Table of Contents
Even before the dawn of the Islamic age, the Middle East was already rigorously participating in the production and trade of textile in Eurasia. The series of trade routes, usually known as the Silk Route, linked the Western world through the Eastern Mediterranean ports. These markets also acted as the textile production centers (Margolin, 2009). The subsequent expansion of the Islamic rule during the 7th and 8th centuries incorporated the earlier textile industries of the Sasanian and Byzantine Empires. During the early Islamic age, textile design was mainly influenced by their predecessors. However, with time, the Islamic cultures began creating their own ways of expression. The Middle Ages were characterized by the highly valued textiles from the Middle East, which subsequently played a crucial role in the development of the original European textile production (Margolin, 2009). The link between the Western and Islamic cloth is evident in the widespread textile terminology borrowed from the Turkish, Arabic and Persian terms such as mohair, seersucker, muslin, cotton, taffeta and damask among others. In the realm of the Islamic world, textiles have always been one of the highly valued products, from the ancient to the modern times. Since the ancient era, interiors were being furnished using textiles for cushions, walls, floors and beddings – a tradition that is still present even in the contemporary Muslim world. Textile art and design are still the means of expressions in the contemporary Muslim world, as evident by the emergent young textile designs by Khalid Mezaina. This designer is based in the modern United Arab Emirates, but he still makes use of traditional symbols and elements in his works. The goal of this paper is to compare a local designer (Khalid Mezaina) with William Morris (1834-1896), who was considered one of the most prominent textile designers in the course of the 19th century.
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Bibliography of Khalid Mezaina
Khalid Mezaina was born in 1985. Khalid Mezaina is an emerging contemporary textile designer based in the UAE. There is scanty biographical information that can be compiled to document the journey of the artist thus far. Mezaina is an independent artist, illustrator and designer from the UAE. Mezaina holds a degree in the Bachelor of Sciences in Visual Communication from the American University of Sharjah (Capsule Arts, 2015). Mezaina developed an interest in art during childhood, even before he began schooling, when he used pencils for drawing his favorite cartoon characters. As he grew older, the hobby of drawing became a talent, which helped him realize that he was destined to draw during his life. After completing his university education, Mezaina started getting full-time placements in the promising art scene of UAE such as the Tashkeel and Sharjah Art Foundation. These experiences played a crucial role in inspiring Mezaina to commence taking part in the art-related activities such as residencies, projects and exhibitions. Mezaina has managed to build a positive reputation for himself as well as a career in the artistic and design scene in the UAE (Hosea, 2014).
The works of Mezaina draw inspiration from every changing landscape of Dubai as well as its people, music and comic books. His artistic works are exhibited at both local and international institutions. Mezaina founded Krossbreed, which focuses on modern designs with cultural infusions. Krossbreed is an independent and interdisciplinary product design and studio brand, which focuses on the design of furniture, wallpaper, stationary, prints and clothing among others (The Culturist, 2014). Krossbreed provides Mezaina with a platform to share his creations with a relatively wider audience by applying his designs in various forms of media besides artworks. In addition, Mezaina has relied significantly on the Internet to display his work to a wide audience. In this regard, he has managed to build his online presence through social media and blog platforms, which have played a crucial role in enabling people to access his works and gaining a detailed understanding of his creative practice. In his works, Mezaina used Arabic elements mainly for fashionable and aesthetic references that he appreciates in the Arabic culture. Some of the elements of the Arabic traditions that Mezaina incorporates in his works include traditional fashion, patterns and architecture (Tashkeel, 2014).
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Mezaina has taken part in group residencies, projects and exhibitions, both in the UAE and internationally. The influence of various forms of popular culture, including art, fashion, music and comic books, are evident in both his professional work and personal life. The artistic approach used by Mezaina focuses mainly on the hand-drawn illustrations that are done on paper. In addition, Mezaina’s designs usually emphasize the need to convey social messages, and sometimes serve just for pure entertainment. The artistic works of Mezaina are also a representation of the Emirati culture through the pop art. Through inspirations are drawn from the happenings of everyday life, the illustrations of Mezaina focuse on allowing people to appreciate the beauty associated with the Arabic traditions amidst a complex contemporary world (Mezaina, 2014).
The works of Mezaina are usually illustration-based. In addition, Mezaina prefers working by hand. As a result, he makes sure that all hand-drawn elements are incorporated into his designs. In the recent past, Mezaina was focusing on simple black-and-white paper drawings depicting interactions between people, iconography and architecture (Meridian International Center, 2014). Another feature of works by Mezaina is the hybrid of both Western and Middle Eastern influences, which probably explains the choice of the name Krossbreed for his company. Mezaina embraces the evolution of the landscape of the city as the society. Therefore, he believes in the merging of modernity together with other traditions and culture. One of his notable artworks that fuses both Western and Eastern influences is Khalid says relax, which he considers an outcome of and being an ever evolving society, merging cultures, revival of the past trends and traditions inspiring the lives of people.
