x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Weaving tradition into a winning work

Abeer Seikaly's The Chandelier wall hanging captured the attention of some seriously stylish judges, winning a recent competition.

Abeer Seikaly with her winning creation, The Chandelier. Duncan Chard for the National
Abeer Seikaly with her winning creation, The Chandelier. Duncan Chard for the National

When Abeer Seikaly was a child, she would often watch her great-grandmother weaving rugs using ancient Bedouin techniques.

And when Zakieh Sawalha died 12 years ago, Seikaly inherited one of the treasured rugs she had spent hours crafting.

It was that rug - and the memory of her great-grandmother, the blue-eyed Eideh Shuwaykat - that provided the inspiration for her wall hanging, which won the top prize in a competition staged by The Rug Company.

Ten designers and artists from across the Middle East were invited to create a template for a wall hanging. Seikaly's design was selected unanimously by a panel of judges, including the fashion designer Matthew Williamson and the founders of The Rug Company, the husband and wife team Christopher and Suzanne Sharp.

"I loved it. She was my favourite by a mile," Williamson says. "I think it is evocative of the region and feels like it can only have been done by a designer from the Middle East. It has a far-reaching appeal."

"Abeer's design brings together a reverence for the great tradition of weaving with fresh, contemporary design and the resulting wall hanging is a beautiful and original artwork," adds Christopher Sharp.

At the centre of Seikaly's creation, called The Chandelier, are the blue eyes of a woman peeping out from a mask made from the same geometric pattern in Sawalha's original rug, with a honey-coloured backdrop to signify sand dunes.

Seikaly, 33, an architect from Amman, Jordan, said she was surprised and thrilled to win the competition. "The Chandelier is inspired by nostalgia for the old ways and pays tribute to a fading skill by reviving it using contemporary tools," she says.

She drew her original design and then digitally modified it before submitting it to the judges. Ten limited-edition wall hangings were created at the firm's workshop in China. Seikaly was presented with one, while another was sold for Dh90,000 to a member of the Kuwaiti royal family at a charity auction in Dubai. The remainder will be sold in the rug firm's stores worldwide.

The event on Monday was attended by Williamson and his business partner Joseph Velosa as well as a host of dignitaries and business executives.