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!


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.