Talk Crafty to Me – Heba Barazi

Talk Crafty to Me — An inside look into Arrowmont instructors’ connection to craft, Gatlinburg, and studio practice. 

Artists-in-Residence Grant Benoit and Maia Leppo interview Heba Barazi – Arrowmont student, metalsmith and polymer clay artist. Heba lives in Abu Dhabi and is an assistant professor of Environmental Science and Public Health at Zayed University. Heba received the Arrowmont/Crafthaus scholarship to take “Finishing School: Textures” with Ana Lopez, July 31-August 6, 2016.

What inspires you?
I always loved making art, especially crafting in particular. My mom wanted me tdsc_0283o go to art school for college, but I didn’t want to. I continued to teach myself craft – ancient types. I learned embroidery, but specifically stumpwork embroidery. I taught myself metals and have gone very far on my own. I can do basic fabrication and also work in polymer clay.

A friend of mine who is a social entrepreneur suggested that I sell my work to raise money for the Syrian cause. My parents are from there, I was not born there. That is what got me going – trying to create something inspired by Syria.

I am inspired by the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani. Money raised goes to projects at the Karam Foundation, which helps refugees. The money I donate goes specifically to subsidize a program to transport art made by women in Syria and put it on the market.

What is something you learned about yourself or your practice at Arrowmont?
I recently discovered Arrowmont through Crafthaus. I have always known about similar programs in Europe, but Arrowmont offers even more. You are with so many people who have the same interest. It’s wonderful. I am very glad I did it. I think I will take a workshop every year. I will try to convince my daughter to come with me next time.

dsc_0288What is a non-art inspiration in your current practice?
I am working on a collection that is inspired by the mosque in Abu Dhabi built by Sheikh Zayed. The mosque is open for anyone to walk in. It is breathtaking. It takes Indian, and Farsi art, and combines them with Islamic art. Sheikh has such a vision for the country and made it what it is right now. He set the stage for how people interact and set standards of how to tolerate other cultures. Sheikh bridges the gap between Islam and other religions though education and programs.

Tell us about your studio space. What is your favorite part of it?
My studio is at home and my favorite part is that it is mine. My proceeds go to the Karam Foundation or buying more equipment to expand my studio.

dsc_0289How is the craft community in Abu Dhabi?
Fine art and wall paintings are well-established. It’s very competitive. Craft is not seen as fine art.

Best piece of advice you have gotten?
I saw a Ted Talk by James Cameron and he said “Curiosity is the most powerful thing you own. Imagination is a force that can actually manifest a reality.” Imagination creates a drive to make it come true. Think of a piece that lights the fire in your heart, and you want to make it to see the end product.

How do you want someone to feel while wearing your work/ looking at your work/ using your work?
My work is about the messages that it carries. Art in general is an experience. It’s not just a visual. Art has to trigger an experience in the person who sees it. It’s important for my work to be seen in the context of why I make it. This is why I choose to make it wearable art, so it can be taken it with you. Jewelry itself is amenable to messages. You hold it deep, you form a relationship. It’s personable. The ring is a symbol of a commitment to an idea. I make rings as a commitment to Syria and culture and bringing it back.

What are you currently listening to in your studio and why?
I listen to music and sometimes I listen to nature sodsc_0291-copyunds. I listen to Arabic and English music.

How do you balance teaching and your science side with your making?
I’m learning. Sometimes when the imagination is there, you can’t balance, you are obsessed with something.

Learn more about Heba’s Arrowmont experience in her blog:

Heba’s work has been published in the first edition of Polymer Journeys. At the last International Polymer Clay Association in Bourdeaux, France, she spoke about the science of creativity, how new ideas come, how the brain functions, and which parts of the brain are active, and which ones need to be shut down for creativity.


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