Dome of the Rock / Al Aqsa Mosque

Dome of the Rock / Al Aqsa Mosque by Ayesha Gamiet (c) 2016

My most recent commission, completed last month. I loved exploring each intricate little pattern, interpreting the design into a miniature / illuminated painting. Very challenging at times, but definitely worth the effort. I loved combining my knowledge of manuscript illumination with my (limited) studies in miniature painting to create this illustration, and it has inspired me to learn more.

Close up of Dome of the Rock / Al Aqsa painting (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

The dome was created by gilding 22 carat gold leaf on the surface of the paper. You can view a clip of the gold on the dome catching the light here. The architectural patterns and foliage were painted using coloured gouache, often applied in layers to give the impression of patterns on a mosaic tile. The plants and flowers were intended to represent abundance, growth, life, and hope. I painted very stylised palm leaves and bougainvillea framing the edge of the illustration, as these plants are prevalent in the region. Plus, I think the organic shapes of foliage contrast well against the crystalline architectural patterns.

My client is Palestinian, unable to visit the Dome of the Rock for 23 years. He asked me to make this painting as a reminder of his homeland. It was an honour to be entrusted with such a task, and I hope this artwork brings some peace and joy to him and his family.

#ayeshagamiet #domeoftherock #alaqsa #islamicart #islamicpattern #islimi #islamicdesign #gilding #shellgold #illumination #tezhib #tezhip #illustration

Posted in Gilding, Islamic Architecture, Islamic Manuscript Illumination, Miniature painting, Pattern in Islamic art | 1 Comment


Me, working on my hilye

For just over a year now, I have been working on my first illuminated hilye.

A hilye is a traditional Ottoman calligraphic composition that includes Qur’anic verses and a description of the physical and moral characteristics of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). After a month of designing, correcting, redesigning and finalising sketches for the illuminated borders, I began illuminating my hilye last February. I always try to keep a record of my artworks in progress. Usually, my progress shots sit in the hard drive of my laptop, purely for my reference purposes. However, and since beginning this project, it struck me that very few people have the opportunity to witness the practice of a living traditional art. Unless we’re artists, craftspeople, art educators, or directly involved in some regular creative practice, we don’t often encounter traditional arts and crafts in our everyday lives.

A few years ago, I delivered a workshop at a local primary school, where a teacher remarked that “a generation or two ago, children might have had hand painted china at home”, but now our encounter with hand-crafted everyday objects is becoming increasingly rare. I have thought about this in the intervening years, and was reminded when I came to paint my hilye. For that reason, I decided to keep an online visual diary of my hilye progress in a Facebook album. Now that the painting of my first hilye is slowly drawing to a close, I decided to share my thoughts, as well as images of the process here too.

Preliminary sketches for a hilye border (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

A hilye is the most challenging piece of work for any calligrapher or illuminator to make, and it is an honour to be deemed ready to make one. In the practice of Turkish illumination, students are often asked to make a hilye at the completion of their apprenticeship. The complexity of the design, with its roundels, and rectangular calligraphic panels gives plenty of opportunity to showcase an illuminator’s skills. Several different styles of illumination are used on one piece. The key is to execute each style proficiently, and ensure that each section harmonises with the other parts.

For a detailed and insightful article on the significance of the hilye, I recommend the following read by acclaimed American calligrapher, Mohamed Zakariya.

Many people do not realise that the calligrapher and the illuminator are usually two different people. It is rare for one artist to be skilled in both crafts, but not impossible. An exception is my teacher, Ayten Tiryaki, a masterful calligrapher and illuminator, who wrote my hilye. Once the calligraphy is written, it may be pasted onto a board, or handmade paper, then given to the illuminator, who will create a bespoke design according to the style, meaning, size, and character of the calligraphy.

The hilye before illumination is added (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

The image above shows the calligraphy with margins ruled, ready for illumination. The main body of the hilye text translates as:

“Transmitted from Ali [son-in-law of the Prophet], may God be pleased with him, who, when asked to describe the Prophet, peace be upon him, would say, “He was not too tall nor too short. He was medium sized. His hair was not short and curly, nor was it lank but in between. His face was not narrow, nor was it fully round, but there was a roundness to it. His skin was white. His eyes were black. He had long eyelashes. He was big-boned and had wide shoulders. He had no body hair except in the middle of his chest. He had thick hands and feet. When he walked, he walked inclined, as if descending a slope. When he looked at someone, he looked at them in full face. “Between his shoulders was the seal of prophecy, the sign that he was the last of the prophets. He was the most generous-hearted of men, the most truthful of them in speech, the most mild-tempered of them, and the noblest of them in lineage. Whoever saw him unexpectedly was in awe of him. And whoever associated with him familiarly loved him. Anyone who would describe him would say, ‘I never saw, before him or after him, the like of him.’ Peace be upon him.”

