First day of workshops at the House of Traditional Arts, Jeddah. Photo credit: Art Jameel

A very happy New Year to all my followers! May 2019 bring you abundant happiness, peace, prosperity, and many, many blessings. Mine looks to be a fun, busy, creative, and adventurous year. I already have several stints working abroad booked into my schedule… including to a country I’ve never visited before, but ALWAYS wanted to explore (more on that at a later date!) Plus plenty of teaching in the UK, and some very exciting commissions!

If you are based in the UK and interested in learning more about Islamic art, there are still spaces on my Tezhip / Illumination Foundations Courses, due to start in February. Click here for more info on the 1-week intensive course, and here for the Saturday course. Classes are typically very small with a maximum of 8 students per course, so you will get lots of one-to-one attention and create some exquisite art. My studio is located in beautiful and historic Windsor, Berkshire. I am just a few minutes walk from Windsor Castle, the River Thames, and the picturesque High Street.

My courses at the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Art are also now online. Click here to discover more about my workshops on illuminated geometry, shamsas, and some fantastic beasts.

2018 ended beautifully. I spent two weeks in Saudi Arabia teaching at the House of Traditional Arts in Jeddah, and even managed to fit in a visit to Medina, and a pilgrimage to Mecca before returning home last month. The workshops were run and organised by the wonderful Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts, and Art Jameel. The Islamic arts diploma course, which I taught on in Jeddah is based in the historic old town, known as Al-Balad. Here are some photos from my stay – enjoy!

All photos in this post were taken by Art Jameel unless otherwise stated.

The historic district of Al-Balad, the Old Town in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Photo credit: Ayesha Gamiet

Al Balad is one of the few places where traditional gypsum carving is still found in Jeddah. Photo credit: Ayesha Gamiet

Presentation on nabati / islimi (biomorphic design in Islamic art). Photo credit: Art Jameel

Students learning how to design their own floral motifs using images from nature, and principles of rotational and mirror symmetry inspired by Islamic art. Photo credit: Art Jameel

Sensitive brushwork. A student creates her own design for a stylised floral motif, then paints it using a technique called halkar. Photo credit: Art Jameel

After several days of learning traditional Islamic art design principles and painting techniques, students start creating their own designs for a set of tessellating tiles. Photo credit: Art Jameel

Everyone is hard at work designing their tiles! Photo credit: Art Jameel

Octagonal tessellations. Photo credit: Art Jameel

These next photos are from a 3-day short course I delivered for the public. Whereas the the first course focused on design skills, this second course was a brief introduction to the art of tezhip, or Islamic illuminated manuscripts. Students followed a pre-designed template to learn illumination techniques.

Talk and presentation on day 1. We took a brief look at the history of illuminated manuscripts, style and technique, regional differences, motifs, symbolism, and traditional methods and materials. Photo credit: Art Jameel

Helping a student correct her pencil work. Photo credit: Art Jameel

This is what brush practice looks like. We only did it for an afternoon, but traditionally, an apprentice illuminator might spend several weeks or months refining their brush practice before moving onto the next stage of their education. Photo credit: Art Jameel

These new illuminators are applying synthetic gold to their paintings. Usually, we use genuine handmade shell gold. However, due to this being a 3-day workshop, we didn't have time to make the gold by hand. Photo credit: Art Jameel

All gilded and outlined, time for the blue background. Photo credit: Art Jameel

Correcting a student's work. Photo credit: Art Jameel

All done! Photo credit: Art Jameel

And finally, here are a few photos from Mecca and Medina. I was too busy being a pilgrim to take lots of photos, but I do have a few. I didn’t manage to take any at all in Mecca, so the one below is from a previous trip, just to give you some idea of what the journey was like.

