My online store goes live!*

I am very excited to announce the opening of my first online store!*

Goodies include bespoke greeting cards, phone cases, laptop sleeves, cushions, bags, notebooks, watches, wedding invitations, and much, much more to come! Please pay me a visit!

All products can be fully customised to suit your requirements. For example, just click on “customise” to order a phone case in a range of different makes and models. Enjoy browsing, and please share amongst your friends and family!

Happy shopping!

All images are (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2014

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Teaching at Cambridge University

I recently delivered an Islamic art workshop to trainee art teachers on the PGCE course at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. I demonstrated a few simple techniques that these new art teachers could use to generate Islamic-inspired floral patterns with their classes. I then showed the teachers how these designs could be translated into silk paintings (see their incredible work below!)

I’m looking forward to returning to do some more teaching at Cambridge University in the next academic year. Having completed my PGCE at the Faculty of Education a year ago, it feels as though things have come full circle. I don’t remember there being much inclusion of art from diverse cultures on the curriculum then I was at school, so it’s a great feeling to know that my skills and expertise are being used to help introduce Islamic art in schools.

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Works in progress…

My parent's favourite verse from the Qur'an. Calligraphy by Nassar Mansour, illuminated by me. © Ayesha Gamiet 2014

Although I’m not getting much time to work on my own art these days, it doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped thinking about it. In fact, I’ve been thinking about my illumination work a lot recently. Emails from past and potential students, plus my recent trip to Istanbul has reminded me of just how much I miss it all! I am longing to update my website gallery with new, completed illumination works, but I doubt I’ll be able to even contemplate working on them for at least the next few months. In the meantime, I thought I’d share some pictures of works in progress. Wish me luck in completing them and enjoy the images!

The illumination at the top of this post is a piece that I am gifting to my parents in thanks for all of their love and support over the years. There is a little story behind how it came about, which I’ve related in this blog post. The calligraphy is one of their favourite verses of the Qur’an, and I think that it encapsulates how they live their lives, and the values that they have tried to install within us, their children.

A few close ups:

Gift to parents-close up(1) © Ayesha Gamiet 2014

The picture above shows a detail of where I’ve started painting islimi (floral patterns). The silhouette design is called “negatif”, while the coloured flowers are called “classic”. The designs for all of these illuminations were composed by me, with the help of my teacher. We created compositions that are bespoke, reflecting the character, style and scale of the calligraphy. I spent many hours designing each section of pattern on tracing paper, before transferring my compositions into each area with 0.3 pencil.

Beginnings of a woven border © Ayesha Gamiet 2014

I’ve used 23 and 18 carat gold in the borders of this illumination. I’ve rubbed an agate burnisher over the 23 carat gold to make it shine, while the 18 carat gold (yellowish in colour) has been left matte – it tarnishes when burnished directly, so needs only a light, indirect burnish through greaseproof paper. You can also see where I’ve started painting the woven border. I use black calligraphy ink and a 10×0 round sable brush to do this (as far as I know, it is the smallest sable brush you can get!) I love how Nassar, the calligrapher of this piece chose to use a sepia coloured calligraphy ink. I think that it gives the work a very “warm” feel, which is in character with the nature of the verse. A translation of this calligraphy can be found on my initial blog post about the piece.

The next two works are a pair. The calligraphy is from the first and second chapters of the Qur’an. The first is Surah Al Fatiha, while the second is the start of Surah Al Baqarah. I chose a soft, subtle and delicate style of illumination for these two pieces. The method consists of subtle shading by mixing shell gold (hand-ground gold paint) with water infused with gelatine – halal gelatine of course! This technique is called halkar in Turkish.

'Al Fatiha' Calligraphy by Sabah Arbilli, illumination by me. © Ayesha Gamiet 2014

The large gold circles are decorative “full stops”, which will be adorned with tiny, coloured geometric patterns once complete. I have hardly made a start on the piece below, except for transferring my design around the calligraphy with pencil.

