AMMAN – As Amman Design Week (ADW) returned for its third edition this October under the theme of Possibilities, it opened a wide door for designers and craftspeople to interpret the theme. This year, ADW’s integral Crafts District also returned with a bang, showcasing the possibilities of material and traditional craft.

The Crafts District official promotional video.

The Crafts District was located in Jabal Amman’s newly opened Kabariti Village. In this edition, the district was curated by Arini  in their third consecutive collaboration with ADW after 2016’s MADAFA and 2017’s Dalieh. The Crafts District is made to be an experience that takes visitors on an exploration journey through traditional craftsmanship, materials and tools along with the many ways they can be purposed and repurposed. From the old Ammani villas inside the Kabariti Village to the exhibited products and live music, the district was filled with remnants of Jordanian culture, even the food served at the venue tipped a hat to the traditional.

As I strolled through the Crafts District with the theme of Possibilities in mind, words like innovation, creation, functionality, minimalism and immersive journeys crossed my mind.

Nilā by Arini as seen at the Kabariti Village, images courtesy of Arini.

There were two main exhibitions showcased at the district; Min Ilā and Jordan Script Routes each housing different design concepts and covering multiple subjects.

The Min Ilā exhibition highlighted material innovation, and the processes used to create different purposes for familiar and easily attainable materials. It takes you on a journey of innovation from beginning to end; as it takes the material from one state to another. 

Material Innovation exhibition, work by Annette Fauvell (right) and Lisa Schreiber (left) at the Crafts District courtesy of Amman Design Week.

Inside the Min Ilā exhibition were multiple rooms each showcasing different experiments in substances as well as end products. The Material Innovation exhibition held works by Jordanian and German designers exploring the possibilities of creating new materials by manipulating different bioplastics, types of paper and weaving techniques as well as kombucha scobies in an attempt to make them more durable for daily use. This exhibition is the result of a workshop ADW held at their offices in December of last year. The workshop was sponsored by the Goethe Institute and led by Annette Fauvell who introduced participants to these new materials. Walking through the displayed experiments raises questions about the possible uses of these sustainable materials in Fashion (Lisa Schreiber) , Interior design (Christin Mannewitz), furniture design (Twelve Degrees) and even sculpture (Sama Shahrouri). 

Talking to artmejo, Liyan Jabi one of the curators of the Crafts District and co-founder of Arini, mentions that in this exhibition we see the ways designers are evolving traditional craft and making new uses of it in their materials”.

Reshaping the Vessel by Sama El Saket at Min Ila exhibition, image courtesy of Amman Design Week.

Other showcases exploring rethinking material function include the works of Najla’a Abdullah (interior design), In Doi (product design), Fadi Zumot (fashion design), Paola Farran (pottery), Sakeb (product design) and Lena Kassicieh (printmaking). 

Of Letters and Coins by Hussein Al Azaat at the Crafts District, image courtesy of AlAzaat. 

The Jordan Script Routes exhibition was curated by Dr. Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès. It hosted a series of playful and exploratory installations featuring a sneak peek into Arab tradition, civilization and culture in terms of use of language.  

Each room is a chapter of the Script Routes telling a different story relating to the exhibited works. Of Letters and Coins by Hussein Alazaat showcased a labyrinth of enlarged real and imagined coins. Of Letters and Silk showcased the Kimbaya, an Abaya-Kimono hybrid by Milia Maroun. Of Letters and Stone showcasing Margharita Abu Hanna’s jewellery collections made from silver, gold and concrete. 

(DIS)CONNECT by Daniel and Qusai at the Kabariti Village, image courtesy of Arini.

Outdoor installations were found around the district as you strolled through. The installations were playful, innovative and functional to their surroundings. 

(DIS)CONNECT by Daniel and Qusai is a geometric reconfiguration of a square and rectangle. The installation is a public and interactive bench that plays on the irony of modern day human disconnection. While this structure’s purpose is to connect and encourage interactions, the placement of seats does the opposite. 

Stitched in Space by Ruba Masi at the Kabariti Village, image courtesy of Arini.

Other installations around the district include Nilā by Arini which came to realisation with help from the women of Ghor El Safi who naturally dyed strips of cotton using harvested indigo. Stitches in Space by Ruba Masi allowed visitors to stitch forms in space by using a wooden apparatus shaped like an embroidery needle and rope in between traditionally woven rattan partitions.

Reciprocal Frame Tensegrity Pavilion by Yazeed Balqar installation view at the Kabariti Village, image courtesy of Amman Design Week.

The Reciprocal Frame Tensegrity Pavilion by Yazeed Balqar is a self-standing dome structure created for multiple use with the possibility of reassembling the pieces into different geometric shapes at different intervals.

Commenting on the installations at the Crafts District Jabi told artmejo in each and every installation, we try to showcase craft coupled with a material in a very simple, minimal, non-intrusive way to the site”.

Music stage at the Kabariti Village, image courtesy of Arini.

Nighttime programs at the district began with live music lessons on different instruments including Oud and the Qanoun. Following the lessons were live musical performances by different local bands. 

Turquoise Mountain pop-up workshop at the Kabariti Village, image courtesy of Turquoise Mountain.

The journey of craft was witnessed on the streets right beneath the district. With small pop up shops and installations, multiple local design entities showcased their different craft techniques originating from 11 Jordanian areas up towards the East with crafts from Bilad Al Sham.

Traditional methods such as weaving, embroidery, ceramics and pottery which are thought to be fixed and unchangeable, are showcased to have been taken and revived, creating new ever-evolving crafts through the eyes of their designers. 

Sīq installation by Petra National Trust, image courtesy of Arini.

Authenticity and tradition was brought to life at the crafts district through the small stores surrounding the location. Shops by the women of Iraq Al Emir and the Ghor Al Safi crafts, Petra National Trust‘s clay Sīq installation and Turquoise Mountain‘s Wihdeh wood mosaic installation were some of the pop up exhibitions celebrating traditional craftsmanship in Jabal Amman. 

The Crafts District celebrated the act of making; in both the traditional and modern sense of the word. This was made visible through the different installations, exhibitions, products, shops and cultural programs held at the Kabariti Village between October 4-12th. Visiting the district surprised visitors in the way it changed their view on material innovation and craftsmanship, leaving them to reconsider their own daily uses of materials. Something old slowly transforms into something new, adapting to a new sustainable lifestyle in the process.

Read more from Haya Abdul Hadi.
Image courtesy indicated in captions.