The Abu Dhabi-based ceramicist is a master of pottery and other realms – positivity and martial arts included.
ON THE SEA SHORE
I am usually up early during the week, so, on Fridays I get up a little later. Friday is a day of relaxation, unless I have to meet deadlines for commissions. Ideally, I’ll go to the beach, to swim and fish. Being near the sea always relaxes my mind and refreshes my soul. I also love spending quality time with my family, friends and our pug Frank.
I was born in Tehran, Iran, and went to the UK as a teenager and we moved to UAE almost 30 years ago due to my husband’s work commitments. I currently split my time between the UAE and Spain, where we recently purchased a property near the sea on the Costa del Sol. Our daughter Neusha lives and works in London so we are able to see each other more often while I am in Spain; our son Peter lives and works in Los Angeles.
I had always been interested in art and tried different forms. I remember my eldest brother, who was a professional painter, bringing me easels and paints to encourage me to create art. But it wasn’t until I touched clay for the first time at a market in Saudi Arabia that I realised [pottery] is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Abu Dhabi pottery was established in November 1994 because my husband changed his job and we relocated to a smaller property, where I no longer had the space for a studio. I didn’t open it with the intention of running it as a business, I really just needed a workspace to create my pieces, so I decided to rent a small shop for my work. But soon after, the business became so popular it started taking over my life and we had to expand.
A LIFETIME’S COMMITMENT
The difficulty with pottery is the amount of time and dedication required to create and finish a piece. To most people it seems very easy, especially when they see an experienced potter working on potter’s wheel but in reality it is far from this. It takes many years to become a good potter; in Japan they say it takes at least two lifetimes to become a good potter. I love all the aspects of pottery, from designing and collaborating with clients – who could be restaurants such as Coya, Zuma and Table 9; VIPs, talented chefs, mixologists or regular people – to actually creating the piece, glazing and firing it. The most exciting part is opening the kiln after the final firing and seeing the final result – it’s always a bit unpredictable.
THE GOOD BOOK
Mind to Mind by Betty Shine it is an amazing book that teaches you the power of positive thinking. At a difficult stage, reading this book changed my life. It is very hard to ensure your thoughts are positive at all times but I do try. I’d like to be remembered as someone who tried to make a difference.
SHY AWAY FROM CROWDS
I am quite introverted where large gatherings are concerned. I do not like large parties and events and prefer small, intimate dinner parties with a few good friends. It’s why I do not usually attend openings of galleries and exhibitions. I like spending time alone in my studio, drawing and writing new ideas for pieces I intend to create and experimenting with textures.
NEEDLE-PULLING MARTIAL ARTIST
I hold a fourth Dan black belt in the Korean martial art of Hapkido Hoi Jeon Moo Sool and also teach it. I have tried several martial art forms including Shotokan, Kan Zen Ryu, Arnis, Aikido, Cobra Karate and Wado Ryu; I guess coming from a military family [has made me] love the discipline, dedication, and challenges involved in learning and teaching martial arts. In my free time I also enjoy dabbling in other crafts like sewing.
FROM WEAKNESS TO STRENGTH
Strawberries and fresh cream is my weakness. My superpower is my organisational skills.
I have visited approximately 40 countries. I would love to travel to South America, Kenya and the Maldives. If travelling back in time were an option, I think I would like to go back to the time of my childhood with all my family around me. It would mean I will be able to see my loved ones who are no longer with us.
As a potter, I adore the work of [Austrian-British potter] Lucie Rie and I also love Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet. My inspiration comes from the nature that surrounds me – the sea, the desert, rugged mountains. An artwork that really moved me was Van Gogh’s The Potato Eaters. You can see the faces of the poor, hard-working, potato farmers eating what they have grown, and the expressions on their faces tells you so much about their hard life.
FEAT OF CLAY
My proudest moment as an artist was when I was told that my work was being put on a permanent display at the National Museum of Iran. I was asked by the museum to create a copy of special piece of 4,000-year-old pot that looks like a teapot but has a hole at the bottom. Due to complicated pipe work inside, the water stays in the pot and does not pour out of the bottom, only from the spout. This was a very challenging piece to recreate as I had to carry out a lot of research; I was lucky enough to be given the permission to actually handle and examine this ancient pot and managed to create several pieces inspired by it.
RHYME AND REASON
I have been known to write my own poetry on my pottery pieces; I moved to the UK as a teenager to study English. One of the things I always carry with me no matter where I am is a pocket-size book of poetry. Omar Khayyam is one of my favourite poets – I love his philosophy about enjoying your life to the full while you are still alive. I also admire Forough Farrokhzad, one of the first Iranian women to write freely about the true feelings of a woman in love.
I’d like to live the life of Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice for a day if I could. I love the life of that period and it would be nice to meet Mr Darcy.
LIKE MOTHER, LIKE DAUGHTER
My daughter Neusha – also a potter – and I are very close. She is also my best friend and I do value her opinion and advice on many levels, not just art. She inspires me and knows me more than anyone in the world. I often discuss my projects with both my children and my husband Michael. They have always been encouraging and positive.