old things but change according to the life changes you constantly have to make. What works and feels good in one country might not be the same in another country. I think it’s great for your creativity to move.”

Every country shines in a different colour- capture it in your creativity.”
— Marielle Zatar

For Marielle, knitting is in itself a mindful, meditative and peaceful practice. There’s no rush, there’s nothing else other than the now.  She finds that knitting is a substitute for meditation, which helps her unwind and become aware of the mind while keeping her in the present moment.

She makes her atmosphere very inviting. Candles, incense and a nice soothing cup of tea are usually part of her workspace. Hours go by with a sense of bliss, as she finishes one (or many) of her own elaborate knitting designs.

Pictured here is knitting designer Marielle Zatar with her personal assistant, Pepper.

Pictured here is knitting designer Marielle Zatar with her personal assistant, Pepper.

Marielle is the third generation of knitters in her family. The love for this art started with her grandmother, who would carefully choose yarn, colors and patterns that resulted into beautiful pieces Marielle would later wear.  

When she is not knitting, teaching or buying yarn, Marielle spends time with her family, enjoying nature and exploring Jordan. Whenever she feels like making herself a nice cup of tea, she picks warm and rich tea flavours like Kusmi’s “Boost” or a good Roiboos vanilla tea. Lately she said, she is loving Tchaba’s Milky Oolong tea.

 

To see her beautiful, one-of-a-kind handmade work, you can find her as  @ZatarKnits on Instagram.

 

 

 

The purpose of these interview series is to learn about the experience of women entrepreneurs who have decided to give creativity a chance and to inspire other women to do the same. If you’d like to share your story, email me at hello@theelephantsoul.com or at elephantsoulcrafts@gmail.com.