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Farah Al Fardh. Jeffrey Biteng / The National
Farah Al Fardh. Jeffrey Biteng / The National

Farah Al Fardh's on a roll, creatively speaking

Farah Al Fardh is pioneering a miniature art form in the UAE.

Small is beautiful

While the UAE is generally regarded as being all giant skyscrapers and vast shopping malls, it's refreshing to learn that not everything is made on such a large scale.

In fact, some things are minuscule - such as Farah Al Fardh's artwork. The young Emirati from Umm Al Quwain is one of the UAE's keenest quilling enthusiasts - a craft that makes meticulous artworks from strips of rolled paper.

From cartoon characters and small Emirati figures to trinkets, gifts and decorations, Al Fardh can mould the paper strips into virtually any shape. This is quilling, which originated during the European Renaissance and became a hugely popular pastime with ladies in the 18th and 19th centuries.

From small beginnings

Al Fardh discovered quilling in 2004 during a period of sickness. Stuck in bed, she decided to give the technique a try and found herself a keen adherent.

"It wasn't until 2007 when I put my artwork on an internet forum that I realised no one knew about it," she recalls. "There wasn't even a name for it in Arabic, so I gave it the name 'fan laf al warq', which means 'the art of rolling paper'."

Small wonders

The first gifts she made using the technique were for Eid Al Adha several years ago, and formed shapes in which money for the season could be presented to children.

Finding a huge response to her artwork on the forum, she decided to set up her own website in 2009 and began to hold workshops.

She then became the UAE's regional representative of the Quilling Guild, a UK organisation, and started to exhibit her works at home and abroad. She was further recognised in 2009 with the Tamaiaz Award for Entrepreneurship and again last year with a Sheikha Shamsa Award for Creative Women.

Small blessings

Al Fardh has taught her 11-year-old nephew the art of quilling. "My sister was very happy the day he did the quilling - he was very busy rolling the paper and there was no time to be naughty," she laughs. Al Fardh works in procurements and contracts for the Dubai World Trade Centre, and fits her art around her working day, dedicating evenings and weekends to quilling. She also dedicates most of her annual leave to the craft, which has so far taken her to the UK, USA, Japan and Germany.

Small print

The technique isn't difficult, she says: "I learnt by just looking at the book - I didn't even read it." Quilling can be used to make both two-dimensional and 3D creations, and while 2D is the basic version, 3D figures are more difficult to make. "With 3D quilling you use one shape and give it a dimension; the difficulty is in controlling the dimension," she explains.

Al Fardh took her skills to Jordan last month to teach orphans quilling techniques, supported by the Jordan Joud Foundation, a children's charity. Their artwork was then exhibited at the Jordan Quilling Exhibition.

For those in the UAE who are keen on learning the art, there will be a Ramadan Quilling Majlis in Dubai next month.

Visit www.farooha.net for details

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