The right angles

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The right angles
Aljoud Lootah's new Double Square collection will show at the Amman Design Week in September this year

Aljoud Lootah Design Studio is creating a new language for Islamic arts and design by being inspired by this region's rich heritage

By Sujata Assomull

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Published: Fri 27 May 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 27 May 2016, 2:00 AM

 Islamic art techniques are admired through-out the world for their delicate, decadent yet definitive take on design, and the non-figural ornamentation in classic Islamic Art that stems from roots like calligraphy, vegetal patterns and geometry.
A constant source of reference for this region's contemporary creative community, the science behind these geometrical patterns is so exacting, it makes design intervention in this pattern a very challenging experience for many young designers. Though, not for Aljoud Lootah, who is known for taking geometry, infusing it with a modern feel, and then forging it with other cultural inspirations. It's for this reason she is also admired amongst Emirati designers, and her work is now a part of the permanent collection at The National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. Her collections have been shown at Design Weeks in London, Milan and Beijing and will also be a part of Amman's first design week in September.
Lootah first started as a graphic designer and says her move to art and design was a natural progression. "Having studied graphic design in uni-versity and worked as a graphic designer for a few years, product design intrigued me," says Lootah.
"Sketching and designing is one aspect, but working with materials, craftsmen and testing limitations explores various other aspects, and that really captured my attention. In 2014, I rebranded my studio to Aljoud Lootah Design Studio and focused my energy on product design.
"In a few years, Lootah has managed to put her design studio on the international map, though she describes The Aljoud Lootah Studio as "small and cosy." Based at Dubai Design District, she is looking forward to Dubai Design Week in Octo-ber, where she hopes to have a site-based instal-lation as she did last year at the inaugural Dubai Design Week. Lootah is now considered a champion of "Made in Dubai" craftsmanship. "The elements of the Emirati culture and heritage are very rich. We have a wide range of crafts that are very intricate, but unfortunately, only used in a traditional manner and this doesn't necessarily appeal to the modern lifestyle. I look at the traditional crafts with fresh eyes and challenge myself to incorporate their intricate details and the great manufacturing tech-niques in a modern way. I believe that by doing that, I am restoring the appreciation of craftsmanship. Through the use of artisans and traditional crafts, designers are communicating a story, preserving culture and increasing the awareness of the past."
Lootah's work first caught the eyes of collectors in 2103, when she took part in Dubai Design Days as part of the Dubai Culture x Tashkeel Designer Programme. "I showcased the first Unfolding Uni-ty Stool made of wood. I then returned to the fair in 2015, after I took almost a year to refocus on the brand and develop a full collection - the Oru Series." And it was a piece from this series that caught the eye of one of Australia's most impor-tant museums.
Oru is the Japanese word for fold, and it married the Emirati tradition of geometry with Japanese origami. It all started when Lootah was brain-storming and playing with a yellow post-it; fold-ing it over and over, creating angular shapes. And thus, the limited-edition range Oru was born, con-sisting of four pieces: a chair, table lamp, mirror and a cabinet/shelving unit. The materials used include teak word, bronze and felt.Lootah's love of geometry continued in the col-lection she unveiled at this year's edition of Dubai Design Days. Called Double Square, it was made of Carrara marble - a very fragile, yet fine stone.
"The Double Square collection takes inspiration from Arabesque patterns and motifs. It depicts a recurring Arabesque 8-pointed star motif when viewed from the top. The motif, which consists of two squares, one rotated 45 degrees with re-spect to the other, is the starting point of a variety of Arabesque patterns, and through it, different combinations can be generated."
This collection will now show at the inaugural edition of Amman Design Week during the first week of September this year.
Another thing on Lootah's wish list is to see her work in more international museums. But her ultimate dream remains to be a part of London's Victoria and Albert Museum.
"I believe having products that work well with the local target mar-ket and the international target market is key," says Lootah.
She also believes that this a good time for design in the region. "The designers existed, but the audience needed some time to understand and grasp the idea of product designers. It is a great moment to see people follow their passion and be able to make a living out of it." Right now, the only missing element in the UAE is a design school, where the curriculum should include a programme with a focus on products, she adds. If and when such a school opens its doors, Lootah would probably the designer that local students would consider their benchmark.

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