Design Diary

A personal review of design creations.

Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council

"Safeefah X Clay" collection by Abdalla Al Mulla & Pepa Reverter

"Safeefah X Clay" collection by Abdalla Al Mulla & Pepa Reverter

Dubai Design Week 2019 - Crafting connections and empowering women, Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council debuts its product collection.

lrthi Contemporary Crafts Council (Irthi) is an affiliate of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment and is based in the Emirate of Sharjah (United Arab Emirates) and patroned by Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of the Ruler of Sharjah. 

Irthi operates a pioneering programme of creative, cultural and commercial initiatives designed to empower women through craft.

Spanning Middle East, North Africa and South-East and Central Asia, the council’s activities centre on the preservation and promotion of indigenous craft heritage, the engagement of young generations and the development of new international market opportunities.

At Downtown Design 2019, the first two collections from Irthi’s Design Labs and Crafts Dialogue will be presented. Although based in the Emirates, both programmes are thoroughly international in outlook, and the collections will feature contributions from Pakistan, Japan, the US, the UK, Spain, Italy and Palestine, alongside regional artisans. Each collection includes 3-10 items, all made by hand by over 40 women artisans employed by Irthi’s Bidwa Social Development Programme.

Based in Dibba Al Hisn, Bidwa aims to give Emirati women practising traditional handicrafts such as Talli (hand braiding) and Safeefah (palm-frond weaving) the training and market access they need to generate a sustainable income and achieve professional and social empowerment.

Crafts Dialogue

The programme allows for a design and production dialogue between pairs of international and local designers to create collections that combine Emirati and European elements. This project is a result of a collaboration between "Creative Dialogue" agency and Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council. The Crafts Dialogue project features a series of four limited edition collections. 

Emirati Clay x Italian Murano Glass by Fatima Al Zaabi and Matteo Silverio

Using parametric design and digital fabrication tools to create moulds, while artisans directly manipulate the glass and clay in the moulds.

“Safeefah” by Ghaya bin Mesmar and Mermelada Estudio

In this chair collection, the designers envisioned a new use for Safeefah weaving, this time as furniture. Reinterpreting the traditional “Areesh” houses in the desert (palm fronds), the chairs combine both themes of privacy and protection from the image they drew inspiration from. Bidwa artisans* wove the upholstery of the chairs by combining old and new Safeefah and other weaving techniques, using a new colour range.

Emirati Talli x Spanish Leather by Sheikha bin Daher and Adrian Salvador Candela

This collection of fruit bowls is combining natural Spanish leather and subtle Talli weaves. The colours and textures of the leather, which are transformed naturally by water and sunlight, also evoke images of weathered hands weaving Talli threads in perpetual meditative movements.

Safeefah x Clay by Abdalla Al Mulla and Pepa Reverter

Incorporating traditional palm frond as decorative belts, the collection consists of clay stools and tables that function as dining furniture, and can be stacked to look like a totem pole.

Design Labs

Similar to art residencies, the Design Labs programme facilitates an exchange of crafts, design, and knowledge between international or regional designers, and Bidwa artisans and trainees under the creative direction of Irthi. Several objects are produced for each collection but due to a lack of space, I have picked up only one creation each time.

Charlotte Perriand: Inventing a New World


Free and independent, Charlotte Perriand was attentive to nature and combined design, architecture, urban planning, crafts and fine arts. The Fondation Louis Vuitton pays tribute to the prolific designer with an exceptional exhibition.

Twenty years after the death of Charlotte Perriand, the Fondation Louis Vuitton is celebrating the visionary creator with an incredible display of 200 of her works combined with 200 other works by artists and architects over 4,000sqm. This event highlights the links between her design, architecture and artworks.

La maison au bord de l’eau (1934)

La maison au bord de l’eau (1934)

For the first time since its opening in 2014, the Fondation Louis Vuitton is dedicating the entire Frank Gehry building to a single designer, Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999). From the 1920s to the beginning of the 21st century, Charlotte Perriand’s work and life reflect an extraordinary, free and independent career. While she is best known for her contributions to the field of design, Charlotte Perriand did not hesitate to cross the boundaries between artistic and intellectual disciplines. 

Dining room, 1927

Dining room, 1927

I did not know what to expect when I visited Charlotte Perriand’s apartment for the first time. I was not prepared for what I experienced first-hand: her mastery of space and composition. Everything was exquisitely composed at the human scale, immediate but not contrived. It was clear to me that she understood sculpture in the highest sense of the word, as the relationship between objects in the world. Moving through the modest space, I could feel the spaces as she had composed them.
— Frank Gehry

An independent, sporty and a well-travelled woman, Perriand was attentive to nature and to the environment. Open to cultural dialogues, she was socially, artistically and politically active on a daily basis. Using a multitude of artistic materials – from chrome tubes to a straw, raw wood, bamboo, prefabricated elements and polyester… – she combined design, architecture, urban planning, crafts and fine arts without ever neglecting the humanistic and economic aspects of her creations.