The Holy Kaa'ba at Mecca. Photo credit: Ayesha Gamiet

A very kind and thoughtful gift from one of my students. It's a silver ring with seven beads attached on a string. Each time you circle the Kaa'ba, you move one of the beads up the string, so you don't loose track of how many circuits you've made. I was very moved to received this, and of course, I remembered her in my prayers as I made my pilgrimage. Photo credit: Ayesha Gamiet

Masjid Al-Nabawi, The Prophet's Mosque at Medina. Photo credit: Ayesha Gamiet

Posted in Islamic Art Courses, Islamic Manuscript Illumination, Jeddah, News, Pattern in Islamic art, Student's Work, Teaching, Tezhib, Travels, painting, tezhip | Leave a comment

NEW Illumination Courses 2019

A Mughal illuminated shamsa

1-week intensive Islamic manuscript illumination course, 4 – 8 Feb 2019

5 Saturday Islamic manuscript illumination course, 23 Feb – 3 March 2019

These new Islamic art courses are designed for students who would like to delve deep into the art of tezhip (Islamic manuscript illumination). Part 1 will focus on design skills, forming the first of three courses exploring the rich and exquisitely beautiful world of Islamic manuscripts.

For centuries, Muslim artists have used gold, pigments, and inks to adorn and illuminate both sacred and non-religious texts. Come join us in learning how these designs were composed and painted using ancient methods and techniques. Classes are practical, and will be taught in the same manner, using the same exercises as traditional illumination lessons in Istanbul. If you have ever thought about studying Islamic art in the traditional way, this course is for you!

We will take a detailed look at the pattern elements of illumination, familiarising with the rich and varied world of plant and floral motifs. Exploring the rules and principles for creating traditional Islamic designs, students will then have the opportunity to create their own compositions. They will receive personalised, one-to-one feedback on their work, challenging them to develop and refine their skills even further. In addition, we will take a closer look at the traditional methods and materials used in the art of illumination. Students will have the opportunity to make their own paints from raw pigment, and learn how to make the most important colour for illuminators – shell gold, ground and filtered from gold leaf. Students will paint their designs using beautiful and elegant centuries-old techniques from the world of Islamic art.

At the end of the course, each student will have their own uniqely designed and painted frontispiece or shamsa to take home.

*Students are asked to bring a book of genuine 22 carat gold leaf (loose leaf, NOT transfer) to session 1, otherwise all materials are covered in the course fee*

Tutor Ayesha Gamiet has over 12 years experience of Islamic art, having studied the craft under a Master Illuminator in Istanbul. Ayesha is an MA graduate from the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, London, and was most recently commissioned by the Royal Library to produce illuminated frontispieces gifted to HM Queen Elizabeth II, and HRH Prince Charles. To find out more about Ayesha and her work, please click here.

For information about all Ayesha’s current courses, please click here.

Posted in Islamic Art Courses, Islamic Manuscript Illumination, News, Teaching, Tezhib, tezhip | 1 Comment

Ijaza Hilye

My completed ijaza hilye (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2018

If you have been following my work for a while you’ll know that I received my apprenticeship (ijaza) in Islamic manuscript illumination earlier this year. As far as I’m aware, I am the first British person to obtain this distinction in Islamic manuscript illumination, or tezhip / tezhib, as it’s called in Turkish and Arabic. I started leaning the art of Islamic manuscript illumination under Master Illuminator, Ayten Tiryaki in Istanbul, 12 years ago. It’s been a long journey! In this post, I’d like to share some images of the completed artwork, called a hilye. If you’d like to know more about what a hilye is, and the process behind creating it, you can read about that here. I’ve also written a post about the significance of the ijaza in Islamic art here. The beautiful calligraphy in this artwork was written by my dear teacher, Ayten Tiryaki. All the illumination work (i.e. everything except the calligraphy) was painted by me.

Hope you enjoy the photos!

Central circular panel comprised of a hilal and shamsa (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2018

The circular panels are called the hilal (crescent moon), and shamsa (little sun). For a translation of the Arabic text, see here. The design for the entire hilye took just over one month of full-time work. I experimented with several different designs for each section, then tried to ensure that each individual element harmonised with the rest of the artwork. The hilye is the most challenging composition for an illuminator to design and paint, and it is an honour to be deemed ready to make one. For completion of the ijaza (apprenticeship), the hilye should showcase the artist’s skills. The illuminator therefore uses a variety of different styles and techniques in their work, seeking to achieve harmony between each element. Most importantly, the hilye reflects an artist’s dedication to their craft, and their love of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), as the hilye text is a celebration of the Prophet’s physical and moral characteristics (Peace Be Upon Him).