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Connection between Khalid Mezaina and William Morris
Numerous similarities can be found between Khalid Mezaina and William Morris. The first similarity between the two artists relates to the emphasis on the use of hand in their artworks. Mezaina incorporates hand-drawn elements in all of his works, whereas William Morris focused on printing techniques based on handcraftsmanship. Essentially, both Khalid Mezaina and William Morris appreciated handcraftsmanship. As mentioned earlier, Mezaina ensures that hand-drawn elements are incorporated in all of his designs. A similar view was held by William Morris, who from the outset was against the issue of the mass production of art, as evident by his role in the Art and Crafts Movement, which advocated traditional craftsmanship rather than mass production of art (Arscott, 2008; Bennett & Miles, 2010). The fact that Mezaina emphasizes the hand-drawn design and that William Morris opposes the use of mechanized production of art implies that both artists appreciate the value of handcraftsmanship in their works. As a sign of commitment to this technique, William Morris printed one of his famous pattern designs, The Strawberry Thief, using the medieval and painstaking indigo-discharge technique (Clutton-Brock, 2007). In addition, Morris spent a significant amount of his time trying to master the art of dyeing and performing experiments that have the main objective of revising old and discovering new dyeing techniques. Because of these experiments, Morris revived the indigo-discharge technique as a printing technique. In addition, William Morris also took some time to learn medieval tapestry, which is evident in his appreciation of hand-woven Persian carpets, which again affirms his appreciation for handcraftsmanship (Freudenheim, 2005). Morris was also a fierce critic of the art of his time dismissing it as being overly mechanistic. This view is also held by Mezaina as evident in his incorporating of hand illustrations into his works (Hosea, 2014). William Morris opined that art would be subject to degradation in the event that industrial capitalism of the art industry would not be brought to an end, which, according to Morris, would also result in the end of human civilization. Morris was of the view that the 19th century was obsessed with the need for mass production. As a result, they opposed the use of mechanized production in art (Hemingway, 2006).
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The second similarity between Khalid Mezaina and William Morris is their appreciation of traditional architecture. William Morris had an interest in medieval architecture as well as medieval history, which were primarily inspired by the medieval buildings found at his university (Upchurch, 2005). In addition, William Morris and the members of the Brotherhood artists were mainly influenced by the architecture, rituals and history associated with the medieval times. Morris’ love for medieval architecture resulted in the formation of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, which had the main objective of campaigning against the destruction attributed to architectural restoration. In addition, Morris played a crucial role in reviving the traditional textile art as well as production methods. Similarly, the works of Khalid Mezaina draw inspiration from the Arabic traditions. Specifically, Mezaina’s works incorporate the elements of traditional patterns, architecture and fashion (Meridian International Center, 2014).
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The third similarity that exists between William Morris and Khalid Mezaina relates to the use of pattern designs. One of the most famous works of William Morris, the Strawberry Thief, is a print pattern. In fact, print patterns played a crucial role in making William Morris famous, especially the ones from fabrics and wallpapers. Morris had a vision of linking art with industry by using the principles of fine art in commercial design production. This approach played a crucial role in the evolution of design. Morris is often considered one of the greatest pattern designers in human history, which explains why his pattern designs have endured the test of time and are still being sold commercially (Goodway, 2012). The pattern designs created by Morris drew inspiration from his enormous knowledge of nature as well as history. Some of the numerous pattern designs created by William Morris include Acanthus (1890), Strawberry Thief (1883), Hyacinth (1915-1917), and Blackberry (1915-1917). Other print patterns include the watercolor design for flower carpets and print patterns for ceramic tiles. The Strawberry Thief is one of the most popular pattern designs created by Morris that involves the use of repeating patterns. Such design was specifically intended for textiles. The subject of the pattern design is thrushes, which Morris came across while stealing fruit from the kitchen garden in his home in Oxfordshire. Printing pattern was done using the medieval indigo-discharge technique (Kirk, 2005). Just like Morris Williams, Khalid Mezaina also has a number of pattern designs in his collection of artworks. The pattern designs created by Mezaina are mainly inspired by the contemporary Arab culture. Examples of such works created by Mezaina include the hands pattern, which he created for artist residency in London, and the plate design template. Mezaina has also created repeating pattern designs such as the biladi sketch, Ramadan kareem (2010) and edi Mubarak (2010) (Mezaina, 2014). The pattern designs of Mezaina are mostly printed on fabrics. Although, Mezaina also created pattern designs for other objects, such as plates. The following figures show the pattern design and repeating patterns created by William Morris and Khalid Mezaina. The most popular design to be ever created by Krossbreed is the camel and birds pattern, which has been incorporated in wallpapers, bags, and digital screens.
