Emirati Women Create Unique Hand-crafted Collections through Irthi’s ‘Design Labs’

Emirati women trained by international designers and ateliers to create collaborative handmade products.
Bidwa trainees and artisans during the Design Labs.

September 11th, 2019, Sharjah (UAE):Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council (Irthi), an affiliate of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, brought together young Emirati women to train with international designers to create handmade products that merge local and international crafts.

The women, aged 18-35, were trained in eight different crafts and techniques through the ‘Design Labs’, a project launched by Irthi. Design Labs organised intensive craft courses and soft skills training to enhance their artisanal capabilities.

Similar to art residencies, the Design Labs allow for an exchange of crafts, design and knowledge between local artisans, and internationally renowned designers hosted by Irthi, through its Bidwa Social Development Programme Centre in Dibba Al Hisn – Sharjah.

The project aims to offer young Emirati women who were recruited as trainees for the Design Labs project, the training and support to develop their potential and expertise in various crafts, which also results in creating a sustainable future for traditional handcrafts.

Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA, said: “The Design Labs project reflects our dedication at Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council to expand the scope of our crafts, while contributing to the sustainability of this vital sector and empowering the women working in it. The project engages young women trainees from the city of Dibba Al Hisn in Sharjah and the surrounding areas, who otherwise would not have the opportunity to develop their skills in the crafts.”

Reem BinKaram: Design Labs contribute to the sustainability of the crafts sector and empowerment of women

She added: “We are immensely proud to see these collections coming together to create an entirely new perspective on traditional and handmade crafts, elevating these crafts in both local and international markets where their true value will be recognised.”

“Our ultimate mission is to empower women in the crafts sector, and our innovative approach plays a critical role in fostering Sharjah’s position as a regional and international hub for craftspeople, artisans and designers around the world, offering them a platform to really take their craft and practice, to another level,” BinKaram reiterated.

The Design Labs explored eight product themes through different collaborations, incorporating Emirati crafts such as Talli and Safeefah with international crafts, and modern techniques to make sand-cast and gold-cast products, misbahs (prayer beads), woven leather bags, glass-blown perfume bottles, oud midkhans (incense burners) and other handmade products.

The lab themes included ‘Talli and Misbah’ in cooperation with Pakistani design studio ‘LEL’; ‘Safeefah and Japanese Grass’ in collaboration with UK-based artists Kazuhito Takadoi and Patricia Swannell; ‘Oud and Palestinian Glass Blowing’ in collaboration with Palestinian designer Dima Srouji; and ‘Oud and Metalworks’ in cooperation with UK-based artist Adi Toch.

About Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council

 The Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council aims to empower women socially and economically through the revival and modernization of traditional crafts, in addition to creating a sustainable future for these crafts and the artisans practicing them, through international partnerships and commercial collaborations.

The Council provides a fresh narrative for women artisans across the Middle East, North Africa, South East and Central Asia regions by developing their technical and vocational skills through social development and regional skills exchange programmes.

The Council also seeks to preserve traditional Emirati crafts, and develop the next generation of artisans and designers by engaging the youth and providing them with training and mentorship.

The Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council is one of three affiliates of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment.

For more information, visit www.irthi.com

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