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