I hand-ground almost all of the gold used in this painting. I used moon gold for the hilal, and 24-carat shell gold for the shamsa. 18, 22, and 23 carat shell gold is used elsewhere in the design. In some places the gold is left matte, while in others, it is fully burnished.

Detail of the hilye outer border (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2018

I’ve shaded the large, gilded flowers on the outer border using a technique called halkar. Swirling rûmî patterns in lilac and moon gold interweave between the flowers. The turquoise, orange, and gold linear border is called zencerek, and is meant to look like a chain.

“Abu Bakr” (RA) each corner of the hilye honours one of the four caliphs (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2018

Close up of the circular central panel (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2018

"In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate" (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2018

The hilye was on exhibition in London at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, and at Yeditepe Bienali in Istanbul earlier this year. If you would like to learn how to create this type of art, look out for my upcoming courses for 2019. I’ll announce them on my website and via email shortly. If you would like to be added to my email list to receive notifications of my upcoming workshops and exhibitions, please send me a message via the contact form on this website.

#ayeshagamiet #aytentiryaki #hilye #hilye-i-şerif #islamicmanuscript #islamicart #illumination #islamicmanuscriptillumination #tezhib #tezhip #gilding #islamiccalligraphy #arabiccalligraphy

Posted in Exhibitions, Gilding, Icaza, Islamic Manuscript Illumination, News, Pattern in Islamic art, Tezhib, hilye i şerif, ijaza, painting, tezhip | 1 Comment

A Royal Commission

Two of the illuminated frontispieces commissioned by the Royal Library. Here they are as works in progress, before being bound into books! One of these blue and gold "classic" frontispieces now lives in the Royal Library collection at Windsor Castle. Photo credit: Ayesha Gamiet (c) 2018

Two of the illuminated frontispieces commissioned by the Royal Library. Here they are as works in progress, before being bound into books! One of these blue and gold "classic" frontispieces now lives in the Royal Library collection at Windsor Castle. Photo credit: Ayesha Gamiet (c) 2018

I was asked to keep this project quiet until all was complete, but now I am very happy to share that I’ve been honoured to receive a very special commission from the Royal Library, Windsor Castle. My work was presented to the Queen, and Prince Charles! Earlier this year, the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace hosted an exhibition of Mughal art from the Royal Collection, entitled ‘Splendours of the Subcontinent’. To commemorate the event, they commissioned Imtiaz Dharker to compose a series of poems in response to the exhibition, which were printed, then hand-bound at the Royal Bindery in Windsor Castle. I was thrilled to receive an email from the Royal Library commissioning me to create four illuminated frontispieces – one to open each volume of poetry! I was even more delighted to learn that one of the books would be gifted to the Queen, and one to Prince Charles! The other two volumes are now in the Royal Library, and with the poet, Imtiaz Dharker.

Here are some photos of the commission and completed books:

Illuminated frontispiece, commissioned by the Royal Library. This volume was gifted to the HM Queen Elizabeth II. Photo credit: Royal Library. (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2018

I created two original designs for the commission – a classically illuminated frontispiece using tiny gilded and coloured flowers on a blue background (see the first design in this post), and a fantastical floral pattern in gold with birds gracing the leaves and branches (see above and below). The designs were inspired by Imtiaz’s beautiful poems and the artwork in the exhibition. For the paintings above and below, I wove the imagery of rose gardens, gilded pages, and coloured birds mentioned in the poetry with traditional techniques from Islamic manuscript illumination, and Persian and Indian miniature painting. The fantastical gilded rose garden above is home to a flock of Indian birds. One of the things I love about this technique is the subtlety of the background. The flowers only fully reveal themselves as you turn the page and the design catches the light. I tried to capture this in the photograph below. I also made a short video of the process, which you can see here.

Illuminated frontispiece commissioned by the Royal Library, gifted to HRH Prince Charles. Photo credit: Ayesha Gamiet (c) 2018

The frontispiece above formed the opening to the volume gifted to Prince Charles. The gilded floral pattern in the background is identical to the previous design, but here I have painted tiny birds native to Balmoral adorning the leaves and branches! I had a lot of fun doing this, but I’ll admit it was also a little stressful! There’s not much room for mistakes when painting coloured birds on top of your carefully illuminated flowers. Fortunately it all worked out ok in the end!

