Handicraft | Discover Lebanon

Handicraft | Discover Lebanon

Three vital extracts from this page:

Contemporary craftsmen have perpetuated the precious and traditional techniques of their ancestors. Carpet weaving factories in Aïdamoun,Tripoliand Fekheh remain loyal to the Anatolian school, while those of Baaqline still follow the Iranian discipline.

Carpets woven inLebanonare polychromic and very supple. Most commonly used colors, other than black and white, are red, navy blue, pink and yellow. They are often used as floor carpets, but also as sofa or bed covers, decorative pillow cases, or hung as tapestries…

Joy!!!

…In the Beqaa valley, more specifically in Fekheh, Jdeidet el-Fekheh, Irsal or Bakkifa, craftswomen weave knotted pile carpets. They weave on vertical looms (haute lisse), producing rudimentary carpets that resemble closely to Anatoly’sBergamacarpets invented byCentral Asia’s nomads.

The knotted pile carpets were manufactured in dark colors, like navy blue, burgundy or brown, and their background was sprinkled with small geometrical designs, lozenges and hexagons. The traditional hand and eye motifs were also commonly found.

Knotted pile carpets are manufactured with ewe wool imported fromBaalbek, and renown for its strength. The wool was first washed and combed, then dyed and spinned, and finally woven.

Traditionally, six women would sit on the ground facing a vertical loom. One of them would sing her directions to the others, hence communicating the number of knots to be made and the colors to be used. In the Beqaa region, women used the symmetrical knot (also called Turkish knot) which held the two weft threads from outside and came out from the inside as a tuft, thus forming the soft side of the carpet. After each knot, the craftswomen cut the thread with their knife. A row of knots is followed by three rows of weft that weavers would press manually with the help of a comb. When weaving is completed, the carpet’s surface is leveled with special scissors.

These women would also use their knotted pile weaving craft to manufacture the pillows and bed covers that every bride had to have in her trousseau…

!!!!!!!!

…While in the village of Hermel, 58 km of Baalbek, workshops weave praying rugs with colored corn straw…

!!!!!!!!^&$%^!!!

Wow, where did I miss this??!

Much thanks to Joseph Tarrab, a Lebanese Art Critic (to whom it is apparently unjust to describe without mentioning “prominent” or “renowned” at least once), I landed some leads for actual recent and on-going craft-related initiatives!

Aside: Joseph Tarrab was also a member of the Jury in The Age of Bronze: Bronze Casting Competition, an event coordinated by Cesar Nammour and Gabriele Schaub of the Modern and Contemporary Art Museum, for which I was honored with two awards. I can’t stress how strange it is to have any association with Mr. Tarrab, in more ways than one!

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In light of the last month, Part II: Enough waiting

View outside a gate, towards a big patch of garden and stepping stones in Gemmayze.

View outside a gate, towards a big patch of garden and stepping stones in Gemmayze.

There has been a number of things in the works with the weaving project and 392RMEIL393. Here’s a brief list:

1) I want to begin a series of workshops on weaving in two techniques, 3 times a week. Details haven’t been decided yet, in terms of budget, timing, number of students per session, materials, etc. I have 8 small looms and Yousef brought in tools to accommodate each. I’m counting on hearing from some of you out there. I need students! We gotta give this a good spin before sending it out to the world!

2) Speaking of sending this project out to the world, I am actively looking for an NGO or INGO to help support this project, and most importantly get in touch with potential volunteers from the Syrian communities they have been established in. In most cases, I have been emailing this or that group and individual. In a few cases, the interested individual or organization reached me or stopped in to check out the project.

The issue here is finding Syrian refugee volunteers and asking them if they are interested to take a few workshop sessions of their own volition, and following that up with transportation and other desired services for them, like food and beverages. I was informed this could become a huge legal matter if it’s not done in conjunction with a representing body, like an NGO. That said, if a group or initiative – already active in any location(s) and well acquainted with the refugees residing within – shows interest in the weaving project, the work required to find volunteers is cut in half. The services can then be negotiated.

It sounds like a simple enough plan. Now it’s just a matter of finding the right people, and waiting. A bit of waiting, but waiting nonetheless.

3) Although it might be best to wait before announcing this, there are plans to set up an official opening or show of the art work in progress, followed by an official set of workshops. The idea for these workshops seems to be less rigid about placing sessions on certain days at certain times. It will be a combination of that approach and an all-welcome and feel-free-to-come-in atmosphere. I think this will be a series of public sessions or workshops(?).  Maybe once the plan is set, I can say exactly what it is and give a proper description of it.

4) I am actively looking for other artists and craftspeople who can participate in the main line of the project: imparting a trade or craft to Syrian refugees. If you or anyone you know is interested, please reach me!

5) This one’s just fun. I have here what has been a plain, raw wood and cotton loom that all of you have looked at over and over:

1424272_10152228792922594_1263209888_n 77186_10152228792852594_2114894455_n 1625586_10152228792767594_104362341_nNow, I’ve had enough of looking at the same thing. I’m sure some of you out there could contribute something to break the monotony. For the wood, it could be a drawing, illustration, calligraphy, stencil, stickers or glue-on items like image prints, cut-outs or text. The cotton strings can’t take too many hits, as they will eventually become a rug, but if there are slips of thin material anyone wants to insert or something delicate on the threads you’d like to draw – very delicately – with a desired effect in mind, I’m welcome to taking submissions. Of course, credit will be given to all you contributors, or collaborators as I will call you from now on.

I hope to follow up with more ideas for collaborative activities. This will require a little more organizing than what I’ve offered up here. I realized how long it’s been since I gave some groundwork for the project when a visitor told me that they had no idea I was planning to hold workshops for Syrian refugees, while I simply took it for granted. Oh dear!

