x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Trendspotting: Traditional materials get a contemporary twist

As family units spread farther apart, designers and consumers are exploring customs and connections.

Dia Batal's This Is Not A Table is part of her Translations collection, which puts a modern spin on the art of working with text. Courtesy of Dia Batal
Dia Batal's This Is Not A Table is part of her Translations collection, which puts a modern spin on the art of working with text. Courtesy of Dia Batal

With so many people living in culturally diverse environments, the family unit is spread farther and farther afield, and our support networks are increasingly made up of friends, neighbours and colleagues. As our sense of belonging wanes, we seek comfort and reassurance in the idea of community, both real and virtual. Creative types are exploring community, custom and connection, too.

We have previously written about the emerging trend of using traditional materials and styles in a contemporary yet classic way. The central theme is "deconstruct to reconstruct", and the aesthetic takes inspiration from traditional Islamic and Arabic patterns and motifs.

At last year's Index exhibition in Dubai, several designers explored this idea, including Fady Saliba of Kafka Goes Pink, with his Ottoman-style Bulb pendant clusters, and Hossein Rezvani with his Bakhtiar rug, which balanced the old with the new by intelligently subtracting elements of a traditional pattern to leave an intriguing abstract design.

This year my favourite designer exploring how tradition sits with modern life is Dia Batal. Born in Beirut with Palestinian Jordanian roots, Dia studied interior architecture in Lebanon and went on to gain her master's in design from Goldsmiths in London, where she has remained.

Her multifaceted background perhaps provides her with the perfect position from which to explore the ideas of culture and community. Her latest collection, Translations, is the result of Dia's interest in creating pieces that respond to her cultural identity and her admiration of Arabic calligraphy and the art of working with text. She has developed a freestyle Arabic type that she uses to create an object and tell its story, while at the same time examining the possible transformations of the text in relation to its meaning, the space it occupies and the function of the object itself.

This collection comprises seven limited-edition pieces created from powder coated metal with laser cutting techniques, including This Is Not A Table, Draw Me Close, a wall sculpture based on the writings of the Sufi poet Mustafa Al Hallaj, the Waw bench and Drinking Table, which is inscribed with a verse from the Wine Poetry collection by the controversial Arab poet Abu Nawwas.

Dia says she is "interested in the way the design object functions as a device that has impact on people's lives within the public and private space, in relation to its social, cultural and political concerns". The simple elegance of her sleek furniture is striking and promotes a style that is both contemporary and beautifully poetic.

Shelley Pond is the creative director of Scarlet Opus. For more information visit www.trendsblog.co.uk or http://twitter.com/scarletopus