DUBAI: The Syrian designer discusses the chair she showcased at Downtown Design in Dubai this month.
Design wasn’t really a part of my childhood or education, but I always loved our house and I was constantly moving things around inside it.
I left Damascus for Beirut during the war and lived there for five years. I was studying interior design at the American University of Beirut, and on one of the courses we were doing free-hand sketches.
I sketched a chair and my teacher told me, “You should become a furniture designer.” I came back to Damascus and now I’m doing furniture design with a modern twist. I’m inspired by Damascene traditional handcrafts and some unique materials, like mother of pearl.
“Calligraphy Chair” is a collaboration with a Syrian calligrapher called Hazem Kurd Ali. I met him by chance and loved his way of writing. We’re using Arabic calligraphy because it’s our tradition, our language. The Arabic language is very rich and very powerful. The way it’s written has a beauty to it.
We used a verse from the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, who is a symbol of Syria and means a lot to us, especially to women, because he spoke of their beauty in the most profound way. It reads, in Arabic, “Letters die after they’re said.” Its notion of silence meant a lot to me, because, as women in an eastern society, you can’t always express yourself.
We used three materials to make this chair: Steel, walnut wood and rattan. Rattan is a traditional material that they used to make old chairs, but it’s become trendy again.
The chair was designed and made in Damascus. Behind every piece, there is a long story. What was difficult was that I had to be present every step of the way — from the carpenter to the carver.
We live in complicated circumstances and people are somewhat in despair, saying, “I can’t do this because I don’t have electricity.” Or, “It just won’t work.” During these tough times of sanctions and the country being closed off, the process was actually not easy at all, but we made it.