Here is another of the completed frontispieces:

Version two of the "classic" blue and gold design using a different colour way. Photo credit: Royal Library. (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2018

And a few details of the finished books:

Royal Bindery, Windsor Castle stamp. Photo credit: Royal Library

One of the most exciting things about the whole commission was having the opportunity to visit the Royal Bindery at Windsor Castle and discuss papers and techniques with the bookbinders. I am a total art geek, I know!

A little credit mentioning me as the illuminator at the end of the manuscript! Photo credit: Royal Library

Posted in Exhibitions, Gilding, Islamic Manuscript Illumination, News, Pattern in Islamic art, Tezhib, commissions, fine art, painting, tezhip | 6 Comments

Ijaza Ceremony, Istanbul

At my ijaza ceremony in Istanbul, with my teacher Ayten Tiryaki (centre left, in the bronze headscarf). Seated in front are renowned Master calligrapher, Hasan Çelebi (right, in the black beret), my teacher’s teacher Çiçek Derman (centre), and scholar of Islamic art Uğur Derman (left)

I have recently returned home from a very special trip to Istanbul, during which, after 12 years of study and practice, I received my ijaza in tezhip (Islamic manuscript illumination). If you would like to read more about the significance of ijaza in classical Islamic art, please take a look at this post I wrote last year on the subject. It has been a very, very long journey. Yet, it really it just the beginning.

Today, I would like to share a few photos from the ijaza ceremony. It was held on the 16th of April, 2018 at the Süleymaniye Kütuphanesi, part of the beautiful Süleymaniye Mosque complex in Istanbul. The ijaza ceremony and exhibition were part of a wider event called Yeditepe Bienali, a two-month long festival comprised of exhibitions and workshops celebrating classical Turkish Islamic arts.

Set within one of the courtyards of the Süleymaniye Mosque complex, the ijaza ceremony and accompanying exhibition could not have been more magical. To give you an idea of the atmosphere, I’ve posted up a short video clip. You can view it by clicking this link.

I felt truly honoured to be in the company of such stars of Islamic art! After the artists, their friends and families had a chance to mingle, the special guests delivered speeches, then presented each of us with our ijaza. We were called to the front, with our artwork, and congratulated by the Master Artists. I was presented my ijaza by Çiçek Derman, my teacher’s teacher.

The artwork Çiçek Derman is presenting to me in the photo above, is my hilye. It is the artwork that authenticates a student’s progression from novice to fully-fledged artist. When a teacher believes their student is ready to receive their ijaza, the student is asked to prepare a hilye. The calligraphic panels of the hilye contain descriptions of the physical and moral characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). It is one of the most difficult compositions to illuminate. It is meant to be both an expression of the student’s love of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), and a sign of their dedication to the craft of illumination.

However, a hilye created to authenticate an ijaza has one small difference: there is an extra calligraphic panel written not in Arabic, but in Ottoman Turkish. This contains a few sentences naming the ijaza student, their teacher, and their teacher’s teacher(s). The text confirms the student’s graduation from novice to artist, and contains prayers for the student and teachers. I do not have a translated copy of the exact ijaza text from Ottoman Turkish to English, but once I do, I will post up the details.

You can read more about the significance of the hilye in my previous post.

Works by Ayten Tiryaki and her students on exhibition at the Süleymanie Kütüphanesi

Exhibiting artists pose for photos with the Master Artists after the ceremony

A few days after the ijaza ceremony, I was treated to this sumptuous breakfast at a beautiful restaurant overlooking Istanbul. To the left of me is my teacher, Ayten Tiryaki. On the right is my friend, and fellow illuminator Fatima Azzahrae Chaabani

Now that I am home, I intend to honour the ijaza, exploring the craft in my studio work, and sharing my knowledge and skills though teaching. Keep an eye out for new courses, which I hope to announce over the coming weeks. I will also post up photos of my ijaza hilye, and describe the processes I went through to create it.

Posted in Exhibitions, Icaza, News, Tezhib, Travels, hilye i şerif, ijaza, tezhip | 1 Comment


Here are some photos from last month’s workshop at the Jameel House of Traditional Arts in Fustat, Cairo. I spent a week teaching students about biomorphic design in Islamic art (also known as islimi). The workshops were run by the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts.

