Ruya Foundation spoke to Hozan Zangana, an Iraqi-Kurdish product designer based in the Netherlands. Zangana’s series Haft Sin, a set of plates and bowls he created for the festival of Nawruz, was on display at Design Days Dubai 2015. His latest collection, Shaping from Intuition recently launched at Dutch Design Week.
What influenced the series Haft Sin, which was on display at Design Days Dubai 2015? My wife is Iranian and we celebrate Nowruz every year by setting a Haft Sin table, a dining cloth with seven objects that represent the arrival of spring. Like many families, she used normal plates that we have in our kitchen and I didn’t like her arrangement. This beautiful and ancient ritual deserves a pedestal and I wanted to find a modern interpretation for it.
How did you recreate the tradition? I wanted to make sure that each symbolic element of the Haft Sin got the right amount of attention. In my opinion most Haft Sin table settings are over-crowded with ornaments. It becomes too noisy. I used a Persian calligraphy called Nasta’liq as my primary inspiration for the different shapes. The thin and thick lines of this calligraphy are the basis for the ceramic plates.
I used a Persian calligraphy called Nasta’liq as inspiration for the different shapes.
Is this the first time you work with ceramics? No, I have used ceramics before. What I like most about this material is that it’s unpredictable. Each piece within the Haft Sin collection is unique and what makes it particularly challenging for the craftsman is the fact that the lines on the inside are very different from the outside. The moldmaking was a difficult process and we had to make many changes before I was satisfied with the end result.
Have you used traditional craft in earlier projects? Yes this is a recurring theme within my work. My designs require a lot of knowledge and technique; so far I have only worked with the most talented craftsmen. One example is the project Baharat; spice containers with a lid that descends and leaves a variety of surprising prints. Each container requires the expertise of an experienced wood turner. Through this project I wanted to share my story, growing up in Iraq and visiting the spice markets with my mother. She grew up in Baghdad and to this day I remember the smell of the man selling baharat – or spices.
I am not designing a product, I am telling a story.
How do you chose the materials? The design chooses the material. It’s a very intuitive process. During the process of sketching and creating models I choose the right material.
What’s the most important aspect of a product, when you are working on the design? I am not designing a product, I am telling a story. I have never been good with words, I think in forms. I try to transform an idea into something subtle and I search for the essence. The product is the outcome of an idea or a feeling.
Can you tell me about your latest project, which you launched at Dutch Design Week, in Eindhoven last week? This is a new collection of objects based on shapes found in the Kufi script. I collaborated with typographer Thomas Milo, who specialises in Arabic and Persian font design, to design a digital font for the script. I then used the new shapes and forms as the basis for a collection of physical objects, using a range of materials, from Ipe wood to brass, copper and bronze.