Milan 2018 – Women-empowering rugs, “rebellious” marquetry furniture and tatami boxes in degrading neon colours. Nada Debs combines ideas, skills and techniques together from her travels, to form a unique cultural exchange. “My design is both handmade and earthmade.” The Lebanese designer explains to Archipanic her fascination for the role of the human hand to tell stories and to evoke a sense of belonging… Starting from her beloved city Beirut.
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Nada Debs launches her new creations at Galleria Rossana Orlandi with the Close and Personal solo-exhibition. “Rossana has an expert eye, a diverse passion and a compelling sense of fun, too. Today the discussion around craft and craftsmanship is as loud as ever, but too often it’s taken too seriously. I want to begin a new dialogue around craft that has room for playfulness and joy too.”
The Funquetry furniture collection explores a playful, contemporary interpretation of the traditional handcraft technique of marquetry. “I am interested in duality and how you balance and combine different ideas,” says Nada Debs to Archipanic. “Funquetry was about reinvigorating a traditional technique with a modern, almost rebellious approach.”
Strips of different coloured wood are inlaid to produce what’s known as a “mother”. In some pieces these are then sliced and shifted to create a break in the geometric pattern. In others, they are applied to what Nada calls pleated wood: a triangulated cut into the solid wood.
“Design can be an agent for social issues and cultural challenges too. A certain craft or technique may evoke a sense of identity or belonging that some people seek.” The You & I collection of rugs for the Fatima bint Mohammed bin Zayed Initiative (FBMI), a social enterprise that supports and empowers female weavers in Afghanistan. Each of the four designs is composed of two different rugs interwoven together to become one. Traditional forms encounter contemporary styles. The rugs are all hand-knotted using naturally dyed Afghan wool.
How important is the role of women in your designs? “The role of a woman in design is not dissimilar to the role of a man: our job is to create a product that responds to people’s needs whether in style or function. If there is a difference, maybe it’s in the approach, but the end result is probably the same!”
Tatami is a collection of trays and boxes in degrading neon colours that combines woven Tatami fooring from Japan with marquetry craftwork from Beirut. Nada grew up in Japan and has long been fascinated by the curious similarities and juxtapositions in the design sensibilities and techniques of both cultures.
“I am always in search for finding a balance between Japan and Lebanon. Applying Japanese principles of simplicity to the traditional craft making of Beirut creates a new identity in my designs.”
Nada has collaborated with Norwegian paint experts Jotun to develop a colour called My Beirut which is be applied to the gallery’s walls. Inspired by the warm tones and textures of old Lebanese capital, Nada has devised a versatile hue somewhere between terracotta and grey. “I took in the colours and the feelings of the streets of Gemmayze in old Beirut where my studio is. I put all these sensations in a melting pot and blended them.”
All images: courtesy of Nada Debs.