Bahut, 1977 (Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris)

Bahut, 1977 (Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris)

The exhibition presents Perriand lifetime achievements and the links she forged with the greatest artists of her time. The “art of living”, that she herself put into words and space, cannot be perceived without the apprehension of the works that accompanied her gaze.

Chronologically laid out and spread across four levels, the proposed route combines her work with that of her close friends, going as far as to immerse the spectator into historical reconstructions: the apartment-cum-studio on Place Saint-Sulpice (1927), the Salon d’Automne (1929, pictures above), the Maison du Jeune Homme (1935), the Maison au bord de l’eau (1934), the Refuge Tonneau (1938) and the Maison de thé for UNESCO (1993).

Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, Djo Bourgeois, Jean Fouquet with Percy Sholefield in background in her apartment in Saint-Sulpice, Paris, 1928.

Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, Djo Bourgeois, Jean Fouquet with Percy Sholefield in background in her apartment in Saint-Sulpice, Paris, 1928.

Between 1927 and 1929, Charlotte Perriand reinvents housing (Gallery 1), notably by collaborating with Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret. The 1930s are the scene of her political, social and artistic engagement, often alongside Fernand Léger. It is also with the latter that, aware of the limits of progress and technology, she imagines a “raw art” inspired by Nature (Gallery 2).

“What do we want to be? How do we want to live? It is not new technologies which are at stake but rather the way men use it.”  - Charlotte Perriand

Charlotte Perriand in Japan, 1954

Charlotte Perriand in Japan, 1954

Her crucial stay in Japan (Gallery 4) from 1940 to 1941 reinforces her understanding of the links between creation and tradition and it initiated one of the central contributions of her work, the dialogue among cultures.

Returning to France, she actively participates in the Reconstruction (gallery 4). She co-founds the movement “useful forms”, which would play an essential role in the emergence of Design during the Glorious Thirties.

In Tokyo in 1955, she proposed a Synthesis of the Arts” (Gallery 5) and presented, alongside her own works, those of Le Corbusier and Fernard Léger. In Paris, Galerie Steph Simon (Gallery 6) showcases her pieces of furniture and her “art of living”. Her stay in Rio at the beginning of the 1960s (gallery 7) allowed her to further enrich her imagination.

In Gallery 9, Charlotte Perriand’s works communicates with those of Robert Delaunay, Simon Hantaï, Alexander Calder, Pablo Picasso, Henri Laurens and Fernand Léger in places thought of by her to Understand and exhibit Art.

Her love of the Mountains (Galleries 8 and 10) is also reflected in several of her creations, from the ‘Refuge Tonneau’ to the ski resort of Les Arcs in Savoie. Finally, it is the intimate relationship that she established with Japan that concludes this itinerary: the Maison de Thé (1993), created for UNESCO, is rebuilt in Gallery 11, echoing the architecture of Frank Gehry.

The exhibition runs until February 24th, 2020 at Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris.

It includes 7 reconstructions, 2 artistic arrangements, 1 kinetic wall, 3 video installations, 50 pieces of furniture, 15 scale models, 35 publications, 90 photographs, 35 accessories, 35 plans and sketches.

Charlotte Perriand on her chaise longue basculante, b306 (1928-1929)

Charlotte Perriand on her chaise longue basculante, b306 (1928-1929)

Curators: Jacques Barsac, Sébastien Cherruet (architecture historian), Gladys Fabre (art historian and author), Sébastien Gokalp (Director of the Musée de l’Immigration) et Pernette Perriand-Barsac assisted by Roger Herrera (Fondation Louis Vuitton). Scientific advisor for reconstructions Arthur Rüegg (author and previous professor of Architecture and Construction at the ETH Zurich).

The Xing Kiln Museum


In the Northen Chinese county of Neiqiu, the Xing Kiln Museum pays tribute to an ancestral craft developed as refined art: white porcelain.

The white wares launched the country’s reputation as a center of porcelain. As hard, dense, and durable as their southern green counterparts, but more immediately appealing due to their sparkling, glossy, clean-looking material, white wares became the envy and aspiration of potters worldwide. Porcelain clays are naturally available in north China, and some rare examples of white wares—made of a pure, white clay, unglazed, but fired at temperatures just high enough to qualify as stonewares—have been discovered at sites of the late Shang dynasty (circa 1600–circa 1050 BCE) at Anyang in Henan province. 


Old site.jpg

In 2012, the local government acknowledged this prestigious legacy by opening the Xing Kiln Ruins and decided to build a museum. 


YCA was commissioned to work on the project and their first mission was to separate the site from a busy environment. 


