Images from the Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council virtual gallery at Al Hamriyah Studios.
Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council (Irthi), an affiliate of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, has announced the launch of an immersive and realistic virtual gallery featuring an exhibition of its 2019 product line comprising 78 exclusive handmade luxury products including sculptural totem-like chair stacks and landscape-inspired hand-blown glass vessels. The virtual tour, which takes place at Al Hamriyah Studios, Sharjah Art Foundation and available on www.irthi.com, allows viewers to explore products that are part of 12 collections in jewellery, furniture, home décor, perfume bottles, incense burners and more. These have been handcrafted by artisans and trainees from Irthi’s Bidwa Social Development Programme, in collaboration with designers, artists and makers from the UAE, Pakistan, Japan, the US, the UK, Spain, Italy and Palestine.
The products featured in the virtual gallery are the result of its two pioneering projects: Design Labs and Crafts Dialogue, both of which are founded on the creative potential of collaboration and are thoroughly international in outlook. Announcing the launch of the virtual gallery, Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA, said: “The virtual gallery experience was conceived as part of the forward-looking strategy of the Council to address the global challenges currently facing the creative industry, and to reiterate its support for the artisan community in the UAE by continuing to showcase and exhibit their work to global audiences.” She added: “Designed to mirror a walk-in experience, visitors now have greater access to view Irthi’s range of products in a real gallery setting. This exclusive product line, handmade by Emirati women artisans and trainees with international designers and makers, is a testament to Sharjah’s reputation as an international hub for creatives. The virtual gallery will serve as a platform for Irthi’s craftswomen to access new global markets, enabling them to continue to achieve social and professional empowerment, as we look forward to the reopening of international markets soon.” Combining avant-garde and readapted historic architectural elements, the spatial experience at Al Hamriyah Studios provides a fitting space to host this limited-edition series.
The four Crafts Dialogue collections available on the virtual gallery are the result of a collaboration between Irthi and Barcelona-based creative agency, Creative Dialogue. These include Emirati Clay x Italian Murano Glass, an experimental exploration combining the inherently fragile Murano glass with the sturdier and more hardwearing Emirati clay; Safeefah, a collection of chairs inspired by the image of desert homes; Safeefah x Clay, sculptured stools and tables that push clay design to its limit; and Emirati Talli x Spanish leather, featuring curvilinear fruit bowls that embrace the natural, mouldable qualities of leather and the subtle expressiveness of the Emirati tradition of Talli weaving.
Products created through the Design Labs project include Safeefah x Japanese Grass representing the fusion of two traditional crafts: Emirati Safeefah and Japanese grass weaving; Safeefah x Camel Leather Bags, a collection of sculptural handbags using Safeefah weaving techniques; Oud x Palestinian Glass Blowing, featuring contemporary non-traditional glass perfume and oud oil bottles inspired by the natural Palestinian and Emirati landscapes; and embroidered camel leather screens that are based on Emirati folktales in the in Embroidery x Camel leather collection.
The jewellery collections produced by Design Labs include the Talli x Misbah collection that presents prayer beads as both pieces of jewellery and sculptural designs for the home; and Safeefah x Gold Casting which uses Safeefah techniques and gold casting to cast necklaces, rings, earrings and wearable perfume bottles.
Midkhans or incense burners found in every Emirati home has been given a modern update in metal in the Oud x Metal collection, while different combinations of water, sand, concrete, clay and soil were used to produce unique sand-casted furniture in the collection titled Safeefah x Sand Casting.
The entire 2019 product line-up of the Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council can be viewed through the virtual gallery or the product catalogue available at www.irthi.com.
Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council is committed to the socioeconomic empowerment of women in crafts through the development of sustainable, woman-valued crafts communities across the Middle East, North Africa, South East and Central Asia. Based in the Emirate of Sharjah, UAE, Irthi offers a pioneering platform for creative and commercial partnerships between women artisans, designers, artists and contemporary labels from around the world.
The Council’s efforts have paved the way for unique cross-cultural design collaborations and projects, stimulating innovation and creating new market opportunities for women. Irthi also seeks to preserve and promote Emirati craft heritage through engaging young generations and practitioners with their crafts legacy. Irthi is an affiliate of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA) and operates under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of NAMA.
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