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Transcending culture and style: When a Persian artist does Japanese pottery

Persia and Japan are poles apart when it comes to their styles and values but what both countries have in common is their long art history as well as a great appreciation for life and culture.

Persia and Japan trace back their art in pottery back to the early Neolithic Age and this long history has transformed the outlook of modern Persian artist Shima Amia who not only embraces her own culture but draws upon that history and mixed her knowledge with the Japanese pottery making something called the Raku wares — a style that rose to fame in the 1580s and is characterised by the removal of the clay from the kiln at the height of firing which causes for it to cool rapidly and is a big part of the Japanese tea ceremony.

“The experience is quite exquisite. I am creating pieces that exist only in my imagination. Inspired by history and culture, I am able to create something special including clay coins’’, she said.

“My favourite pieces as of late are the traditional Japanese wares called Raku used during tea ceremonies. The technique used to create these ceramics are quite wild and once you see the end product, it makes you want to say “Hallelujah’’, she shared.

Shima shared that the shaping process is something different and is hard to replicate, the reason why she loved it more as every piece is unique and will never be repeated.

“Each of these objects I create, they stem from my passion to bring these objects to come to life. They are a by-product of hard work and dedication and all stems from my heart’’, she added.

But other than the traditional Japanese raku wares, Shima also employs the same techniques in her other work.

“I use the Raku technique when I craft other objects. For example, mixed with horsehair, I can clearly shape Omani men and the facial features of Omani women from clay. I have art pieces that delve into Omani culture as well, my way of showing devotion to the country that welcomes me’’, she said.

“All these artworks that I conjure and breathe into life, made me feel at home’’, she shared.

“My last name, amia, actually means “gold bag” in Farsi. This is where my Instagram account comes from, the art added to notify everyone that it’s a business account’’, she said.

“I found myself falling in love with clay. What keeps me going in the art industry is making a living over something I enjoy and am passionate about. My job isn’t repetitively boring, and there is always a surprise waiting for me to discover. I love challenging myself, it makes me realize what I am capable of achieving’’, she shared.

Whatever her learnings are in pottery making, Shima shares when she conducts hand-built and interior design workshops.

“We provide two types of workshops. Hand-built is like customising your cup using your bare hands and utilising materials that are available around you. Wheel workshops are mainly set at Amia studio where usually people gather up and get to do something fun together’’, she said.

She added, “During the pandemic, I was lucky to practice handicrafts. It felt like therapy which helped me to relieve stress and negative energy. You will only understand and appreciate hand built art once you have given it a try.”

Shima shared that there is a misconception she would love to address in the community.

“Many believe that pottery is a traditional craft made by typical old man/woman to make a pot and that is all to it. But not everything is as simple. Pottery today has transform enormously and there is more to what the eyes can see’’, she said.

Shima encourages everyone to give her own brand of pottery a chance. While it may sound intimidating to some, she shared that the learning process can bring so much joy.

“I have collaborated with Omani artists and galleries as a part of my promise of supporting the youth. We need to support each other. Art is more than just a story to be told, more than a colour to be one. It defines a perspective that is understood differently by each one of us’’, she said.

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