Madaba artist builds mosaics and confidence

Some of the mosaic pieces made by Arwa Ashemat, an artist from Madaba. (Photo: Handout from Arwa Ashemat)
AMMAN — Arwa Ashemat, a 36-year-old artist has encountered obstacles along every path of her career — but her perseverance has led her to find confidence in herself and even meet His Majesty King Abdullahاضافة اعلان

At the beginning of her career, Ashemat completed a bachelor’s degree in teaching. Unfortunately, she could not find a job in her field — so she had an opportunity to learn how to maintain, produce, and restore mosaics for free through a scholarship. 

Ashemat admitted that she struggled with her failure to find a job in education. “I am hugely passionate about education and I have proven my worth every time I have studied,” she said in an interview with Jordan News. 

After completing her mosaic studies, Ashemat experimented with painting for herself and her family. But she said she grew unsatisfied with her own work. “Although I am a graduate of an institute specializing in mosaic and restoration, I failed,” Ashemat said. 

Then, an unexpected financial constraint forced Ashemat to take on a contract creating mosaic crafts for merchants. However, after spending up to a week crafting one intricate piece, she only received JD8 for her efforts.

She quit, and decided to pursue her artwork on her own terms.

Ashemat opened pages on both Facebook and Instagram, where she began working on name boards upon request. “My friends, relatives, and acquaintances started asking me for paintings, but some of them appeared ugly, some were ruined by the paint, and others were ruined by the casting.” Through trial and error, she developed new skills and became more comfortable as a painter. 

A turning point came when Ashemat’s cousin called her to tell her about a competition held by the Royal Court for artisans. Arwa registered, but during the first meeting found that rather than a competition, the opportunity was a program to help artisans become professionals in their craft. 

According to Ashemat, the most important part of the training came when trainers taught the budding craftsmen how to tell the stories of their crafts. Participants learned how to tell the customer a story about each piece of work, contextualizing the details of the work, the immense value it embodies, the traditional meaning they include, and emphasizing the artist’s own creativity. 

After the course, Ashemat found confidence in her work with the Princess Taghreed Foundation, she said, adding that when King Abdullah visited the initiative and saw the pride in his eyes, she felt pleased and proud of herself. 

According to Ashemat, there are two styles of mosaic work — Syrian and Jordanian. The Jordanian style features smaller stones.

When she starts, Ashemet chooses and prints a design on a stretched fabric laid out on a piece of wood. Then she chooses the size and type of stone best suited for the piece. She glues them onto the fabric using flour, water, and white glue. Finally, she places the item inside a wood or metal frame and uses white cement and Sweileh sand to finish the piece. 

The price of Ashemat’s work depend on the cost of the materials and the time spent. So far, her work with mosaics does not provide a sustainable income. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened her economic situation, but she said that she hopes conditions will improve after the pandemic. 

Hoping to market her products globally, Ashemat has sent one item to Kuwait and five items to Saudi Arabia through friends. She also aspires to export to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and other countries through which she can represent the Jordanian community. 

She also tries to innovate on traditional ideas and “combined mosaic with glass” in cooperation Mutassim Bazmit, a glass painting artist, she said. “We showed our masterpieces that were previously produced and we hope that we will obtain a patent for them.”

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