The vocational training programme in Al Ula is currently in its pilot phase with 20-25 students learning and practising the crafts of felting, basket weaving, wood and stone carving, as well as undertaking workshops that explore the principles of geometry underlying the order of nature and traditional methods and materials.
In Part II of The Art of Basket Weaving, participants presented to lead tutors, Annemarie O’Sullivan and Daniel Docherty, teaching assistants Dania Gazzaz and Martha Moderitz, and fellow classmates, the project work which developed in Part I of the course in November. Products and prototypes included lampshades, tableware, a prayer mat, bags, and coverings for various objects in materials including leather, wool, cane and the readily available palm fronds from local palm trees. Overall, we were impressed with the level of quality in technique and creativity after only a three week course and tutors commended the students as well as giving them ideas on how to develop their projects and weaving techniques further.
Annemarie lead sessions focussed on revising the seven strand plait weave, used locally by elderly palm frond weavers, and how to assemble a product using invisible stitching. Palm fronds were also dyed using natural materials including turmeric. She also introduced the technique of twining, a technique known for its use of colourful materials.
Daniel Docherty introduced some geometry to reinforce patterns in weaving, which also offered a physical and contemplative break for the students, who drew and coloured these beautiful patterns.
Short courses in palm frond weaving and hexagonal weaving and geometry were also offered as part of the Winter at Tantora festival short workshops, which are open to the public.
The programme of courses in Al Ula is a partnership between the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts and the Royal Commission of Al Ula, and aims to regenerate the traditional arts and crafts of the local area, and give young and old participants an opportunity to build a vocation in the fields of design and art. For more information on the programme and the short courses running throughout the Inter at Tantora festival, please refer to our website.