Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council’s approach to contemporary crafts was translated into its pavilion‘s design for the London Design Fair, incorporating elements and material from the United Arab Emirates’ natural landscape.
The pavilion uses wood and stretched camel leather to create a unique organic set-up for the exhibited handcrafted products, of which some incorporate the same leather. The camel leather used is sustainablilty sourced, and is a by-product of the camel meat industry. It is chromium and metal-free, and biodegrades in four months.
The pavilion puts the crafts of Irthi’s Bidwa Social Development Centre artisans* at its heart, and takes the visitors through a journey, starting with the raw material, through to the design and crafting process, and to the final handcrafted product, alluding to the rich handicraft heritage of Sharjah and the United Arab Emirates.
The products on display are the culmination of two of the Councils projects- Crafts Dialogue and Design Labs. Woven textiles combining camel leather with khose (palm fronds) will also be on display throughout the exhibition.
Three collections on display at the London Design Fair utilise camel leather. For the “Safeefah x Sand Casting Design Lab”, Irthi collaborated with Sharjah-based “Architecture and Other Things” design studio to produce sand-casted furniture. Bidwa’s artisans elevated the production of safeefah by using camel leather to weave the stool’s seats, while the Bidwa trainees, who are part of Irthi’s Design Labs, learned the craft of sand-casting from the studio, and used Emirati sand, clay, soil, and concrete to create the structure of the stools.
For the “Embroidery x Camel Leather Design Lab” Irthi collaborated with Khuloud Al Thani’s Atelier to produce camel leather embroidered screens; transforming haute couture embroidery techniques into interior design applications.
For the “Safeefah x Camel Leather Bag Design Lab” Irthi collaborated with the Smithsonian Museum acquired artist and Loewe craft prize commissioned artist, Jennifer Zurick, to use safeefah weaving techniques to braid camel leather strands, which were incorporated in a unique collection of sculptural hand bags.
*Bidwa Social Development Centre: Irthi’s Bidwa Social Development Centre employs more than 40 artisans in Dibba Al Hisn, UAE, and provides them with vocational training and helps them find new markets for their skills through commercial collaborations and regional artisan exchange programmes.
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