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Another striking similarity between William Morris and Khalid Mezaina is their involvement in their respective companies, especially by using them to ensure that their works reach a wider audience. Morris was associated with a number of companies during his active years. Together with his friends from the Brotherhood and other architects, Morris formed the Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co. in 1861 (Donovan, 2007). The company’s sole objective was to restore decorative arts as a type of fine art by using the principles associated with affordability as well as elitism. After the closure of the company in 1875, Morris formed another entity, Morris and Co., which operated during the period of 1875-1940. This company was mainly involved in producing and distributing decorative arts and furnishing. The works produced by the company were mainly inspired by medieval aesthetics as well as the appreciation of traditional textiles and hand craftsmanship (LeMire, 2006). The company was involved in the decoration of churches and houses during the early 20th century. Morris and Co. was dominant at a time when the Arts and Crafts Movement was booming in the course of 1880s and 1890s. Regardless, it continued to operate even after the World War I, albeit in a limited capacity, until its closure in 1940. Currently, the designs created by Morris and Co. are still being sold by the Liberty of London and Sanderson and Sons, which obtained the license to sell the pattern designs created by Morris and Co. after 1875 (Macdonald, 2004). Some of the most notable commissions awarded to the company included a royal project commissioned by the St. James’s Palace and the project that entailed designing a dining room at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The second project involved the design of stained glass windows, panels with braches, and decorations. The commission by St. James entailed utilizing decorative schemes for the case of the Tapestry room and the Armory together with doors, windows and ceilings with the help of floral pattern designs. Moreover, the company was commissioned by All Saints Church to help with designing windows (Mackail, 2001). The last notable commission awarded to the company was from Stanmore Hall, which entailed utilizing Holy Grail tapestries for the dining room. Just like William Morris, Khalid Mezaina has established a company, Krossbreed, with the objective of making sure that his works reach a wider audience. Krossbreed allows the creations by Khalid Mezaina to be more accessible (Capsule Arts, 2015). In addition, the access of Mezaina’s illustrations is not limited to one type of media. Instead, the artist uses various media such as tableware, stationary, t-shirts, prints, and wallpapers among others. This fact links him to William Morris, who also used various media for his pattern designs including fabrics, ceramics and tapestries.
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Another similarity that can be drawn between William Morris and Khalid Mezaina is their involvement in movements, albeit different. Nevertheless, it is evident that the movements they are involved in are relevant to their times. Specifically, both William Morris and Khalid Mezaina had awareness of the issues happening around them and opted to express their worldviews through their works. For instance, Morris was involved in a number of movements including the Arts and Crafts Movement, the Early Socialist Movement, the Aesthetic Movement and the Green Movement. With respect to the Arts and Crafts Movement, William Morris played a pivotal role in reviving the medieval British textiles art, including the production methods. Morris played a leading role in the Arts and Crafts Movement (Mackail, 2001). This movement emerged as a response to the degrading state of decorative arts when mass production was prevalent in the industry. Thus, the Arts and Crafts movement was vocal against the mass commercialization of art and advocated traditional hand artisanship that used simple, medieval and romantic decoration styles. Moreover, the movement advocated a socio-economic reform because of its stance against capitalism (Goodway, 2012). As for Morris’s role in the socialist movement, he adopted a revolutionary and anti-imperialist stance. Morris was of the view that socialism would result in a society typified by an individual being neither poor nor rich and neither overworked nor idle, as well as a world operating on the principles of equality. Besides the socialist and Arts and Crafts Movements, William Morris also contributed to the Green and Aesthetic Movements. The Aesthetic Movement comprised of radical designers and young reformers, who had the goal of exploring new standards in design. In this regard, the flourishing of aestheticism is often attributed to the efforts of William Morris together with other art critics, craftsmen, philosophers and architects, who were dedicated to pure beauty (Donovan, 2007). Morris was also enthusiastic about saving the natural environment from industrialism as well as pollution. This position has resulted in the labeling of Morris as a pivotal frontrunner of the modern environmentalism. Similarly, the works of Mezaina represent his worldview. Despite the fact that they cannot be identified with any current movement, it is evident that Mezaina uses his works to convey his worldview. A dominant theme in the works of Mezaina is the nature of the hybrid society (Mezaina, 2014). For Mezaina, the modern society is constantly evolving, with merging cultures, interfering trends and people adapting or evolving in order to be able to live in a vibrant world. Mezaina is of the view there is no distinction between modernity, history, Western influences and Eastern traditions. As a result, all of these factors are intertwined, which results in a novel breed of people. Amidst the hybrid world, Mezaina is also a staunch advocate of the Emirati culture. His illustrations primarily focus on encouraging his audience to appreciate the beauty and unique nature of Arabic traditions in a world that is becoming increasingly complex. This position is evident in his 2008 work titled culture shock shown below. Mezaina also tries to express his interest in fashion, which he believes will change people together with their clothes, and traditional attire will be subject to modernization (Meridian International Center, 2014).
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This paper attempted to establish a connection between Khalid Mezaina and William Morris. A number of similarities have been unveiled between the two designers, which relate to the emphasis of the use of hands, appreciation of traditional architecture, use of pattern designs, and the use of works to express the artist’s worldview. With respect to the use of hands in their works, William Morris emphasized the use of hand artisanship, whereas Mezaina incorporates hand illustrations in almost all of his works. Both Khalid Mezaina and William Morris established companies in order to reach a wider audience. With respect to the appreciation of traditional architecture, William Morris was interested in medieval architecture and history, which influenced his works, whereas Mezaina drew inspiration from the Arab traditions, particularly Arabic traditional patterns, architecture and fashion.