Translation by Mohamed Zakaria.

The four circular panels contain the names of Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) four closest companions: Abu Bakr, Omar, Ali and Uthman (may God be pleased with them all).

There is also a Qur’anic verse which reads:

“And we did not send you (Muhammad) except as a mercy unto the universe”

The illuminator’s sketches are made on tracing paper, where they are drafted and re-drafted until the design is coherent and harmonious. Once finalised, the first stage involves transferring the tracing onto the calligraphic piece. I tend to use a very fine 0.3 2H mechanical pencil for this job, but I do know of illuminators who burnish the back of the tracing paper with a smooth stone or shell. The pressure created by burnishing causes graphite from the pencil to transfer the design on to the piece.

Border designs are traced on to the calligraphy using a fine pencil. (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

With the design traced onto the calligraphic piece, the next stage is to apply gold. The art of illumination is called tezhip in Turkish, and tezhib in Arabic, literally meaning “to gild”, or “to apply gold”. This signifies the importance of gilding, which is at the heart of illumination. Without gold, a painting is not an illumination. Furthermore, correct application of gold is key. Traditionally, illuminators work with a handmade paint called shell gold. Shell gold is hand ground gold leaf, mixed with a solution of water and gum Arabic, or water and gelatine, to create a paint. When made and applied correctly, the gold will shine brightly after burnishing.

Gold is applied to the margins, stems, and leaves of the design (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

The crescent surrounding the main hilye text is called hilal in Arabic, which literally refers to the crescent moon. The circular illuminated space surrounding the main text is called shamsa, meaning “little sun”, indicating this area should appear as a stylised sun. The small illuminated rectangular panels at the bottom of the piece are called koltuk, and they are usually similar in style to the shamsa. This particular style employs tiny coloured flowers against a contrasting coloured background. Each flower has three shades of colour. The image below shows the first layer of colour applied to each flower.

First layer of colour applied to each flower (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

The next stage is one that beginners find the most difficult, and most daunting, though I admit I have come to love it: outlining. Yes, this is done with a paintbrush, not a pen or a pencil. Outlining sharpens and focuses each shape, adding clarity to the design.

Outlining each shape (c) Ayesha Gamiet

Once the outline has been added, it’s time to paint the blue background. The illuminator carefully “floods” blue into the spaces between the gold and coloured flowers. This instantly offsets the gold, creating a striking contrast between the gilding and blue background. Illumination is a meditative art form, intended to invite the viewer and the practitioner into a contemplative state. I have always felt that the blue and gold floral patterns are reminiscent of Gardens of Paradise, as well as the starry Heavens. I love witnessing this part of the design take shape.

Close up of the central hilye text with blue background added (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

Just as the shamsa (stylised sun) and koltuk are stylistically related, so too are the hilal (crescent) and the slim golden border. I chose to illuminate these sections with motifs known as rûmî. These were painted as delicate black silhouettes upon the gold. In the image below, you can see that some areas were burnished, giving a bright shine, while others were left matte. I love the contrast and depth this technique brings to the gold.

Burnishing the gold border (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

The next stage was to add details to each of the coloured flowers. Shading gives each flower life and vibrancy.

Detail of the shamsa section, showing shading in each flower (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

With the interior sections of the hilye more or less complete, it was time to move on to the large outer border, which would be painted in a completely different style. I applied more shell gold to the illuminated areas of the design, then washed pale pink and green watercolour over each leaf and flower.

Gold and watercolour applied to large flowers on the outer border (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

Using very fine brushstrokes, I carefully applied two shades of shell gold to illuminate each leaf and flower.

Gilding the outer border (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

I used handmade red ochre pigment paint to outline the large flowers on the outer border.

Outlining with red ocher pigment paint (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

Very close to completion, and just missing a few final details, my hilye is now looking something like this:

Near complete hilye (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2016

I hope to add the final finishing touches over the coming months, insh’Allah, God willing. Wish me luck in completing this process!

Posted in Gilding, Islamic Manuscript Illumination | 2 Comments

Spring 2016 Islamic Art courses in London and Windsor

Illuminated painting by Gagan Jutley, a student on the Islamic geometry and illumination course, Oct-Nov 2015.