The top of the building acts like an open gallery that surrounds a pool elevated from the ground. Seven pieces of rustic porcelain are floating above the water; below the pool is a continuous space containing the entrance and main exhibition hall; symmetrical but plausible wide steps connect the ring gallery, pool and square on the north side.

The seven bowl-shaped structures offer a picturesque feature in the summer with the ripples of light reflected from the clear water at the bottom of the curved outer wall but also  in the winter when the scenery is turning white of frost.

Porcelain showrooms and corresponding ancillary facilities vary in size. In order to bring them together as a whole, circle-packing algorithm is used in the design as geometric control diagrams.


Xing Porcelain originated in Sui dynasty, and flourished in Tang dynasty. The Great Tang Empire’s vigour and the simplicity of the square and the circle must be related somehow. How to use square and circle in contemporary times? This is our thinking and answer.


Photographs by He Chen

Révélations 2019: The World of Fine Craft in Paris

Somdulyawat CHALERMKIAT_hero.jpg

Révélations is set to open from May 23rd until 26th at the Grand Palais in Paris. 450 artists from 30 countries will be showcased with new sections and Luxembourg as Guest of Honour.

The fourth edition of the international fine crafts and contemporary creation biennial Révélations is returning to Paris, hosting over 40,000 visitors with an even greater focus on showcasing its international dimension and cultural programme both inside the venue and out, Révélations 2019 is pushing its boundaries and aspirations a little further afield.

Nathalie Massenet Dollfus: 2 Butterflies, handblown glass © Nathalie Massenet Dollfus

Nathalie Massenet Dollfus: 2 Butterflies, handblown glass © Nathalie Massenet Dollfus

Révélations has been run by Ateliers d’Art de France since its inception in 2013, and is attended by an illustrious steadily-growing audience. The scenography by Adrien Gardère offers an equal staging to the 450 creators, removing any hierarchy or gimmicks allowing these exceptional works forge a strong connection between creator and visitor.

L. Andrighetto & J-C MIOT - BUOYS (glass & hemp)

L. Andrighetto & J-C MIOT - BUOYS (glass & hemp)

The Biennal welcomes 33 countries represented, doubling the total of the previous edition. Following on from Chile, Luxembourg is this year’s featured country: a combination of tradition and innovation, the Grand Duchy is home to a myriad of crafts and will be showcasing them in all their glory. The selection of 15 artists has been curated by Jean-Marc Dimanche and the staging is made by Gilles Gardula under the patronage of Their Royal Highnesses Prince Guillaume, the crown Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Princess Stéphanie, the crown Grand Duchess of Luxembourg.

The artists are Ellen van der Woude (ceramic), Camille Jacobs (master stained glass), Jeitz & Calliste, Sarah Meyers & Laura Fügmann (textile and ceramic), Pascale Seil (master glass-blower), Doris Becker (ceramic), Marie-Isabelle Callier (encaustic painter), Tom Flick (sculpture), Sandy Kahlich (milliner), Ezri Kahn (artisan couturier), Carine Mertes (felt designer), Claude Schmitz (jewellery), Léa Schroeder and Marianne Steinmetzer (ceramic), and Kim-Jung Vu (jewellery).

Artists below are Wouter van der Vlugt & Roxanne Flick + Michael Nätscher.

As for the backbone of the event, the ‘Le Banquet' international exhibition will continue its world tour, inviting nine other countries (Thailand, Romania, India, Iran, Cameroon, South Africa, Spain, Chile, Luxembourg,  to stand alongside France and the featured country. In doing so, the biennial puts its international dimension firmly in the spotlight, supported even further by the number of European and international visitors in attendance. Here are some creations from:

South Africa: Artists featured below: Marisa Fick Jordan (Ukhamba Zulu basket; 2018; Telephone wire) & Chuma Maweni (Painted Ceramic; 2018)

Cameroon: Artists featured below: Beya Gille Gacha (Orant; 2017; pearls embellisched sculpture) & Edith Tialeu (Nubie: 2018; Ceramic)

Iran: Artists featured below: Kourosh Arish (Threshold; 2018; Ceramic, earthenware, alkaline glaze, hand painting) & Behzad Ajdari (Passing; 2018; Ceramic & metal)

India: Artists featured below: Om Prakash Galav (Kagzi pottery; 2018) & Prithviraj Singh Deo (Kangan; 2013; Ceramic)

Finally, the Norwegian designer, Hanne Friis created a piece that embodies the identity of Révélations 2019. ‘Nuances in Blue and Black’ (pictures courtesy of Oystein Thorvaldsen) is a huge sculpture made from blue and black jeans, and is the result of tremendous sewing effort transforming loose fabrics into a compact mass.

Hero picture: Somdulyawat Chalermkiat (Thailand) Bua; 2016; Metal flower pot