Farah Al Fardh
Dubai - Arabstoday
Paper for the most part has been regarded as the material on which great art is created, not the finished piece in itself.
Yet to truly think about the seemingly simple yet ingenious invention of paper, its mass production, and how it has literally changed the world, can offer a fresh perspective.
This is true for Farah Al Fardh who discovered the lesser known art of quilling also referred to as paper-rolling, paper-scrolling or paper-filigree.
In 2004, accident-prone Farah injured her foot after taking a tumble down the stairs and was bed-ridden for a month. During this time, she taught herself the art of paper rolling — once practised by French and Italian nuns circa the 17th century. "My nerves were fried I couldn't stand anything and I was shouting at everyone because I was so restricted due to my injury," she said. "So I picked up a kid's book on paper twirling I'd bought but never read…" and the rest, as they say, is history.
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The 31-year-old Umm Al Quwain native recalls the first thing she made was a turtle she gifted to her sister. However, in 2007, after having taught herself quilling through books for nearly three years, Farah decided it was time to showcase her art publicly.
"I found on an internet forum that Emirati women were selling products like table clothes and things from their homes," she said. "So I decided to create and sell money holders for when parents gift their children money on Eid Al Adha, which was coming up."
Farah sold over 350 of the money holders at a cost of Dh3 each — making her just over Dh1,000.
"Each sheep took 20 minutes but I was doing it for fun, yet I don't believe in giving things for free because people won't appreciate the value," she said. "From there people started to wonder where this was from, how it's made and whether the tools and materials are available in the UAE."
Farah has now set up one of the world's first bilingual quilling websites called www.farooha.net. Her paper art can take the form of calligraphy, framed works of art, finger puppets, gift box and greeting card decorations or jewellery. Although her website is not officially run as a business, she does take special orders for creations.
"I don't consider it as a side business because once I do I will lose the thrill," said the Dubai World Trade Centre employee. "I do it for fun and because I want to spread the art. I enjoy teaching people quilling to see the surprise on their faces when I tell them it's paper."
She also delivers free workshops in the UAE and across the Arab region and has won numerous awards for her efforts as she aims to spread her love of paper art.
"I've introduced a new art form and created a new history of art in the UAE," she says. "Although it's an ancient lesser-know art form , I brought it here with an Emirati flavour."
Her passion has allowed her to travel to far off places, win awards and even enter royal palaces. She even got herself accredited from the UK Quilling Guild and is now a regional representative in the UAE. "Quilling has opened so many doors for me," she says. "When I first started quilling three hours a day, it reduced the pain from my injury. Now I quill three hours every day because I'm trying to reduce my work tension, it's a stress reliever."
Farah added that she has witnessed the calming effects this peaceful art has on children with behavioural problems and the positive effects it has had on adults. She is therefore determined to spread it as wide as possible and is currently saving up to open the UAE's first quilling centre. She is also working on a project with her sister who works in the social responsibility section of the UAQ Police to teach the skill to male and female prisoners.