We started the week looking at fundamental leaf and flower shapes used in islimi design. Students completed exercises in pencil, then brush, to train their hand in creating the flowing, curved patterns that are used for islimi. This helped increase students’ sensitivity to different line weights, encouraging greater care and awareness in their brush and pencil practice, refining and honing their skills.

After practicing lines and shapes related to islimi, students looked at the relationship between nature and traditional Islamic pattern. We discussed the idea of “stylisation”. Drawing inspiration from forms in nature, students used principles of symmetry to create their own floral designs.

We spent some time deconstructing and analysing islimi designs on ceramic and paper. Students learnt how to compose their own designs using spirals, leaves and floral motifs. Once their designs were refined and finalised, we traced them onto tea-stained watercolour paper.

Students used painting techniques learnt earlier in the week to add colour to their work.

And after a hard week of designing and painting, the class surprised me with ice cream!

And selfies on the last day!

Posted in Islamic Art Courses, Pattern in Islamic art, Student's Work, Teaching, Travels | Leave a comment

Exhibition: Contemporary Arts Through Living Traditions

Contemporary Arts Through Living Traditions Exhibition

I have the pleasure of inviting you to ‘Contemporary Arts Through Living Traditions’, at the Prince’s Foundation, London. The exhibition features work of alumni and tutors from the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts. Four of my paintings will be on show. Works are for sale. I look forward to seeing you there!

Dates: 15th – 22nd of March 2018

Address: The Prince’s Foundation, 19-22 Charlotte Road, London, EC2A 3SG

Posted in Exhibitions, Gilding, Islamic Manuscript Illumination, Islamic geoemtry, Miniature painting, News, Pattern in Islamic art, Tezhib, fine art, painting, tezhip | Leave a comment

Padshahnama Course and Visit to the Royal Collection, Windsor

Shamsa (illuminated frontispiece) from the Padshahnama (c) Royal Collection Trust

I am very excited to announce that I will be teaching the following course with the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts in February 2018:

This course focuses on the shamsa, or sunburst motif, found in The Padshahnama, a manuscript depicting part of the reign of the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan. Learn about the underlying geometric and Islimi (floral/foliate) structures that form the basis of the Padshahnama shamsa. Gain fundamental knowledge of the painting, gilding, and brushwork techniques used by Mughal illuminators. You will recreate a section of the original illuminated painting and build up your own small portfolio of painting and drawing studies to take home.

The course fee includes a visit to Windsor Castle to see the original page of manuscript.

Course Dates and Timings: 19th-23rd Feb 2018 (Monday to Friday), 10.30am – 5.30pm

Venue: Prime Studios, 1 – 6 Ward Royal Parade, Alma Road, Windsor, SL4 3HR. Click here for a map.

Course fee: £385 (full price), £310 (concessions)

For full course details and booking information, please visit the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts webpage.

Posted in Gilding, Islamic Art Courses, Islamic Manuscript Illumination, Islamic geoemtry, News, Teaching, Tezhib, painting, tezhip | 1 Comment


Bougainville (c) Ayesha Gamiet 2017

This was a fun commission I completed for a client at the end of last year – a Christmas present for the client’s Greek wife. He asked me to paint bougainville, as these flowers grow abundantly in Greece. So I settled upon purple bougainville on a contrasting yellow background with a cheery orange patterned vase. I must have been craving the sunshine!

Posted in Gilding, Illustration, Miniature painting, Pattern in Islamic art, commissions, fine art, painting | Leave a comment

Interview with Scripts n’ Scribes Magazine

“I think the inspiration to follow this path has been fueled by a desire to be fulfilled creatively and spiritually. The practice of Islamic art combines these elements so completely, and in such beautiful ways, I’m sure I’ll always be learning more and creating more. The learning never stops, and the possibilities are infinite”

- Excerpt  from an interview I did with Scripts n’ Scribes online magazine. You can read the full interview here.

Posted in Gilding, Islamic Manuscript Illumination, Media, News, Tezhib, articles, hilye i şerif, tezhip | Tagged , | Leave a comment