Al Baqarah Calligraphy by Sabah Arbilli, illumination by me. © Ayesha Gamiet 2014

Below is a detail of ‘Al Fatiha’. As you can see, the flowers used in halkar are much larger than those used in classic and negatif. However, this doesn’t make them easier to paint! The idea with this style of illumination is to concentrate the colour on the tips of the petals, then gently fade the colour towards the centre of the flower. This creates the illusion that the flower is illuminated from within. The subtlety of such delicate shading with the gold is very difficult to master. When gold is painted on a light background, such as the handmade papers used below, it needs to be held underneath a light source at an angle to see the gold shining. For me, part of the beauty of this technique is that it draws you in to take a second look: due to its subtlety, you may only catch a glimpse of the gold at first. A closer inspection reveals the richness and beauty of a piece. In the photo below, you can see where I’ve applied halkar shading to the flowers, then added a thin, maroon outline to each shape.

Detail of 'Al Fatiha' © Ayesha Gamiet 2014

This illumination is also an example of halkar, but on a darker background:

'Biesmiellah' detail. Calligraphy by Ayten Tiryaki, illumination by me. © Ayesha Gamiet 2014

Here is the complete version of the illumination above:

'Biesmiellah' Calligraphy by Ayten Tiryaki, illumination by me. © Ayesha Gamiet 2014

The next image shows my progress with another illumination painted in the classic style:

'Ayat Al Kursi' Calligraphy by Sabah Arbilli, illumination by me. © Ayesha Gamiet 2014

If you look into the large gold areas below, you’ll see that one area has the beginnings of a tiny, maroon-coloured design painted on the surface of the gold. To finish this piece, I need to apply those tiny maroon patterns to all each little gold section. I also need to paint a woven border into the work (as seen on the work at the top of this post), and add the fine “needlepoint” designs, which can be seen a the bottom of this picture. Tiny coloured details in each of the flowers also need to be completed.

I’ve got my work cut out for me!

'Ayat Al Kursi' detail. © Ayesha Gamiet 2014

A finished illumination in the classic style looks something like this:

'Istanbul' © Ayesha Gamiet 2014

Another technique used by illuminators is called tarama. This involves shading with shell gold to create an effect almost like an etching:

'Tarama' detail © Ayesha Gamiet 2014

In a way, this technique is similar to halkar in that the flowers are larger, and colour is concentrated on the tips of the petals, then faded towards the centre. However, instead of shading by diluting gold with water, the illuminator creates the impression of light and shadow by drawing lines with tiny brushstrokes – closer together at the tips and further apart towards the centre of each flower. Here is my finished illumination:

'Tarama' © Ayesha Gamiet 2014

I hope that you have enjoyed this whistle stop tour of my works in progress! There is so much to do, but complete it I will, insh’Allah. Wish me luck, and please keep me in your prayers.

With love and light!

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Quick trip to Istanbul…

I was in Istanbul last week for a very quick trip during the Easter holiday. Here are a few pictures of what I got up to:

I attended an ebru (Turkish paper marbling) workshop. Below are some images of my teacher demonstrating how the inks are applied to a water solution, prepared for paper marbling. I have a weakness for great art materials, and couldn’t resist purchasing a few bottles of ink and powdered seaweed so that I could try this again at home!

The teacher paints a tulip on top of the water solution.

Laying paper over the design:

The finished marbled paper!

Here are my attempts. I am planning on using my marbled papers as covers and endpapers for a new set of handmade books!

One of my favourite places in Istanbul, the resting place and Masjid of Eyup Sultan (RA). So peaceful and so beautiful:

Interior of the Masjid:

Detail of the dome:

Time spent in the bookseller’s market:

Browsing the markets of Uskudar…

Posted in Islamic Art Courses, Travels | 2 Comments

How to make your own firework painting

I made these paintings with my nephew and niece (ages 4 and 5) over the weekend.

You will need:
colourful wax crayons
thin card
black poster paint
a plastic fork, spoon or knife

Happy Guy Fawkes!

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Teaching Resources: Collage / Piñata Lesson

Teaching resource: how to design a piñata in just a few simple steps

Teaching interviews are scary things. They last the entire day, and normally consist of a tour of the school, a meeting with the Head Teacher and Department Head(s), a lesson observation, a formal interview, and in the case of art teacher interviews – a portfolio presentation of your students’ work. The interview for my current job was no different. For my classroom observation I was asked to prepare an art lesson on the theme of “celebration” for a mixed-ability group of year 8 students.