I am delighted to announce that I will be teaching the following courses over the coming weeks and months:

Continue reading

Posted in Islamic Art Courses, Islamic Manuscript Illumination, Islamic geometry, News, Pattern in Islamic art, Student's Work, Teaching | 6 Comments

‘The Art of Islamic Illumination: A Personal Reflection’ by Fareena Chanda of the Friday Collective

Fareena Chanda's work in progress, after a Mamluk illuminated pattern

I was very moved reading this heartfelt and insightful article, reflecting upon the experience of learning a traditional Islamic craft. Fareena Chanda spent a week studying the art of tezhib / tezhip (Islamic manuscript illumination) at my studio in Windsor earlier this year. Over the course of a week, we explored traditional methods for preparing paper, creating shell gold and making paints from pigment, brushwork, and traditional painting techniques from the world of Islamic illuminated manuscripts. In her article, Fareena expresses the essence of creating an illuminated artwork.

The process of creating an illuminated painting, stage by stage. Fareena Chanda uses one of my designs to practice her technique.

I am very much looking forward to seeing how Fareena’s studies and travels will influence her future creative path.

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Incredible artwork from my students; future Islamic art courses in Windsor

Beautiful illumination work from my student Mariam Yasin, produced on my Summer Islamic art courses.

A little update on the incredible work produced by my students over the summer in my Islamic art workshops. We held classes in Islamic manuscript illumination (or tezhib / tezhip, as it is known in Arabic and Turkish), geometry, and Islamic floral design / silk scarf painting. Classes took place at my beautiful new studio in Windsor, Berkshire, UK! We had students travelling from as far afield as Mexico City, the US, and Dubai, as well as London, Manchester, Derby, Reading, Slough, and Woking. What a talented and dedicated bunch! The next run of courses start on Saturday, 10th October 2015. We will be exploring geometry in illuminated Islamic manuscripts, recreating beautiful frontispieces by constructing patterns with a ruler and compass. Students will also learn how to make their own paints from pigment, and genuine gold leaf (shell gold).

Keep updated with my courses and artwork on Facebook and Instagram.

Join us! And spread the word!

In the meantime, here are some images from my Summer 2015 Islamic art workshops:

Students Nicki Wiseby (l) and Sharmina Haq (r) produced these stunning floral designs inspired by Islamic biomorphic patterns.

Students experiment with colour samples and painting techniques for their silk work.

Raanaz Shahid's illumination work in progress. Students learnt how to make their own paints from gold leaf and pigment. They then applied these colours to their work using traditional methods. We stored our paints in shells - light and portable, just as illuminators and miniaturists would have used these centuries ago.

Students apply striking ultramarine blue backgrounds to their work.

Illumination work is progressing nicely! Top row: Nicki Wiseby (l), Mariam Yasin (r). Bottom row: Raanaz Shahid

Completed work from Mariam Yasin (top l and r). Work is near completion from Raanaz Shahid (bottom row).

Finally, here is a beautiful clip of the work of Margarita Puente, who travelled all the way from Mexico city to learn about Islamic art! In the clip, Margarita is burnishing shell gold for the first time – a truly magical experience!

#islamicart #islamicartworkshops #islamicartcourses #islamicmanuscriptillumination #tezhib #tezhip #islamicpattern #islamicdesign #windsor #ayeshagamiet #silkpainting #islimi #islamicgeometry #textiles #textiledesign #islamicartstudio

Posted in Islamic Art Courses, Islamic Manuscript Illumination, Islamic geometry, Pattern in Islamic art, Student's Work, Teaching, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Graduation Day at Cambridge University

Ayesha Gamiet: Graduation day at Cambridge University. Receiving my degree at Senate House.

Last weeks’ graduation ceremony at the University of Cambridge, where I received my Masters degree in Education. Feeling incredibly blessed, inspired, grateful, and hopeful for the future.

‪#‎blessings‬‪ #‎gratitude‬ ‪#‎hope‬ ‪#‎love‬ ‪#‎art‬ ‪#‎creativity‬ ‪#‎inspiration‬ ‪#‎universityofcambridge‬‪#‎homertoncollege‬ ‪#‎graduation‬ ‪#‎art education‬ #ayeshagamiet

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New Islamic studio in Windsor, Berkshire, UK!