Well, I hope I redeemed myself with this blog post. I still continue to look for other initiatives, drives and centers working towards the cause. Happily, the part in my project statement about there being little effort undertaken towards imparting crafts to Syrian refugees in Lebanon no longer holds. The next time I gather my thoughts on this, I will share them here.

All the best to you, reader/future student/future collaborator!

Progress made here and there

This is exactly a month after the last update below. Without the 3-4 days off per week, and possibly with longer sessions of weaving, I could make some serious progress. Below is a photo of the newly arranged space! The … Continue reading

2.19.2014 – Today, I don’t want to make you think…

… I just want you to look (and read a bit). Mahmood Daoud is a Syrian painter. I first met him and saw his work in 392RMEIL393 at the opening of “In the Emptiness”. Mahmood became good company to have … Continue reading

In light of the last month, Part I

Poster for Yousef Abdelke's Exhibition in Galerie Tanit.

Poster for Yousef Abdelke’s Exhibition in Galerie Tanit.

Mere du Martyr 2 (2010), by Youssef Abdelke
Mere du Martyr 2 (2010), by Youssef Abdelke

In the last three and a half weeks, I have met a few Syrian artists while in the 392RMEIL393. I have a small notion of what daily struggles they have. Some of them struggle to make a stable living in Lebanon with a steady income, without selling out to the highest bidder. I had the privilege to talk to an Artist (who’s permission was not given to mention them here, so the Artist will remain anonymous until further notice) and gain an understanding of their struggle.

We ran into each other at the newly opened show for Youssef Abdelke‘s past and current works at the Galerie Tanit in Gemmayze. The Artist spoke to me about Abdelke – his back story, previous works, and the latest changes to his new works – then shared their opinion about art venues and what they do to viewers’ reception of works, even the ones with powerful messages like Abdelke’s – once artists or a series of works are brought into an art venue, the meaning and value of the works are diminished through the very fact that it is in an Art venue. People are present simply to say that they have been present, or they will view the works in the same manner they view all works in any Artt venue. The works become things to see, maybe with an acknowledged visual, historical, social or aesthetic value, all of which are available and easy to access, but never in its most crucial context or setting. Abdelke created profound visuals with a laborious technique, but the effect it imposes on viewers in this show may not be enough to get them to budge in the right direction.

So is the impression of a cynic like me. The Artist that was accompanying me may have had a different viewpoint, but aside from what they did genuinely enjoy in Abdelke’s works, they had their reservations on how effective the show is or what kind of effect it leaves (please, take time to check out two links regarding Abdelke at the bottom of the post, on his arrest at a check point in Syria and his exhibition)

The Artist is struggling like all artists because of the way most Art institutions decide to represent them. The Artist had a show at some point, but was unable to sell any work. They were asked to play music in a different venue, and they turned it down stating that they are “not a musician, but a painter.” I asked something I’m sure they’ve been advised to take up: what do they think of the Syrian Artist Residency in Aley. The Artist believes that the residency will represent them as a displaced Syrian when in fact they reserve they should have the choice to be represented differently. Attaching an image, reputation or narrative of a displaced Syrian artist would remove the decision altogether.

I imagine the Artist had dealt with similar situations before. The romanticized idea of a struggling Syrian today, one that even I must have believed in, is imposed on them. If anyone were to ask the Artist about their work (some dreamy, some ethereal, and almost fantasy-like) and if it reflects the Syrian crisis in any way, the Artist reserves the right to say that it doesn’t. Institutions, however, don’t always ask for permission to exhibit works solely on the artist’s conditions, but also on those of trends in media and cultural practices. The institution certainly doesn’t avoid/correct falsehoods if the image, reputation or narrative sells. The Artist’s work should stand on its own, and not take on value purely from the institution’s view or that of visitors to the space.

That last paragraph is my conjecture alone. I understand I’m taking a bit of a risk by mentioning the Syrian Artist Residency in Aley, and have up til now been admiring the works of art that have been made there. Also, the Artist may in fact want to address the crisis with their work. One point holds true: they want to choose to address it, and not be told to.

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These are a few photos of the new space in 392RMEIL393 that the loom has been moved to.

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View of the entrance to residence/studio space behind the 392rmeil393 project space.

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Garden and outdoor seating area by the entry gate.
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Door to the garden, from inside the space.

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The ramp up to the space and the rest of the estate.

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One door to the main estate.

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A patch of a bigger garden and elaborate doorway.

Right now, I am typing inside the space in which I am supposed to be weaving. I had to record my initial thoughts and impressions of the place and what it means to be here in order to transcribe them later.

Listening to it, I still find it gorgeous and believe that I am privileged to be here. While working, I have been wondering how much of my efforts are generating real results, and how much I am helping with the cause of my work. I reviewed a few of my options:

1) Hear from others about what they make of my actions

2) Set my sights elsewhere, as my work has no direct effect or is not directly contributing to the cause on a timely basis

3) I should keep weaving, but also look into what else I should do

There is a note-to-self made here that I should begin listing individual efforts to get people to help Syrian refugees immediately (things that have been done already and successfully!). Another note-to-self reminds me to address the “umbrella” I am hoping to set up a reception for, sort of a bigger idea under which smaller ideas can be addressed (more to be covered on this in a later post), and why I agree and disagree with this approach.

I wanted to go into all of that in this post, but more has happened than I can account for. I believe what I addressed first in this post has a place in my blog, and should be discussed. In line with my first of three options, I really want to hear what you think.

Articles on Youssef Abdelke:

“Syrian artist, Youssef Abdelke, arrested” on NOW Media, July 19, 2013

“Syrian artist shows trauma of war in charcoal sketches” on NDTV, February 10, 2014

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.