Can clay be healing? Explore the therapeutic benefits of art through this Dubai studio

Emirati entrepreneur Noura Al Dhaheri on her new venture and how it has become a safe haven for those seeking art therapy

By Areeba Hashmi

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Published: Fri 5 Jan 2024, 6:36 PM

Stepping inside Studio Clay is like entering a world where time slows down, and the rhythmic hum of the pottery wheel becomes a melody of creation. With a keen understanding of the transformative power of art, Noura Al Dhaheri, an Emirati artist, has created a community where people can disconnect from the outside world and immerse themselves in the meditative process of working with clay. Noura's studio has become a refuge for those seeking art as therapy, especially during the tumultuous times brought by the pandemic.

Born into a culture where traditional career paths often take precedence, Noura's journey began with a divergence from expectations. Educated at a prestigious British school in Dubai, she was fortunate to have a remarkable arts department that nurtured her budding talent. Despite her artistic talents, her parents envisioned a future in business for her. However, a dedicated art teacher recognised her inner calling and encouraged her parents to let Noura pursue her passion.

Noura's academic journey led her to study fine arts and painting for her bachelor's degree, followed by a master's in art business. This combination of artistic skill and business set the stage for her unique trajectory in the art world. Yet, societal expectations and the cultural unfamiliarity with the arts posed challenges. Noura's decision to study abroad initially raised eyebrows. It was only with the emergence of cultural landmarks like the Louvre in Abu Dhabi that her family began to see the potential in her artistic pursuits.

Upon returning home, Noura faced the harsh reality of a limited art industry job market, compounded by the challenges of the pandemic. Undeterred, she turned to her roots, setting up her home studio to reconnect with clay, a medium she had explored during her university days. With determination and a commitment to her craft, she transformed her home studio into a creative sanctuary.

Studio Clay evolved from a one-woman experiment to a thriving community. Noura, reflecting on the early challenges, noted, "It took me three months and a lot of failure, a lot of wasted clay to just learn how to centre the clay on the wheel." Undeterred, she envisioned Studio Clay as more than just a studio; it was a space for self-discovery, a haven for artists. A space where individuals could not only learn pottery but also find solace, unleash their creativity, and connect with their inner selves.

“In our religion, we believe we are made of clay. So I used a lot of symbolism, and even the sink is designed to look like a holy ritual. As you're washing clay from your hands, it's like you're connecting with yourself. You'll see a lot of arches in the studio. Islamic arches. Arches basically mean entering a new chapter and renewal. So as people are walking in and out of the arches, they do in general feel like they released stress or left an old part of themselves, or they found something new.” Noura collaborated with a friend of hers who is an interior designer and they built the studio together which saved Noura a lot of excess costs.

Venturing into new dimensions, Noura explored painting on ceramics. "I'm already good with my hands. I studied cooking. Skills are transferable," she said. This added layer infused life and energy into each creation, turning Studio Clay into a space where art and life converged.

At its core the process of working with clay is transformative. “It's not just about the end product; it's about the journey of creation. Through ceramics, people discover a new aspect of themselves, and that's what Studio Clay aims to nurture."

For Noura clay is not merely a medium of art, it is something that’s alive. “I do believe clay is something that's alive and has its own energy. It absorbs negative energy and you can put your positive energy in it and it teaches you patience. It's just a very beautiful material.”

Every workshop at the studio invites and encourages guests to experiment and play around with clay. There’s no limit to what they can create, and the kiln is always filled with the most innovative pieces that are birthed by the inclusive environment at the studio.

Noura Al Dhaheri’s clay studio is not just a haven for artistic expression; it is a living testament to the power of one woman's vision to reshape the narrative and redefine what is possible. In the quiet corners of her studio, the echoes of Emirati tradition resonate, and the wheels of creativity continue to turn, shaping dreams into tangible works of art.

wknd@khaleejtimes.com


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