My new studio / teaching space in Windsor, Berskshire, UK, Ayesha Gamiet 2015

My new studio in Windsor, Berkshire, is up and running and ready for business! I’ve really enjoyed teaching my first few classes in this light, bright peaceful space. As well as running Islamic art courses/ small group and private tuition, I am also available for art commissions. Do get in touch!

‪#‎islamicmanuscriptillumination‬ ‪#‎tezhip‬ ‪#‎tezhib‬ ‪#‎islamicartcourses‬‪#‎islamicpattern‬ ‪#‎islamicart‬ ‪#‎islamicdesign‬ ‪#‎illuminatedmanuscripts‬ ‪#‎gilding‬‪#‎gold‬ ‪#‎shellgold‬ ‪#‎traditionalmethods‬ ‪#‎islimi‬ ‪#‎handmade‬ ‪#‎handmadepaint‬‪#‎handmadepaper‬ ‪#‎ayeshagamiet‬ ‪#‎geometry‬ ‪#‎islamicgeometry‬ ‪#‎islamicfloraldesign‬‪#‎islamicdesign‬ ‪#‎islamicartcourses‬‪#‎islamicmanuscriptillumination‬ ‪#‎pattern‬ ‪#‎islamicpattern‬ ‪#‎drawing‬‪#‎technicaldrawing‬ #‎education‬ ‪#‎arteducation‬ ‪#‎artteachers‬‪#‎arteducator‬

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Islamic geometry and plaster carving workshop at the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education

Students' geometry drawing and plaster carving in progress. University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education. Islamic art workshop with Ayesha Gamiet.

Last week, I was back at Cambridge University to deliver my second Islamic art workshop for the year. I had a full day to work with the wonderful trainee art teachers, so I decided to go into a little more depth in teaching Islamic geometry. I also gave students the opportunity to try their hand at plaster carving – a skill I intend to include in my forthcoming summer workshops.  In the morning session, I delivered a short illustrated talk on Islamic design. We also discussed how Islamic art might be integrated into schemes of work in the art curriculum, and talked about cultural sensitivities that teachers might need to be aware of when teaching Muslim children.

Students explore 12-fold Islamic geometry, then experiment with creating their own patterns for plaster carving. University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education. Islamic art workshop with Ayesha Gamiet.

After a quick geometry “warm up”, (yes, it is possible to warm up for geometry!) we moved onto creating 12-fold patterns, where students used tracing paper overlays to experiment with their own personalised 12-fold designs. We also constructed a traditional 12-fold pattern from the Islamic world.

A student creates their own unique design for a plaster carving based upon their new knowledge of 12-fold geometry. University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education. Islamic art workshop with Ayesha Gamiet.

After lunch, students started work on the plaster carvings! They were given the opportunity to work from their own designs, developed in the morning session, or to work from the traditional 12-fold pattern that we constructed together.

Plaster carving works in progress. University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education. Islamic art workshop with Ayesha Gamiet.

Plaster carving works in progress. University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education. Islamic art workshop with Ayesha Gamiet.

As usual, their work was absolutely beautiful! I look forward to seeing the finished results next time I am in Cambridge.

If you like what you see here, and would like to book me for a workshop or an art commission, please do get in touch via the contact form on my website. I am happy to develop a bespoke workshop or course to suit your requirements. I teach from my studio in Windsor, Berkshire, UK, where I run Islamic art courses for the public, as well as engage in small group and private tuition. I can also travel to you – there are lots of options! Drop me an email to discuss further!

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Ramadan Mubarak

Ramadan Mubarak! Artwork (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2015

Ramadan Mubarak! Wishing you much peace and many wonderful blessings for the Holy Month.

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Local press coverage of my upcoming Islamic art courses

Slough and Windsor Observer article: Islamic art classes with Ayesha Gamiet in Windsor, Berkshire, UK

A lovely article* on my upcoming Islamic art classes published in the Slough and Windsor Observer today! So much looking forward to this! First classes are on the 27th of June, running throughout the summer.

Book soon to receive a 20% discount off your course(s).
For further info please email:

Islamic art classes in Windsor, Berkshire, UK with Ayesha Gamiet.

*Correction: Arshad Gamiet is not a trustee of Stoke Poges Mosque*

‪#‎islamicartcourses‬ ‪#‎islamicartcoursesuk‬ ‪#‎islamicgeometry‬‪#‎islamicmanuscriptillumination‬ ‪#‎islamicart‬ ‪#‎arabesque‬ ‪#‎islimi‬ ‪#‎tezhib‬‪#‎windsor‬

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