New product design module at the Jameel House in Jeddah prepares traditional artisans for the market
- The Jameel House of Traditional Arts in Jeddah was launched by Art Jameel in 2015 as a centre for artisanship, architectural discourse and heritage preservation
- Its one-year programme – now expanded to include product design – is delivered by the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts
- Around 16 participants attend each year, taught by local artists and designers, and visiting tutors from abroad
The Jameel House of Traditional Arts in Jeddah, Art Jameel’s centre for artisanship, architectural discourse and heritage preservation, has expanded the scope of its traditional arts programme, delivered by the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts, with the addition of a product design module that will give a hands-on exploration of the connections between heritage, product design and traditional craft. The addition of the new module aims to help artisans in Saudi Arabia achieve a sustainable livelihood in the practice of their craft, through the design of products for the market. The new programme opened with 16 participants welcomed to the Jameel House by George Richards, Art Jameel’s Head of Heritage Programmes, and Delfina Bottesini, the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts Senior Programme Manager.
The one-year programme at the Jameel House retains its core focus on the traditional arts of Jeddah’s historic district, Al-Balad, with fieldwork to study and document the rich architectural heritage of the old town, including its gypsum façades and roshan windows made of intricate mangour woodwork. Alongside theory modules on Islamic geometry and colour harmony, practical modules include dye-making, painting, ceramics, gypsum-carving, parquetry and mangour.
The new module, which precedes the final project, explores the intersection of heritage and design, with participants designing and producing prototypes of real-world products inspired by Al-Balad. The module aims to help participants translate their craft skills into restoration work as well as product design, both key routes to sustainable employment as craftspeople.
“Art Jameel’s support for artisanship and the preservation of heritage in Saudi Arabia is built on a firm belief in the importance of helping people in the heritage sector achieve sustainable livelihoods. Alumni from the Jameel House in Jeddah are already setting up their own design businesses, working on the restoration of Al-Balad, and practising as artists, but we want to do more to support the sector and are delighted to be enhancing the one-year programme with this new module on product design.”
Delfina Bottesini, the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts Senior Programme Manager said:
“The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts has seen the Jeddah programme and alumni grow over the last four years with phenomenal speed and creative drive. We have witnessed our ethos and methodology, that of teaching arts and crafts as contemporary living traditions, coming to life in the hearts, minds and hands of a new generation of Saudi artisans. We are very impressed with the quality of ideas and craftsmanship achieved by the participants in such relative short time and we look forward to continue nurturing generations of Saudi artists, designers and craftspeople through our newly designed programme at the Jameel House of Traditional Arts in Jeddah”.
“When I graduated from the Jameel House in 2017, there was little support for artisans looking to apply their craft as a trade,” said Yusra Al Anesi, who works at the Jameel House as a teaching assistant and technical specialist, and a consultant at KHAM makerspace and collective in Jeddah in 2018 founded by another Jameel House alumni. “The new Jameel House programme will open doors for its participants in finding jobs and livelihoods and help the heritage sector as a whole become more sustainable.”
2019 has seen the Jameel House advance on a number of fronts. In February, for 21,39, the Saudi Art Council’s annual arts festival in Jeddah, alumni of the Jameel House produced a replica panel of mangour woodwork to support the restoration of the Jamjoum House, the grandest of the historic coral-stone tower-houses in Al-Balad and part of a Ministry of Culture structural reinforcement programme. In March, Art Jameel opened its Project Space in Jeddah, a venue for contemporary and traditional creative practice in Al-Balad and which houses a wood workshop used by participants in the Jameel House programme. In May, the annual Jameel House exhibition showcased new graduates’ final project works, with a packed opening night and dazzling reviews. Over the summer, Art Jameel partnered with alumni of the Jameel House programme, along with two alumni-founded startups, Kees Chic, a social enterprise, and KHAM, the makerspace, to deliver a month-long programme of public workshops in Al-Balad for the Ministry of Culture’s Jeddah Season and the inaugural 21,39 Summer edition.
Applications to the 2020-2021 one-year traditional arts and product design programme at the Jameel House in Jeddah will open in April 2020.