My lesson focused the theme of Mexican piñatas. I developed a worksheet to help students design their own piñata, which you can download here. The worksheet has been designed to help students learn some basic drawing and collage skills, as well as introduce them to an aspect of Mexican culture. I have also included a “word bank” for new vocabulary. In addition to the worksheet, I created a PowerPoint (available on TES), and printed and laminated images of different shaped piñatas for students to look at and use as inspiration. Each child received a mini “pack” of collage materials with coloured tissue paper, tin foil, cut up greeting cards etc…

My piñata worksheet

1. The first stage shows children how to draw animals or stars (traditional piñata designs) using geometric shapes – a great way of helping students to simplify complex images.

2. The second stage is to add collage papers and fabrics over the surface of the drawing. At this point, it might be helpful to point out a few interesting paper folding techniques e.g. making a concertina, creating ruffles, paper tearing, overlapping materials, scrunching paper etc…

3. The final stage involves adding any special embellishments e.g. sequins, beads, tin foil and other decorations. Cut-up greeting cards, fabrics and sweet papers work well too.

I also bought in a real piñata to show the children.  I really wanted to fill it with sweets and get the kids to smash it with a stick at the end of class, but my sensible side prevailed (I was worried about creating the wrong impression – it was an interview after all! What if the kids went nuts and my lesson turned into a riot?!) Instead, I bought in a jar of sweets and promised the class they could have them as a reward at the end of the lesson if they worked well.

I must have done something right, as I got the job! The kids couldn’t have worked better. Which just goes to show… if in doubt, just dish out a few sweets!

Check out TES for my worksheet and PowerPoint.


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Paint box

Paint box (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2013

Just a little afternoon sketch of the paintbox on my desk. I haven’t done much sketching from life for a while, so I thought I’d warm up by painting something (literally) very close to home. I’m also trying to get quicker at sketching, so I’ve had a go with an old set of watercolour pencils that have been knocking about in my studio for ages. The paint set is a new(ish) Schiminke watercolour box that I treated myself to, after completing my teacher training. I’ve used the original Schiminke watercolours for the paint pans, watercolour pencils for the brushes and structure of the paint box, then added some definition with a waterproof marker. I’m fairly pleased with the result, and will continue to practice with the watercolour pencils – they did help to speed things up.

Next week is the last week of the summer holiday and I will start my new teaching job from September. I’ll try to cram in as much sketching as I can before I head back to school… will post up the results on the blog!

Posted in Sketching, Urban Sketches | 1 Comment

Teaching Resources: Islamic art

Please feel free to download and use some of the Islamic art teaching resources that I designed for my year 7 classes. Last term, my students designed and made their own Islamic art-inspired tiles (see my previous post for pictures). Prior to making the ceramic tiles, I got my class to research designs using books and the internet. They collected images in their sketchbooks, then developed their own patterns inspired by their research.

Here’s a starter activity that I used to help get children thinking about the geometric aspect to the tiles:

The following files are pdf templates of a six-pointed star, an 8-pointed star, a hexagon and an octagon. My kids designed their tile patterns within the template, then used these designs to help shape and paint their ceramic versions. Thanks to my amazing art technicians, the templates were the identical size of the finished tiles (thank you Emma and Lucy!) Having a standard size for each shape meant that the tiles could tessellate easily once fired.

Finally, here are a couple of extension activities I made for children who finished early! These are nets for a 3D cube and an octahedron. Colour the surface geometric patterns using colouring pencils, paints or crayons, then cut out the shape (including tabs). To assemble: fold along the bold black lines, or gently score along them using a ruler and a sharp pencil. Add glue to areas labelled “paste”. Once you’ve folded back the edges of the shape, it should be obvious where you need to stick each tab to create the cube or octahedron. Happy making!

I hope you enjoy using these resources with your children and / or classes. To all the teachers out there: I will be adding these resources, along with PowerPoints to the TES website over the next couple of days. Enjoy, and I hope you find them helpful!

