As a first generation Libyan-American mom, Koloud ‘Kay’ Tarapolsi wanted to teach her own children Arabic. Growing up language was a large part of her heritage. Koloud could find lots of educational products in English but not in Arabic so she decided to create the Arabic Animal Alphabet poster. In 2008, she started A Crafty Arab to make and sell handcrafted cards in Arabic, Farsi and Urdu. She wanted to start a company that would strengthen the Arab and Muslim American language by creating original educational tools. She knew there were others out there who felt the same way about passing along the beautiful arts and culture of our ancestors.
Tarapolsi was inspired by other artists who have been showcasing positive images of Islam and the Arab world through their artwork. Researching artists inspired her to start Arab Artists Resources & Training in 2001. The non-profit AART created a worldwide database for artists to network with each other.
Tarapolsi has always been in the art field and studied art history for her bachelor’s and a master’s degrees. She has certification in Museumology, has been a Docent at her local art museum for the past 15 years, managed art galleries and worked as an arts administrator. It wasn’t until after she started raising a family of three girls that she realized she wanted a career that would allow her to stay home.
Because of the easy start up process and low barriers to entry, Tarapolsi started selling products online. They can also be found in the Seattle Downtown Public Library Friendshop and in the Arab American National Museum shop, as well as a few handmade shops in Seattle. While she does have her own website (www.acraftyarab.com), she recently included her products on Zibbet.com. Zibbet is the only online craft site that acknowledges Eid as a holiday and lists it as a category along with Christmas and Hanukah. She gives back to her community by donating proceeds to various causes, including Libyan humanitarian aid to Libya and the Islamic Center of Omaha.
When Tarapolsi was Board Director for the Arab Center of Washington, she would always get requests for storytellers but never had any names to pass on. She decided to go through training to become a professional storyteller and now regularly does storytelling at schools, libraries and festivals. She has now amassed a large collection of children’s books in both Arabic and English. She’s also compiled a list of nearly 100 books on her blog written in English, which gives a positive view of the Muslim and Arab culture. She hopes to have Arabic Alphabet Animal board books for toddlers out soon to add to this list. This Arabic poster will soon have books, flashcards, toys, placemats and other fun products for moms to teach their kids the Arabic language and heritage.
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Photos by Ingrid Pape-Sheldon