How I picked up carpet weaving, and venturing in a new direction as an artist, Part I

There’s a bit of catching up to do here…

ART / WORLD / DISASTER opened on November 28 in a newly furbished space of AUB (American University in Beirut).

Signage for ART / WORLD / DISASTER

Banner for ART / WORLD / DISASTER, outside the AUB Byblos Bank Art Gallery

The show features the works of 9 artists – they are Pedro Lasch (who made the call for proposals and approached some artists), Magali Claude, Dima Hajjar, Sandra Issa, Georges Rabbath, Cristopher Rizkallah, Nataly Sarkis, Lara Tabet and myself – and a collective of artists that form 52 Weeks of Labor. I had a lot of correspondence with Pedro while he was overseas, along with my AUB instructor Kasper Kovitz, and the Gallery Curator, Octavian Esanu.

I wanted to find a specific issue on the current Syrian Refugee plight in Lebanon and the lack of mobilization towards helping them. At the same time, I asked questions on whether it is ethical to bring the issue into an art show and even questioned my objectives for doing so. It was clear to some of the artists I’m acquainted with, especially to Pedro, that pulling these and other ideas together would be tough (I might explain some of them in a later post).

In the two months leading up to the opening, I couldn’t find a way to present the initial question until I came across this article. When I started looking for something similar in Lebanon, I didn’t find anything. This is not to say that creative initiative is non-existent in Lebanon, but for a few reasons it was hard to find (update: I review some essential ways different organizations engaged the Lebanese to help Syrian refugees in this post).

I set my mind on finding a way to make a rug specifically for the exhibition, or perform the weaving live; a long and slowly developing narrative for everyone to witness, through the act of weaving and what is being weaved (more on this in a later post, too).

Initial sketch

The initial sketch for the rug in context

Rough sketch of the loom, as it was imagined to appear from the front, and notes taken down while learning to weave.

Rough sketch of the loom, as it was imagined to appear from the front, and notes taken down while learning to weave.

Rough sketch of the loom with estimated dimensions

Rough sketch of the loom with estimated dimensions

One month prior to the opening, I was very lucky to meet Yousef Allahverdizadeh, a carpet weaver, cleaner and repairman from Iran, based in Lebanon. He agreed to help me build the loom and to teach me how to weave.

Yousef on the loom

Yousef on the loom, showing me how to add the very first row of weaving.

After bouncing ideas  back and forth, Yousef and I came up with a loom, two benches, a set of tools and lots of wool and cotton thread. A lot of the material were procured easily, much thanks to Yousef. We were able to talk about so much in the little time that was granted to us (more on this in a new post, as well).

I have to break away from the timeline here and just mention how astounding it has been to go through with this project. I can’t tell if I have succeeded in anything, but it became evident during the process and a great conversation with Pedro that the direction I’m headed with The Loom is unlike any from my previous body of work. I hope to sample some of them, as well as a few things I’ve already promised in parentheses, in future posts. Whoever you are, if you choose to follow my posts, this blog isn’t unlike other blogs that involve personal exploration and introspection into one’s psyche and active life. Many times, I’ve wished to directly communicate my thoughts and ideas with others, but held back knowing the world is FULL of thoughts and ideas put out there. Maybe this is why I chose to become a visual artist, which raises its own challenges (post about this, soon enough).

I have to stop here, as there are plenty of things I need to brainstorm for this blog. One key thing to look forward to in Part II is some nifty documentation – photos, GIFs and videos, all courtesy of good friends and fellow artists!

Stay tuned, and good day to you.

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