Monday, August 10, 2015

Step by step to new Collaborations and Community

I am excited that over the last month and into the next ones, I will be a part of a collaboration of individuals working to bring a new exhibition and project to Kuwait. One of the most exciting parts of travel is when you meet people along the way (I call them pieces of a puzzle) who end up fitting perfectly together.

The Beit Al Sadu is such a treasure in the middle of Kuwait City. It is composed of an extraordinary group of mostly women, who are actively and passionately working to preserve the tradition and future of Sadu weaving. Led by Sheikha Altaf Salem Al-Ali Al-Sabah, a leading scholar on Sadu, this organization continues to think of how to reach more people, get them excited about the tradition of handwoven Sadu, and provide opportunities for the weavers who have been a part of generations artisans who are uniquely skilled to carry on this tradition.

As a part of an outreach opportunity, I am able to continue my relationship with Al Sadu through the Fulbright Specialist program. Again, I will be partnering with Beit Al Sadu on a unique project that marries my interactive textile work with a focus on bringing a new perspective on sadu weaving to the regional community. Through a design partnership with eWOODworking, I will be collaborating with Emad and Shelby Allahoe to develop components for an interactive exhibition based around the woven sadu story.

Emad and Shelby are amazing to work with and have been gracious with their time and skills. We have been able to work across oceans thanks to WhatsApp and Skype. I could not imagine tackling a partnership like this without them. It is wonderful to see such unique skills sets come together to solve problems in order to design and develop something that neither of us had imagined before.

Without giving too much away, this blog will serve to highlight the progress we are making. I hope you enjoy!

 (Always wear gloves, your fingertips will thank you)
In progress images from my studio in Texas and Emad's in Oregon and Kuwait. More the come!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Worth a read

Advanced Weaving class, Fibers Program, College of Visual
Arts and Design, UNT
So after coming back from Kuwait, I found that I thought I knew more about sadu textiles than I actually did. I thought that I was absorbing so much, but when it came down to it, more slide through the cracks in my brain than actually stuck. This was very apparent when I brought some sadu examples to my textile class at UNT. I did not think to refresh on sadu weaving and design terms and realized right then, that I need to dig in some more.


I was given two excellent books while in Kuwait, the first is called Al Sadu: the techniques of Bedouin weaving by Anne-Rhona Crichton (weaving consultant at Sadu House 1983-1988). In it, is an exceptional breakdown of the techniques of creating these warp faced weavings. Crichton takes the main design components of the sadu and visually diagrams each part of how it is made. She makes sure we understand the terms used for each of these design elements and gives drawings for everything!This is a great resource book not only for sadu weaving, but for learning how to create designs on any horizontal or vertical loom.

The second book I was given is written by Sheikha Altaf Salem Al-Ali Al-Sabah, the founder and patron of the Al Sadu Society. Ibjad: Ornate tent dividers and weavings of the Kuwait desert is an in depth look that looks at how sadu was used and its relationship to culture, community, and individuality. "Behind every woven piece and textile is a weaver and a story." There are exquisite images of the sadu weavings, a look into the symbolism and descriptive information on the tent dividers. What I really like about this book is that it presents sadu with a reverence - showing the value is this cloth and the importance it holds within Bedouin culture and beyond.

More to come! But until then, I will be brushing up on my terminology!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Some worthwhile videos

Sometimes photos are not enough. Here are a few videos I shot that I thought worthwhile to post.
Hope you get a better sense of Kuwait through them!
An event with the great Kuwaiti organization Spread the Passion at the Modern Art Museum, great band!
The leading of the prize winning sheep - did I mentioned that one of these could buy you a Ferrari! Seriously!
A traditional sword dance at the Heritage Village -
Fabulous work by the Kuwaiti artist Bader Al Mansour - such a creative and prolific artist!
Yet another by Al Mansour. I wish you could hear the music.
A bit of the Arabian Gulf for you all - quite beautiful to see.
A little of my drive every morning through Kuwait - along the Gulf Road
Dar Al  Athar Al Islamiyah (Amricani) Museum - excellent show of Islamic arts from millennia ago - with the added bonus of a music group practicing in the background!
Right outside of the Beit Al Sadu - misting that night with the call to prayer cutting through

Monday, January 19, 2015

Just a few more photos of the intriguing Kuwait!

Outside the Marina Mall

Love the tissue box with SADU!

Add caption

Samir Al Sayegh at Dar Al Funoon Gallery

Just outside the Museum of Modern Art

Luxurious desserts at the Lecture

hummus Carnival anyone?