Posted in Islamic Art for Children, Pattern in Islamic art, Teaching, Teaching resources | 6 Comments

Back from Cambridge!

Punting on the River Cam - I was too busy to go punting during my PGCE! However, I'm hoping to have a go when I'm back in Cambridge for my Master's degree.

It’s been a very exciting, intense and rewarding year. I have just completed my PGCE (teacher training) in Secondary Art & Design at the University of Cambridge. I am so sorry for the lack of blog posts over these past few months, but I will try and make up of it over the summer. In the meantime, here’s a little update in words and pictures of what I’ve been up to since starting my studies in Cambridge last September:

The beautiful Homerton College, (my college at Cambridge).

Despite the long, cold winter, it didn’t take long to settle in at Cambridge. The course consisted of lectures and seminars at the Faculty of Education, balanced with teaching placements in schools in and around Cambridge. The image above was taken one morning walking back from lectures to the lovely Homerton College. Homerton is known as “the friendliest college in Cambridge” (agree!) The college also boasts a dining hall to rival Hogwart’s (more on that later!)

Two thirds of the PGCE consists of time spent on placement (i.e. working as a teacher in schools in Cambridge). As any teacher will know, standing up in front of a class for the first time is a daunting experience. There is so much to keep in your head! There were many challenges for me to overcome during my training, and to be honest, I feel as though breaking out of my “comfort zone” has been a major theme in my life over the past year. One concern that I had prior to starting my PGCE centred around my skills base in art. My background is in African and Asian art / art history, with a focus on Islamic and traditional arts. As a secondary school art teacher, I knew I would have to expand my skills base to include all kinds of things that felt unfamiliar to me. It’s been years and years since I’ve tried portraiture, for example, or made any textiles, or looked at Surrealism in art. Would I be able to cope with all the new skills I was expected learn, and also to teach? Part of me was very apprehensive about this, while another part of me welcomed the challenge. Here’s how I got on. Below are some examples of my student’s work from the PGCE. The first few images are from a year 9 project (ages 13-14) on photorealism, inspired by the artist Chuck Close:

A photorealistic inspired portrait by one of my students. Acrylic paint on hot-pressed paper.

Thoughtful and sensitive pencil work. This student has used Chuck Close's grid method to help scale up the proportions of their face.

This student took a slightly more abstract approach to her work, mixing in oil pastel and charcoal with her acrylic work.

Another beautiful and expressive pencil portrait... I had a really talented bunch of kids!

The aim of this project was to help students develop their tonal skills, use of scale and proportion through portraiture. Students used pencils, charcoal, oil pastel, chalk and acrylic to help build up their portraits. We explored the work of photorealist artist, Chuck Close, discussing and analysing features of his style, learning about his grid technique, and watching clips of him at work in his studio. The class also produced a group piece of artwork, where each student recreated a section of a Chuck Close portrait. The individual pieces were then assembled together to form a class artwork:

Chuck Close group project

In addition to the Chuck Close portraiture work, I taught projects on the modern landscape, still life (based on the work of artist Wayne Thiebaud), Surrealism, print-making, fashion collage and clay casting. Some of the artworks produced from these projects are on display in school. Once I’ve received photos of the displays from school, I’ll post up more students work on my blog.

I also had the opportunity to bring in some of my prior knowledge and expertise to the art classroom. I set my year 7 students a project on Islamic tiles, where they researched traditional geometric and floral patterns to help them develop their own designs:

Year 7 Islamic art ceramic tiles (unglazed)

Year 7 Islamic art ceramic tiles - glazed but unfired.

Every now and then, the trainee art teachers at Cambridge were treated to mini workshops in various aspects of art and design. Through the duration of the course, I realised that each of us had own areas of strength and expertise, just as everyone also had gaps in their knowledge which needed to be addressed. These mini workshops in drawing, textiles, photography and printmaking helped us to expand our skills base. They also gave us a much-needed opportunity to make our own art during the course! Once you start teaching, there very little time to create your own artwork. I began to relish any chance to get into the studio and make my own work!

