Georgian alumnus wins Etsy Design Award thanks to Sarah Jessica Parker

Moh Alsulaiman never thought he would owe a “thank you” to Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker.

The Human Resources Management alumnus-turned-artist recently won an Etsy Design Award in the Home Décor category, for which the actress was on the judging panel.

“She’s a fashion icon. I thought she’d like my work but not look at it that closely,” said Moh. “Hundreds of thousands of people entered the contest, and I was picked among all of them. That’s just insane.”

A person sits on a stool and looks off to the side, next to a white vase with a green plant in it.
Moh started creating home decor to sell on Etsy about four years ago.

Moh has zig-zagged his career from studying chemical engineering in Jordan, to moving to Canada and studying Human Resources Management at Georgian College, and now to art and design.

“I don’t regret any of my learning experiences because it’s part of my growth,” he says.

We caught up with the owner of Terroso Studio to chat about his Etsy Design Award, his postsecondary and career journey, and how he still uses many of the human resources skills he learned at Georgian in his current profession.

A person is bent over a table and working on a ceramic sculpture.
Moh loved working on do-it-yourself projects before starting his business.

How did you go from chemical engineering, to human resources, to art and design?

When I graduated high school, I was in love with chemistry, so I studied chemical engineering at postsecondary school, but I realized I preferred learning about the subject from books. It was time to try a new career path.

I wanted to understand more about work environments in Canada and how laws work here, so I found the Human Resources Management at Georgian. I enjoyed every single moment of my program at Georgian, and I met amazing teachers and people.

After graduation, I enjoyed working in a human resources job doing health and safety, but I eventually wanted to try something new.

That’s when I had an ‘a-ha’ moment. I’m a creative person who loves to change my room décor and work on do-it-yourself projects – why not create a product and sell it online? The answer had been in front of me the whole time.

Black ceramic pottery sits on a white column, with a branch of green leaves and white flowers arches overtop.
A piece created by Moh Alsulaiman.
Four pieces of black and white ceramic pottery sit on a large white cloth draped over stairs.
Creations by Moh Alsulaiman.

Tell us about your art and the Etsy Design Award.

When I first started experimenting with my art, I was creating decorative accessories and accent pieces with polymer clay and eventually started selling them on Etsy. Experiment after experiment, I made things until I had a best-seller piece.

I needed more creative freedom, so I started using ceramics and pottery.

I love the touch of clay on my hands. The first time I used it, it felt like an old friend and that was the moment I knew, “This is it.”

I wanted to create something that represents my Syrian background and tell my story as someone from a war-torn country. Syria is very well-known for antiques, jewellery, pottery, and lots of other handmade creations.

That’s when I came up with my signature chain design, inspired by necklaces many people wear in Syria and my mom’s jewellery collection. They’re not just decorative pieces, they say something.

A person sits in the background with a beige decorative vase with a thick chain across the front sits in the foreground.
Moh with one of his ceramic planters that has his signature chain design.

Etsy Design Awards: ‘That’s just insane. I can’t believe it’

I entered the Etsy Design Awards, but I didn’t think I would win.

Sarah Jessica Parker was one of the judges. She’s a fashion icon. I thought she’d like my work but not look at it that closely. But then I found out I won the Home Décor category! Hundreds of thousands of people entered the contest, and I was picked among all of them. That’s just insane. I can’t believe it.

As a result, I got a lot of exposure and a lot of sales. My business got so big – it took me three months to catch up on orders.

What advice would you give to someone unsure of their career path?

Making changes and switching your path in life are lessons for us.

When you have that inner feeling that you need to change, take that step.

Don’t stop yourself because that’s your future self telling you to take that step.

How does your Human Resource Management graduate certificate help you in your art career?

Let’s start with health and safety. My work now is kind of dusty and needs protection and precautions set up.

The Human Resources Management program at Georgian and my co-op as a health and safety officer helped me know how to implement a safety plan and measures to make my studio as safe as possible. This includes regular wet cleaning, wearing dust masks, and installing proper ventilation and air quality monitors.

The skills I learned in my finance and accounting course help me run my business successfully because I know how to do my taxes, calculate revenues, profits and all other monetary aspects of the business.

Five pieces of brown, grey and white ceramic pottery sit on a large white cloth draped over stairs.
Creations by Moh Alsulaiman.

How can Human Resources skills help people in a variety of career types?

Human resources is a very broad field. Every business and employee benefit from it in one way or another.

No matter where you work or what your job is, studying human resources can give you a variety of valuable skills, such as:

  • Human resources planning: assessing an organization’s current capacity of human resources and planning ahead to maintain a supply of skilled employees,
  • Training and development: implementing training programs so you can get the best performance and productivity from your workers, and
  • Recruitment and selection: understand the hiring process and how to succeed in it as a job seeker or as a business owner.

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