Watching Homa Vafaie-Farley make a pot is a real treat; the Abu Dhabi potter, who has been in the business for 20 years, has transformed a blob of clay into a large, curvy work of art in no more than 10 minutes. “People always ask, ‘How long does it take you to make a pot?’ when they should be asking how long did it take me to get where I am in order to make a pot so fast?” she says. Vafaie-Farley’s workshop, located in the Khalidiya area, offers classes to students who might one day be able to spin a pot in a flash. She likes to start beginners off with what is called a “pinch pot”, made by pinching the clay into the shape you wish. While pinching, she instructs us to close our eyes and feel the sides, making sure its thickness is even throughout.
After she is satisfied with our pots, she procures all sorts of paraphernalia and tells us to use whatever we wish to embellish our work. From stamps to swabs of lace, she encourages us to experiment with texture. “I collect all things when I’m outside or overseas to use on my pots: leaves, shells, anything,” she says. Besides pinching, there are other methods, including coil (using coils of clay wrapped over each other to make the desired shape), slab (where you create a flat piece of clay using a rolling pin) and throwing on the wheel (in which a piece of clay is centred on a pottery wheel, hollowed out then shaped). But Vafaie-Farley emphasises that potters also have to be chemists: “You are not a potter unless you are familiar with glazing and firing as well.”
Abu Dhabi Pottery offers specialised private and group classes for adults and children. Adults pay Dh150 per class or Dh400 for four classes, with a one-time registration fee of Dh60 and a refundable deposit of Dh100. Children’s sessions cost Dh85 for one class and Dh280 for four with the same registration fee and a refundable Dh50 deposit. Children’s birthday parties and school visits are also welcome, where pinch pots, small teapots, animals or small pendants can be made for a minimum of eight children over a period of an hour. This costs Dh35 per child plus Dh10 each for clay for the birthday parties and Dh35/45 for unfired/fired pots for school trips. Call 02 666 7079 or visit www.abudhabipottery.com for more information. Nadia El Dasher
If you’d like to see Homa Vafaie-Farley’s work, she will be exhibiting for the third time at the Dubai International Arts Centre (DIAC) February 3-17. The centre will be divided into two sections, one in which she will showcase her almost 60 pieces, and the other will hold around 80 pieces by 40 of her students. Vafaie-Farley has won two awards from DIAC at its 2003 and 2008 members’ exhibitions. Here she describes some of the pieces that will be on display:
TEXTURES Up close, textures looks like a hundred tiny little pieces moulded together with gold. It is her favourite piece, and shares the same name as the exhibition. “I love this kind of glaze, the finish of this pot and the way it came out.” SEA INSPIRATION I & II These were inspired by the sea. “I like to walk on the beach and collect shells”, which she then mirrors in her pieces. “The coils on top represent the waves, and I added barnacles for texture.”
VOLCANO I, II & III: They were made on a wheel and coated with an interesting glaze, which gives the pots a rough finish. Vafaie-Farley, who was brought up in Iran, lived by the side of Mount Damavand, a volcanic mountain where she was inspired by the different layers and colours of the mountain and “its rough and rugged elements”. DESERT INSPIRATION: Vafaie-Farley’s homage to the deserts of the UAE. This particular piece is made up of camels, palm trees and sand dunes with minute elements of the desert throughout.