There are few designers more eloquent about their craft than Kawther Alsaffar. Passionate about the future of design in Kuwait and across the region, she’s very much on the frontline fighting to establish an identity for Kuwaiti designers, and has established her design credentials both at home and abroad.
Her work is multi-disciplinary and uses storytelling and craft to traverse the fictional lines between art and design. She focuses on finding patterns for human intimacy and truth, whether this manifests itself in finding cultural significance, integrity in materials, or creating human connections.
Recently involved as one-third of a trio of designers (with architect Jassim Al Nashmi and Ricardas Blazukas) who proposed a new design identity for Kuwait through a series of 46 chairs in a project entitled ‘Desert Cast’. Constructed through a combination of traditional foam cutting and sand-casting processes, the work was presented at Dubai Design Week where the designers classified each within one of nine styles: Rodhún (Rotunda), Coloseum (Coliseum), Danteel (Dentil), Âyooni (Ionic), Ishtiqâq (Pediment), Corinthian (Corinthian), Córneeshe (Cornice), Ifreez (Frieze) and Ri-wâq Bi-á’mida (Portico).
The reason? They are inspired to introduce their countrymen to the design process and to show how accessible easy methods of fabrication are in the country. With this project, and through further collaborations, they want to help define a local “maker” identity – something that will prove beneficial for all parties.
The result? Positive engagement with regional and international designers that sparked a conversation that continues today. Did it spark a similar conversation amongst their fellow citizens? Well, some things are a little harder to provoke.
The work that brought Alsaffar to prominence was ‘Dual Bowls’.
Through her emerging furniture design practice, Alsaffar aims to contribute to a worldwide conversation on the differences and importance of experience-based cultural design. This is achieved by elevating and promoting the processes and skills available in Kuwait such as sand-casting and copper sinking which have been under-utilized.
What is her method? Dual casting is the process of sand casting using two metals. Alsaffar employs three distinct dual casting processes to create the Dual Bowls:
i Cutting – Pouring a second metal onto a cold half cut form.
ii Pouring – Pouring two molten metals into the same sand form.
iii Plating – half dipping a finished base metal into another conductive metal.
The result? Judge for yourself on these pages. For us, within them lies both a physical construct and a social construct. These pieces of ‘imperfect tableware’ highlight a successful amalgamation of design and craft, and bridge the gap between the designer and her craftsmen. Kuwait’s class structure makes it socially unacceptable for Alsaffar to become a fabricator. The designer’s own reasoning behind the success of ‘Dual Bowls’ is in bridging this divide in that it allows the fabricators so much control and input into the craft of her pieces.