by Ayesha Shaikh
  • 6 minute read
  • June 04, 2023
The Odyssey: Wafa Features On Villa 88’s Latest Cover In Bottega Veneta

Being in the presence of Wafa Al Falahi conveys a fuller sense of the multidisciplinary designer more than any single exhibition could provide. She has an unbridled passion for the arts and her work resists categorisation, as she moves among the worlds of ceramics, drawing, interior design, and furniture making with considerable ease and aplomb. In her artistic universe, you’re in for an experience of slow-down, move-close looking and thinking.

Wafa wears the Bottega Veneta printed leather flannel shirt and trousers, and gold finish sterling silver earrings

Dressed in Bottega Veneta’s latest creations, Wafa shares her creative odyssey that comes from a place that’s both personal and profound. “I draw inspiration from the world around me, with my artworks and designs focusing on the experiences of women in the Middle East,” she says.

“My work reflects personal narratives and cultural contexts with the aim of evoking emotions and fostering connections. Hidden beneath its playful depictions are deeper meanings, which invite viewers to look beyond the surface and engage in thought-provoking conversations,” she adds.

Last year, Wafa acquired her Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Design from the American University of Sharjah, where she was exposed to the vast and captivating realm of design—it was a genuine coup de foudre as it allowed her to merge her interest in various disciplines into one cohesive field.

“Initially, my passion leaned towards biology, but I found that design offered me the unique opportunity to integrate culture, history, and the sciences, which echo in the lines, textures and gestures of my creations,” she explains.

Wafa wears the Bottega Veneta long-sleeved cashmere Nappa dress, shiny textured leather skirt; small shoulder bag in supreme leather, over-the-knee Nappa boots, and gold finish sterling silver bracelet

Sustainable material is a major preoccupation in Wafa’s cultural production, and ceramics in particular, which combine fine artisanship with mechanical ingenuity and operational delight. Her designs share a propulsive motion, with each one an expression of her desire to stretch the boundaries of what an object can look like.

“I utilise clay as my primary medium of expression. The idea is to capture fluidity and motion, transforming objects into living and breathing forms that interact with the world around them,” notes Wafa.

Wafa wears the Bottega Veneta printed leather check flannel slim shirt, lightweight cotton underpinning tank top, and printed leather denim trousers

There’s a gut-level aesthetic allure associated with Wafa’s ceramic vases—no two pieces are the same and their organic design offers an interplay of clay, as well as glazing and firing techniques, emulating rising tides and the ripples they create in sand.

“They’re inherently one of a kind. The nature of my artistic process makes it impossible to replicate them, and the resulting pieces are unique with distinct personalities,” she states.

“Each artwork stands on its own as a singular creation, ensuring that those who possess one of my pieces have something exceptional and irreplaceable. The curves, grooves and bumps in the designs bear my imprint, emphasising craftsmanship that’s at the core of my work.”

Wafa wears the Bottega Veneta compact cotton canvas cape, sheer Cupro dress, and Piero Piero Bucket in Intreccio paper calf 

Wafa also creates furniture pieces that offer a lesson in artisanal charm. Among the pièces de résistance is the Slip potter’s chair, which has been designed to extend comfort and support whilst using a pottery wheel.

Inspired by ceramicists who work at small studios in Fujairah, the chair features a cushioned seat that’s upholstered in synthetic leather, and a veneer-coated structure with an organic pattern, evoking the texture of clay. The storage space helps the chair swivel around freely when closed.

One of Wafa’s first creative outings included showcasing her works at Satellite in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, which opened the door to more avenues. She was part of the cohort selected for the Athath Fellowship 2022, a 16-week professional design course that’s held in Abu Dhabi. In fact, the Slip potter’s chair was showcased at the 2023 exhibition that was hosted as part of the programme.

Wafa wears the Bottega Veneta compact cotton canvas cape, sheer Cupro dress, Piero Piero Bucket in Intreccio paper calf and Atomic latex boots

“Participating in the fellowship allowed me to further develop my tactile skills as a furniture maker,” Wafa holds. “I also had the privilege of showcasing the Slip chair at Sikka Art Fair, where I was able to further connect with art enthusiasts.”

Wafa is one of the five creatives selected for the 10th iteration of the Tanween Design Programme, an initiative of the Dubai-based art and design incubator Tashkeel that was established by Her Highness Sheikha Lateefa bint Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2008.

“By being part of this edition, I’m following in the footsteps of 34 practitioners, who’ve undertaken this intensive professional development course. Pushing the boundaries of convention and looking beyond the possible are hallmarks of those who’ve been affiliated with it.”

Wafa wears the Bottega Veneta printed leather check flannel slim shirt, and lightweight cotton underpinning tank top

This year, Tanween continues its focus on sustainability and Wafa will collaborate with engineers and scientists to deliver an innovative and ecological design. “The cohort hopes to contribute to the discourse on how sustainable measures can be implemented in a practical way across the creative sector,” she says.

For the programme, Wafa will experiment and engage with the local context and explore how design can tackle the fundamental challenge of sustainability by integrating her skillset that spans multiple art and design forms. By merging her practice as a ceramicist with industrial design, she plans on creating a lighting fixture that’ll represent playfulness through colour, materiality and texture.

Wafa wears the Bottega Veneta natural calf jacket and skirt, small Cobble Intreccio in padded light suede cachemire, and gold finish sterling silver earrings

“My ultimate goal is to design a unique and personalised product that embodies my core values and pays homage to the women in my family,” states Wafa. “I intend to fuse my heritage and culture into the design through the use of traditional materials whilst giving them a contemporary twist. This process allows me to create bespoke pieces that not only reflect my artistic vision but also serve as a celebration of the strength, resilience, and beauty of the women who’ve influenced and inspired me.”

Also to Wafa’s credit is being a resident at the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi, which has paved the way for her to delve deeper into creative fields and expand her horizons. Among the many mediums that Wafa works in, drawing appeals to her the most for its role in her practice.

“It serves as the foundation that seamlessly integrates the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired throughout my journey. It enables me to cultivate a cohesive and unified artistic language that transcends boundaries, ensuring that my vision is translated harmoniously across different forms of expression.”

Wafa wears the Bottega Veneta shiny textured leather dress, over-the-knee boots in gloss vinyl, and gold finish sterling silver necklace

Wafa’s family and childhood experiences have continued to shape her art and the woman behind it. “My family has played a crucial role in supporting my professional journey. They recognised my talent from a young age and fostered an environment that nurtured my passion,” she holds. “Their belief in me has been a constant source of motivation to push boundaries and pursue my dreams. Their unwavering support has moulded me as an artist.”

Wafa is currently working on a product collection for her platform and hopes to continue embarking upon a creative odyssey that’s marked by self-education and evolution, as she explores the world in a new light.

Wafa wears the Bottega Veneta leather Intrecciato oversized shirt, long coaxial knot belt in braided Nappa, and over-the-knee boots in Veneta calf

creative director Ayesha Shaikh
photographer Mattia Holm
stylist Daniel Negron
hair and makeup artist Lina Dahlbäck
creative associates Aminath Ifasa and Sana Varshochi
photography assistant Alireza Peyman Yahoozadeh
styling assistant Lamya Roslyn Vincent
location Buhais Geology Park, Sharjah
courtesy Environment and Protected Areas Authority

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