A drawing workshop for trainee art teachers at the beautiful Faculty of Education art studio.

My favourite, favourite workshop of all! Printmaking at Curwen print studios.

My favourite, favourite workshop was the day spent at Curwen Print Studios, where we had the chance to try drypoint etching. For those of you who don’t know, drypoint etching is a process of scratching a design into acetate, applying ink to the surface of the design, then rolling acetate and paper through a press to create hand-crafted prints. Now, printmaking was one of those techniques that I was slightly apprehensive about teaching, seeing as I’d never done much of it before. By the end of the day, I’d fallen so much in love with the technique, that I was making plans to buy my own printing press! Honestly, I feel as though if someone had introduced me to printmaking earlier in my career, I may well have decided to become a printmaker instead of a painter. Thinking back to my day at the print studios still makes me smile, and gets me excited about how I might use printmaking in my work in the future.

Rolling designs through the press.

Some of the work on display at Curwen Print Studio.

Incidentally, if anyone knows of a second-hand press up for sale, do get in touch! It will probably be out of my price range, but a girl can dream…

Here is some of my work from the day:

My design, scratched onto acetate and inked up ready to go.

A set of prints produced from my etching

Experimentation with coloured paper

Tweet tweet!

Still trying to refine the technique...

During the last week of the course, we had some time to collect resources and carry out research in the galleries and museums of Cambridge. My friend and fellow art trainee, Alanna spent a very happy, relaxing morning sketching in Cambridge Botanical Gardens:

Cambridge Botanical Gardens

All in all, it was a very busy, challenging, inspiring and rewarding year. I am going to miss Cambridge, but I wont be gone for long! I’ve been offered a place on the MEd (Master of Education course, with a focus on Art, Creativity and Culture), which I will be completing part-time from September 2013 whilst teaching in my new job. I am very much looking forward to starting both my MEd, and new teaching job after the summer!

I will leave you with an image taken at our celebratory dinner held at Homerton College during the last week week of term:

PGCE celebration, Homerton College.

Don’t you think it looks a bit like Hogwarts?

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Workshops in Doha

Children stencil tessallating geometric patterns.

I have recently returned to the UK after delivering a series of workshops in Doha, Qatar. For two weeks in July / August 2012, myself and two colleagues from the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts led Islamic art classes at Katara Cultural Village. The workshops were a great success, and were even featured in a lovely article in The Gulf Times! As usual, the trip was very busy, very tiring, but also very fun! I particularly enjoyed spending time in Doha during Ramadan. During the day, the streets are quiet, but everything comes alive at night! The atmosphere is very special. With the nocturnal eating hours of Ramadan, the city buzzes in anticipation of the secret midnight feast and night time prayers.

Square and hexagon shaped "tiles" are ready to be cut out and tessellated.

It is late here in the UK, and I am tired, so I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking. Above are some examples from our geometric stencilling workshop. Students used paints and stipling brushes to stencil geometric patterns onto square, hexagon and triangular shaped “tiles”. The “tiles” were then tessellated to form several group projects. The results are below:

One of our competed group projects - consisting of stencilled hexagons tessellated together.

My colleagues and I put the finishing touches to one of the group projects.

We also led a workshop on Platonic solids. Our students coloured the surface pattern on polyhedra nets, which were then cut out and assembled to form 3D shapes:

A student paints, then constructs an octahedron, as part of our Platonic solids workshop.

Two brothers work together on colouring their octahedron.

Some of the completed Platonic Solids - great as festive decorations!

Students had the opportunity to learn about floral design in Islamic art. Using inspiration from nature, we led them through a simple workshop on rotational symmetry, which resulted in the following beautiful tessellating patterns:

'Breath of The Compassionate' group project.

At the end of the week, my colleague and I led special adult classes in traditional geometry and Islamic manuscript illumination. As part of the illumination class, I showed some of my own work, and taught students gilding and brushwork techniques:

A student working on her piece from the Islamic manuscript illumination class - this requires very careful concentration!

Student's work from the Islamic manuscript illumination class.

A belated Eid Mubarak to you all!

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