Arrowmont Connections: Sabiha Mujtaba reveals the process behind her optical furniture design

Arrowmont is a special community full of creative people – a family who know that coming together and making art is important. We talk a lot about the Arrowmont Experience – connecting through craft and community. That connection exists beyond physical proximity. It is in shared memories and new ideas. It lives in the friendships we make with each other. It grows when we learn and support one another.

Whether on campus or off, we are connected as members of the Arrowmont family. Over the next few weeks, we are going to share stories from our community of instructors, residents, and students in a new series, Arrowmont Connections.


Sabiha Mujtaba is a designer and maker of furniture and carvings in wood. Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Sabiha was raised and educated in London, England where she studied sculpture. She moved to Atlanta, Georgia and in 1986 formed Chrysalis Woodworks. She designs and makes custom wood furniture and installations for clients across the country. Sabiha also teaches woodworking classes at Highland Woodworking in Atlanta, and other crafts schools across the country. She is returning to Arrowmont in 2021.

 

Like the name of her studio, Sabiha transforms wood into beautiful objects. And just as a chrysalis shields the transition of caterpillar to butterfly, Sabiha does not often showcase the in-process work she puts in to her finished carvings. Recently, she has “lifted the curtain” to show some behind-the-scenes looks at her furniture design and workshop plans.

“Shawl Chair with Paisley”

Sabiha draws extensively before she commits to carving. For this chair, she used maple and carved the intricate design using a combination of hand chisels and electric dremel tools.

 

20 Feet within 2 Inches

Sabiha excels at translating three-dimensional perspective into low relief surfaces. For her workshop planned at Arrowmont in 2021, she will share with students her techniques for creating the illusion of depth and distance in small, wooden objects.

Starting with a line drawing, Sabiha maps out the angles that create 3D illusionistic perpective.

Next, the drawing is added to wood. Here, Sabiha begins by carving out the ‘background’ of the image.

Sabiha has drawn additional perspective lines to demarcate the planes and angles of the cubes that will appear in this sculpture.

 

The final piece – while simple and used as a demonstration for students – is a master class on incorporating drawing techniques to create depth in wooden sculptural relief.

Custom Furniture

While some woodworkers create pieces for exhibitions and sales, Sabiha focuses almost exclusively on custom pieces and private commissions. Her work ranges from unique utilitarian furniture including seats, tables, stands and mirrors; to built-ins and decorative works. She describes her approach to some of these works:

“Carving organic forms, especially the delicacy of flowers, lends a challenge to my interpretations in wood as a material. I like using a  balanced combination of light with dark  woods which enhance each ones characteristics without conflict; walnut is deep and rich, and curly maple is fresh and shimmering.

Symbolizing reverence, many cultures and traditions use cloth to drape themselves and/or artifacts during rituals. This piece evokes that sensibility. The user touches not only the objects of ritual but on which they are placed; smooth and tactile feel of the wood.

I also find this an appealing way to soften the sometimes hard lines of a structural element in my work.”

Sabiha welcomes contact and collaboration. Her contact information is 404-387-1927 or sabiha@chrysaliswoodworks.com.


Sabiha Mujtaba’s website: chrysaliswoodworks.com

Instagram: @chrysaliswoodworks

The Highlander Woodworker video: https://youtu.be/aCguTL9blGQ?t=1387

 

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