Article in brief: Enrolling in a design workshop in Kuwait City revealed to the author the importance of having collaborative and creative studio environments in the UAE.
During the days that formed the middle of November 2014, I made my way to Kuwait City to partake in a furniture design workshop led by the renowned furniture designer Younes Duret, which I enrolled in as part of Nuqat, an annual creative conference. Nuqat is split into a series of lectures and workshops that encompass design, advertising, architecture, fashion, production, etc.
The theme of the workshop was to defy the existing function of an IKEA product; each participant was free to choose only one object from a given selection of items, and was assigned to inject cultural relevancy into an otherwise internationally applicable piece.
As each participant scrambled to find a moment in time that is culturally representative of them and of the design they wanted to achieve, stories and ideas began to weave through the group of twenty-five participants, until we were all entangled in a collaborative brainstorming web.
Spread out in the workshop area and crouched on the ground, each participant armed themselves with materials and plans and started to create their products. A lot of things were to be taken into consideration; after all, the design already had a prerequisite in the form of another product. With that being one of the restrictions, each of us studied the properties of our chosen items and made hasty decisions on how to work with what was given.
In the midst of this prototyping storm a lot of decisions were made and unmade, and failure was constantly competing with success. A messy yet beautiful attempt to marry form with function began to transpire. Although it was not a group project, an inherent interest in bouncing ideas back and forth constructed an air of collaboration amongst everyone. It was impossible to get around without inhaling it in.
The time to lay out the outcome of what we all have created rolled around four days into the workshop. Groups gathered and dispersed around every product that was out for display, most listening intently to the verbal presentation given to explain the idea and process leading up to the final piece. It was interesting to see how people who came from different professional backgrounds tackled the theme at hand.
My experience in the workshop has revealed that the ability to design and make products manually is very easy and accessible; all what was needed was to cultivate the culture of designing and making. With the heavy importation of just about everything consumers would need in the UAE, it is easy to lose the need for designed solutions to the problems that might be relevant in the Emirati culture.
I have often been faced with questions of where to buy certain products that would serve simple functions, and my first instinct is to always answer with “why don’t you just make it?” But to my dismay, people decline my suggestion simply because they are illiterate in basic manual production and it would be easier to simply buy it instead.
Studio environments where people gather to make and collaborate is what we are in dire need of in the UAE. If a bunch of people were able to fashion incredible design solutions in a matter of four days, imagine what an entire nation would be able to do given that opportunity.
Moza Almatrooshi is an Emarati artist and designer. After attaining a BA from Zayed University Dubai in Interior Design in June 2013, Moza began her journey in trying to find a place in the creative industry in the UAE, starting with catching a plane to Italy to intern in the UAE Pavilion in the Venice Art Biennale 2013. Since then Moza has dabbled in several experiences such as architecture, design, event planning, art exhibitions, and writing for independent publications. Moza continues to journey through life, art, and design.
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