‘Working with clay is adventure’: Meet Emirati in Dubai who makes intricate teapots, vases for clients across the world

As she prepares to unveil her upcoming book, Farah Ahmad promises to reveal the rich tradition of clay in the Arabian Peninsula

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By Aanya Mitra

Published: Wed 30 Aug 2023, 1:29 PM

Last updated: Wed 30 Aug 2023, 1:31 PM

An Emirati artisan is making her mark in the world of pottery. Meet Farah Ahmad, a self-taught potter who has been working with clay for more than 12 years. Farah traces her love for the ancient craft back to her childhood in Hatta where she spent her days moulding clay, emulating artisans, and adorning small creations with youthful imagination.

Now, at her cosy home studio in Dubai's Zabeel area, she hones her craft, all while sharing stories and sipping on homemade lemonade. Far from the hustle and bustle of daily life, her studio exudes a sense of serene contemplation.

Painted on the wall is what Farah calls pottery's spirit animal, the frog, symbolising the connection between frogs and clay.

"Where there are frogs, there is clay," says Farah, as she explains how the stages of clay's life parallel the growth of an amphibian.

She stresses the importance of understanding any clay's habitat as collecting it firsthand engages all your senses, unveiling its rich history. "In essence, while alumina and silica form the natural foundation of clay, its true nature emerges through the transformative power of the kiln," says Farah.

"For me, working with clay is akin to an adventure, a conversation with the material where one asks 'Hi! How are you? Who are you? I am listening."

Farah's respect for her craft mirrors her life journey. She excelled in geology during her school years, but since there was no specialised university programme for it, she pursued physical education and martial arts, eventually becoming a mentor to Emirati women, particularly those with unique physical and mental needs.

However, in 2010 Farah stumbled upon a pottery studio, and as she fondly recalls, "the rest is history."

Self-taught and patient, Farah waited almost eight years before creating an Instagram account to showcase her work. She believed that many rush into pottery without truly comprehending or respecting its nuances. According to Farah, respect for clay begins with self-respect, and pottery imparts patience and humility.

The process of clay-making is an intimately personal journey for her, as she believes that the clay you create reflects your inner self. Therefore, pottery cannot be a mere hobby; it demands commitment and dedication because, as Farah puts it, "clay doesn't wait"; instead, it teaches you the art of waiting.

Farah's dedication to her craft is evident in her daily routine. She starts her day at 4am, gradually easing into the morning, and enters the studio between 7 and 8 am. Here, she immerses herself in her craft for four uninterrupted hours, her phone switched off.

Her creations range from intricate teapots to elegant vases, attracting a diverse clientele, including Russians and Indians, as well as cafes, restaurants, and individuals seeking personalised clay pieces.

Farah considers her work a deeply personal affair, sourcing all her materials and crafting everything in her own time. This personal touch, she believes, has forged many meaningful relationships with her clients, as she sees herself more as an artist than a manufacturer. As she prepares to unveil her upcoming book, Farah promises to reveal the rich tradition of clay in the Arabian Peninsula, further cementing her status as a cherished figure in the world of Emirati pottery.


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