Tuesday 13 November 2012

Islamic mosaic

I have a very large collection of old books I found scouring the old bazaars in Karachi when I had developed a wanderlust for the city over a decade ago. At the time I had a weekly column in the national newspaper and wrote about art happenings in the city and was always looking for a fresh perspective to keep my readers interested. This was before internet was widely available and if working, was extremely slow (shudder), so I would go out and collect old books to pour through. Needless to say I discovered a hidden treasure out there.

mosaic from St Petersberg mosque

 I still rely on these books for inspiration for the Craft Company as some are art and history books with old copyrights with spectacular pictures that went out of print almost half a century or more ago. One of these books I recently looked at is titled Early Islamic Civilization and it lead me to the beginnings of Baghdad when the Abbasids founded their capital.

An artist's rendition of Baghdad around 762 AD, Abbasids

The city was built from a small, obscure fishing village to replace the capital of the Islamic empire which was previosly in Damascus, Syria. This is where it is said Islamic art and architecture took a different turn away from  a more Byzantine influence. The mosque in the center was also the Caliphs residence and is said to house some of the most spectacular mosaics.
glass mosaic bowl from Abbasid times

Here is a mosaic from Jordan which is also dated from around this time from a city Umm el-Jimal which was considered an out post of the Abbasid empire.

decoration of portal of old Mirjan Mosque
Infinite pattern and geometric pattern was a huge part of Islamic art. The infinite design is embedded in the idea of eternity. Islam also forbids the depiction of figures hence Islamic artisans and and designers moved away from Byzantine style to construction of more geometric patterns for the purpose of decoration.

A year back we made used this infinite arabesque design to create a stone border for a wooden floor on mesh which was 18 inches wide and almost a 100 ft long. Each panel was 4 ft long!

The Abbasids made Baghdad a trading post that eventually attracted people from as far as China and Norsemen or the Vikings
evidence of trade with Islamic empire by Norsemen
Infinite pattern and colors and designs of Asia can be incorporated simultaneously as well. Here is a set of nest tables with mosaic nestled in a lotus pattern (indian) and infinite (islamic) mosaic and the nest tables are based on a victorian design (the carving will be added)
lotus nest tables at The Craft Company
People around the world are very familiar with Greek and Roman mosaics which are probably more accessible and moreover in regions that encourage tourism. Of course Turkey is an excellent tourist destination for mosaic lovers who want to see an Islamic twist to the ancient art. Here is a mosaic at The Craft Company inspired my a mosaic from Topkapi.

Monday 5 November 2012

Roses, arabesque mosaics and paintings

 Roses, Arabesque Mosaics and my Paintings

My first love has always been my painting and regretfully I find less and less time to work on my paintings. Strangely, over the years I seem to want to spend more time working on each painting so that I have to force myself to stop. There has to be some end point where the painting pleases me enough for me to move on! Here is a watercolor I am currently working on. 

I am particularly fond of roses and try to put them in many things I create. These handmade marble dust wall hangers are inspired from golden Indian jewellery. I love the Tutti Frutti Cartier necklaces with the large inlaid jewels and since I love roses I inlaid these hangers with roses.

Golden inlaid wall hangers

When I started watercoloring I found all this pattern and texture in the natural movement of flowers and leaves. There is always a pattern in the way vegetation finds light and so I am always finding patterns that are based on floral design for my mosaics. This box has a top which is a floral arabesque I designed using just a few  tile colors and some silver. Again I love the idea of jewelled pendants and I always center designs around them.

Flip top mosaic box

Embroidery that has Islamic or even arabesque undertones will always stand out from  Indian designs that tend to use the curve of the mango or other more subcontinental icons. I love the influences the subcontinental embroiderer adds to the hand embroidery he fashions. I will create a design or a flat sketch, throw in the colored thread and an assortment of beads I have chosen and watch them weave their magic. My embroiderers have such well trained eyes that if something doesn't seem right they will stop and confer with me. The floral design here is being worked on for an evening bag I will sell in the Craft Company but again I love the jewelled effect and insist on adding pearls and crystal to the embroideries to give them their Eastern yet subdued elegance. 

Beaded hand embroidery

Pakistan is  rooted in the subcontinent and is influenced by Indian culture, art and of course Bollywood. At the same time it is deeply mindful of its Islamic heritage. The artisans of this land seem to mix these influences so that there is an identity in its craft that is truly original.

some bags ready to be packed for the Craft Company

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Mosaic making

I love mosaics and a large part of The Craft Company is devoted to making mosaics. I am working hard this year to come up with mosaics that have brighter colors and are applied to functional items. 

Walking around my factory this morning I took some pictures of the new frames that are going to go in the stores soon. They are waiting to be grouted all piled up and unpolished yet. I find it a real challenge to design items that can support mosaics and look good for people to buy and display in their homes.

My new hot plate mosaic design yet unpolished and grouted.

 I also make mosaic lamps and these are from the 
carpentry department all lined up ready for the mosaic to be applied on. I have chosen a colorful design like the one in my new hot plates above.

I would love to discuss mosaic making and help and share all my experience with mosaics. Please email or comment and I will be happy to write back

Thursday 25 October 2012

Bridge Morning

Every Thursday morning I play bridge and today was my turn to host. I love baking and I was just gifted a huge slab of Pecorino Romano cheese So I decided to make a zucchini, porcini mushroom, pecorino cheese and onion tart. I also made my own invented recipe of a black currant and toffee cake and a pear tart since pears are in season. The pears are supposedly from Afghanistan but I suspect the fruit walla just says that to make them sound delicious and dangerous. 

Zucchini, porcini mushrooms and pecorino tart

As far as the bridge went today was my lucky day and I won four hundred rupees at bridge or the princely sum of about five dollars!

The pear tart dusted with powdered sugar

Wednesday 24 October 2012

I live in Karachi, known to be one of the most dangerous cities in the world.  I own a design house with retail outlets in Karachi and Lahore and export my creations all over the world. But my inspiration starts here and I want to write about it.

Amidst the chaos that comes with a city of the sub continent I find inspiration for my work. I want to write about what captures my attention in Karachi or wherever I travel to in person or virtually and show you glimpses of how my world translates into the products I design and the paintings I make. I also love food, cooking, gardening, collecting antiques and of course travelling. I will start by introducing The Craft Company.

This is a mobile pouch we embroidered and beaded showing a girl on a scooter.   
 This is a sight you will never see in Karachi because social norms do not allow girls to own or use scooters or cycles. I hope more people can get used to seeing women on scooters in Karachi and not only as passengers. To read more about this sad phenomenon follow this link Motorcycle Diaries.