interview :: aljoud lootah

Katie | November 22, 2016

As Dubai Design Week draws to a close, we catch up with one of the region’s leading female designers, Aljoud Lootah. Her work is often inspired by sacred geometry and the aim of interpreting Emirati culture and craftsmanship for a contemporary audience. Two products from her Oru Series were acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia in 2015 making her the first Emirati designer to have her work acquired by an international gallery. Design Geek editor, Katie Treggiden, caught up with her to find out more…

What's the most important thing to know about you?

I work very well under pressure, with ridiculous deadlines! I procrastinate on developing a design for weeks, and when I have a few days left before the deadline, I work my heart out. Usually the outcome is a good one!

interview :: aljoud lootah

Where do ideas come from?

My surroundings and environment – often elements from Emirati culture and heritage, especially geometric patterns found in architecture.

interview :: aljoud lootah

What are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on several projects for corporate gifts and bespoke furniture, and I just started developing the ideas for the products I’m going to exhibit at Design Days Dubai 2017!

interview :: aljoud lootah

Talk me through your design and making process.

I always start with a mind-map that includes a plethora of ideas, directions, and concepts. Then I narrow it down to what I believe would be a solid idea, do more research on materials and then sketch it out. The sketching process includes a lot of refinement and elimination of ideas. Sometimes when I find it hard to sketch the idea, I move onto making a small scale model (often in post-its, toothpicks or matchsticks and blue tack!). The small model also goes through a phase of adjusting and then an actual-sized prototype is created. Sometimes a prototype doesn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, and I produce several other options until I believe I’ve managed to get it right in terms of functionality and aesthetic appeal.

interview :: aljoud lootah

Which part of the process do you enjoy most?

The production part – I find it very exciting to see how a sketch turns into an actual product or how a simple idea turns into a tangible piece. I also find that part very frustrating because it usually takes a few times to get the prototypes right!

interview :: aljoud lootah

What is the biggest challenge you have overcome?

I still believe that manufacturing in the UAE is a major challenge to any designer. We’re limited to the available materials, and the cost is usually very high. The manufacturers here are used to mass production, and certain disciplines of products. An example of this would be when I worked with the marble manufacturer on my Double Square collection. When I approached them to create a very geometric table in Carrara with multiple angles, I saw total confusion on their faces! The marble manufacturer is used to providing slabs for clients’ interiors such as floors, walls and other surfaces – they are just not used to producing the type of designs I create.

interview :: aljoud lootah

What defines good design?

A balance between brilliant concept, great aesthetics, and solid functionality.

interview :: aljoud lootah

What are you most proud of?

What I’m mostly proud of is the experience I’ve managed to gain through the development of my projects and exhibitions I’ve participated in, which has enabled me to inspire other young designers and design enthusiasts to pursue their dreams or careers in this field. I never realised the effect someone could have through the work they produce, up until I started showcasing my work on different platforms. The amount of comments I get about being an inspiration is truly heartwarming.

interview :: aljoud lootah

What advice would you give to a new designer?

To be strong no matter how hard it may seem. To be steady, well-ordered and authentic in your work.

And finally, what's your favourite colour?!

Black and sometimes purple.

interview :: aljoud lootah

Further Reading for the Especially Geeky ::

Founding Editor – Katie Treggiden

Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.

Follow Katie on Twitter or Instagram.

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