Bespoke. Original. Unique. Artisanal. They’ve become the creative buzzwords of the last half decade, especially in Europe and the States – a celebration of the organic and unique in a world of the automated and uniform. Indeed, it has become a trend so all-pervasive that it has swept up everything from sandwiches to furniture.
This latter-day “arts and crafts” movement is now beginning to emerge in Dubai, which might seem an unlikely home for the homemade. But the first ever Handmade Festival, which takes place over the course of a single day in Capital D Studios in Al Quoz, demonstrates that there is considerable interest in products that are as personal to the manufacturer as the ultimate buyer.
Ayaad Damouni, managing director of Deus Arabia, has been pleasantly surprised by the interest the festival has generated. “Every Deus outlet around the world has the freedom to create its own niche, whether it’s snowboarding in Milan or bikes in Australia,” he says. “This was an idea we’d be playing with in Dubai and from asking myself ‘Can I make it happen?’ a few months ago, it has really snowballed. We could have easily extended it beyond a single day.”
This isn’t, though, a craft market; it’s not a bunch of stalls to showcase wholegrain muffins or beaded jewellery. The products on show will be guitars made from reclaimed material by Howlin’ Rooster, Made By Native’s hand-crafted leather goods, bike building by AutoMoto X and even beard cutting by Akin Barbers. Importantly, every vendor has something interactive to offer visitors on the day.
There are more than 14 exhibitors in total. Here is a selection:
Founder: Kenneth Surat
“I make handmade leather bound journals called the Surat Journals – Surat means ‘to write’ in several dialects in South East Asia. I started making these books when I couldn’t find a journal I really liked here in Dubai. I brought a piece of leather from my home town in the Philippines without even knowing what to do with it and then decided to play around making my own journals. It started as a hobby, but I started getting orders from different social media platforms and after a while, I began participating in artisan bazaars in Dubai.
“I started a project called The Traveling Journal Project (www.thetravelingjournalproject.com) where we sent one journal to be passed on from one traveller to another on a quest to travel around the world. Now we have photos of the journals as far as Iceland and New Zealand.”
Craft by Two
Co-founder: Saeid Momtahan
“We work with metal, wood and glass, and we got involved in our craft out of a desire to work with natural elements. Our work right now mostly involves industrial lighting and furniture and rustic home decors. Most of which can be found .”
Howlin Rooster Guitars
Founder: Basil Azizoghly
“Howlin Rooster is a little workshop that makes musical instruments form scrapped materials and items we find. I made my first cigar-box guitar in the summer of 2013 and then started the brand in february 2014. I have now my wife helping me out.”
Founder: Tristan Fitzgerald
“I’m an English bloke who lives in Dubai, who makes art on Instagram as – and now for the real world! I started at 18 as a comic book artist. I’ve always combined words and images in my work. I make hand-drawn art that combines poetry and pictures. I imagine each piece as a fragment of a song from some kind of cosmic radio. I think we all need something that just allows us to follow our passions.”
Co-founder: Terhi Pinnington
“Omasi is two Finnish beach lovers who started our business in 2014. Our products include unique towels and ponchos, beach and yoga bags and all our products can be personalised with embroidery. We have been living in Dubai for around 10 years and over the years we came up with several products that were missing from our lives here so we started creating them – beach bags big enough to carry all the beach essentials for the whole family. We can personalise everything with embroidery on the spot.”
Founder: Lewis Adams
“MadeByNative specialises in handcrafted leather goods. Founded on an appreciation and love for the classically designed, we have a desire to produce lasting products that improve with age. The techniques used are derived from traditional saddle making and book binding, ensuring longevity and timeless use. In a consistent effort to be mindful of our actions and in alignment with our ethos, we only use natural vegetable-tanned leathers and linen thread.”