An Industrial Design BFA and Product Design MA, meshed with a sense of childlike wonder – this is how the creator got started. With a deep-rooted passion for “how things are put together,” Kawther Alsaffar found her fervor at a young age and continued to feed her curiosity and hone her skills well into adulthood. Wanting to bridge the gap between art and design, Kawther’s studies helped her find a story and history in every piece she creates. While her BFA gave her craft insight into mass production, her MA gave her a nudge toward the direction of storytelling and creating with intention. And as one of vendors at the upcoming Nuqat Creative Conference – The Seventh Sense: Powering the Creative Economy, Kawther’s work will shed light on the benefits of creating a bond with the local craftsmen, and the importance of the empowering the local creative economy.
“I’ve always had this idea in my head that our instinct as children is our natural inclination,” she started, “Mine was always to paint and draw, while creating things that fulfilled a purpose.” That drive led her into looking at the history of her surname and the trade they come from – Alsaffar translates to “tinker” or “coppersmith,” which was their unique trade. Utilizing this knowledge and combining it with her studies gave her the balance she needed to create purposeful art in the form of furniture and household items.
Dedicated to not only sharing her own stories through her designs, Kawther shares the stories of the craftsmen involved as well. While creating her Imperfect Tableware line of products, Kawther envisioned creating a bowl out of dual metals. Seeking the help of a craftsman, Kawther was initially told it couldn’t be done – but it wasn’t until he tried to create it that it all fell into place. “The sense of community that is what I want to get out of this,” Kawther explained, “It’s the pride, passion and drive that each craftsman takes in their work that I want to tell through the work we produce.” In a way, Kawther’s process and creations pays homage to the stories of the craftsmen she works with. “You go through a giant treasure hunt of sorts when you’re in Shuwaikh Industrial talking to the craftsmen,” she laughed, “You basically learn about all the different people working there, because every craftsman leads you to another while learning about their crafts and their stories.”
It’s a sense of nostalgia that helps her create certain pieces through inspecting the originally crafted ones and comparing them to the mass produced ones. The sentiment and the ceremony surrounding the original pieces are enough for Kawther to strive to create similarly thought provoking pieces. With pieces that can be used around the house, Kawther has created stools, coasters, candleholders, bowls and even a whimsical spinning top (to indulge every person’s childhood sense of play) alongside the craftsmen. Kawther is constantly working on new projects – a collaboration with a designer in the UK, and one that would bring her closer to her ancestry: I’m currently making a new set of bowls using a copper sinking technique.”
Having exhibited her work at Qout Market in the past, Kawther’s work is going to be showcased in the 2017 edition of the Select coffee-table book. She’ll also be participating in the Nuqat Creative Conference’s curated pop-up shop where you can get your hands on one of her creations. “I believe that Nuqat’s been crucial to my creative process and I even wrote about the Creative Conference I had attended in my dissertation,” Kawther explained, “Creative workshops and the communities around them are helping shape the future of the arts and crafts in Kuwait. I met a lot of great people and creators from such events.”
up close and personal questionnaire
What do you most value in your friends?
Honesty, empathy, fairness, kindness and a desire to laugh at my jokes.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Having a successful career that I love and makes me happy, while spending time with the people I love the most, and giving back to them.
What is your greatest fear?
Giving up on my dreams and not doing anything significant with my life and disappointing my family. Losing a loved one, especially before I achieve something significant that would make them proud.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
My ability to not do the things I’m passionate about for long periods of time because I’m scared of failing and scared of starting, and also my indecisiveness.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
A lack of emotional intelligence, self criticality, and the ability to be kind and empathize with those who don’t directly benefit you.
Which living person do you most admire?
What is your greatest extravagance?
Getting a personal trainer.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“I don’t know!” “Really?” “Like,” “At the end of the day,” “What’s it called…”
What is it that you most dislike?
Dishonesty and mean spiritedness. Harming others out of selfishness or because of a lack of caring.
Which talent would you most like to have?
To dance really well.
If you could have any job, what would it be?
To run my own successful design firm.
What would you consider your greatest achievement?
Graduating from RISD and RCA. The top design schools in the world.
What is your most treasured possession?
What is your most marked characteristic?
Honesty and determination.
Where would you most like to live?
What are your favorite words to live by:
Work smart and hard.
Product images by Baptiste Gratzmuller.