Figuring out the set of three coffee pots that are now home with me

Gold gold everywhere!

Great food all the time!

Bader art at Becarrels Gallery - will post video soon!

Tea is served!

Sharq Mall

McDonald's delivery scooter!

The Avenues Mall - CRAZY!

It just so happened......

"It just so happened" seemed to happen a lot on this trip. It seemed that things fell into place as needed, unexpected surprises continued to surface, and so many wonderful parts of Kuwait life and culture continue to open to me.

So here is one blog with my favorite "it just so happen-ings!"

It just so happened that one day during the workshop, a woman came to Beit Al Sadu with a treasure load of sadu from her family. So imagine walking out and seeing the most beautiful, large pieces of sadu on the ground just inside the doorway . The two pieces flanking the long side are woven using a pile technique, the details are beautiful!!!
Apparently this is a common occurrence at Beit Al Sadu - once again, how different it is to live in a culture where textile traditions are so close and available.

It just so happened that on Thursday night, Patricia and I were at the Mubarakiya Souk and an amazing group of musicians were set to play traditional music. I think this was part of the Qurain Festival. I enjoyed watching the older man, he showed such joy in his movements! Apparently the idea is that you dance over to someone and egg them on to get them up to dance with you. So much fun to watch!
It just so happens that there is a stairway leading to a treasure room. Really, look at it, only something good can be at the top of a stairway like this. So I was able to visit the store room for the Sadu House. Layers of rich color, intricate patterning, and folds of cloth were packed into this room. We had time for only a quick glance around but can't wait for an opportunity in the future to revisit and spend some time searching through and learning more from these textiles! So many techniques, details, and life were in each. Just wow!

It just so happened that I had the chance to experience a shop like Patricia was talking about - where you go in and sit down, and stay longer than you need "to grab a few things." I was picking out two traditional drums for Donnie, called Ta and Mweras. Patricia and I were warmly welcomed by the older gentleman you see to my left and his younger friend. They answered all of my questions regarding the instruments, how you play them, and where they were made. So as I was picking out the drums, they continued to hand me things/gifts to take home,  flute instruments,  tapes of Yacoub (the older gentleman) playing in his musical group,  small toy drums, a set of hand cymbals, I think that may have been all that was added to my bag. But what was most interesting was being able to talk with the friend (via his daughter who he called on the phone to act as translator) about Yacoub and this traditional music. The friend sent out for several waters for us to have then we sat down and began to listen to a tape of Yacoub playing the haban (a type of bagpipe-ish instrument if the details are right). The daughter described this as  very old and rare music to hear. So this was an very unexpected addition to this already unique shop visit. We had permission to take a video (which Patricia will be sending to the friend) so I hope you enjoy a piece of this as well! Before we left, Yacoub handed me his worry beads, a very kind gesture. I brought them home and now Liam asks if he can take them to his bed at night, in case he has dreams and worries;)

It just so happened that my final day in Kuwait fell on the beginning of Hala February - a time to celebrate in Kuwait. My hotel happened to be at the perfect spot to watch the Kuwaiti Airforce do fly-bys in a 30 minute airshow!
What a send off;)!!!


Sunday, January 18, 2015

A little about the workshop going on....

This second week of my stay in Kuwait is devoted to design. Through a truly collaborative workshop with a wonderful group of women devoted to Al Sadu House, we are exploring new designs in sadu. We all decided that we will not post/instagram/facebook/tweet anything specific on what we are doing for these designs - so it is a secret until they are launched!

It has been wonderful to work within this group and I am happy that every design that comes out is from their collective energy, thought, and talent.

This was the first for me in many ways - this was the first workshop I ever led that was bilingual, both English and Arabic. The amazing Sarah Alfarhan ( did an incredible job translating everything from complex design ideas, one on one conversations, and basically anything said from English into Arabic. I am forever grateful!
This workshop was the first held in such an amazing and inspiring place, the courtyard area of Beit Al Sadu (Sadu House) that was built in 1936. The architecture, detailing of each room, and the history of the place was such a unique experience to be in day after day.
This was also the first workshop that became a complete collective effort to accomplish several important goals. It was truly amazing to see how each person in the workshop jumped in full of energy and readiness.

After only 5, 3 hour workshop days (only 15 hours) we have a huge array of new designs that will be translated into new products for Al Sadu. Stay tuned for these!

Until then, here are some pics from the workshop! Hope you enjoy!