Shereen Quttaineh : Creating modern art with traditional touches

For different people art means different things. For Shereen Quttaineh, it is “an opportunity to feel grounded”.

Quttaineh, interested in creating art since childhood, would often use her mother’s sewing machine to make random artwork; she also dabbled in other art forms, she said in an interview with Jordan News.اضافة اعلان

“Being exposed to so many materials by my parents has given me the ability to explore art freely and merge various media,” she added.

After graduating with a bachelor degree in fine arts from Yarmouk University, Quttaineh decided to pursue a postgraduate degree in education at the University of Nottingham. She has 22 years of experience as a teacher, having started in early childhood education and later becoming a visual arts educator.

While the general public tends to associate art with brushes and color palettes, Quttaineh takes a different approach. She realized that textile work and embroidery give her a level of freedom that painting could not.

During COVID-19, she had plenty of time to explore new media, such as printmaking and embroidery, and spent a lot of time making art. She considers this period the beginning of her career as an artist, having started developing her brand during this period. For instance, she started creating Christmas ornaments, made with upcycled materials such as old curtains and cushions filled with tiny scraps of fabric.

She first embroidered on paper before switching to fabric collages for the freedom they offered. All she needed was a needle, fabric, thread, and scissors. Embroidery, she said, is a “forgiving medium”, as one could undo and redo any part of the work as desired. Quttaineh would often cut up pieces she made and integrate them into new artwork or products.

Having traditionally been considered a craft in many parts of the world, textile art is nowadays gaining approval for being just that: an art.

Every culture has its approach to embroidery, with motifs often being inspired by the surroundings. Although it is a traditional craft, several artists have been utilizing embroidery in more modern ways. Quttaineh sometimes incorporates cross-stitch motifs into her contemporary pieces, as she loves the contrast between the rigidness of some materials and the more organic designs she makes with the thread.

She draws inspiration from nature, and from crafting methods from around the world, such as the Japanese sashiko embroidery, which uses a basic running stitch.

Quite a lot of her work has the eye to protect against evil and the tree of life, which she finds fascinating and that can be found in cultures around the world.

“In my textile collages and mixed media, I have created some more abstract pieces focusing on mimicking nature. Some of the work is more representational, portraying women, animals, the tree of life, and floral designs,” she said.

Quttaineh uses discarded fabrics, plastics, or any other material she can embroider on, and incorporates printing and beading into fabrics. The various types of threads provide her with a variety of options, and create different effects. The textures, prints, and transparencies of different materials also play a big role in the compositions.

She creates art and transforms it into unique, functional pieces, mostly using reclaimed fabrics, discarded plastic bags, and netting. This way, she said, she contributes to lessening waste.

Quttaineh created her bag collection as a collaboration with her mother. The idea it is to transform unwanted clothes into limited-edition embroidered bags. Her mother makes the bags and she embroiders the artwork on them. The bags are inspired by Japanese knot bags and the artwork on them is inspired by talismans and nature.

“For the earrings, I use reclaimed materials; I deconstruct pieces and make several miniature artworks, these being the earrings. So you would be wearing miniature artworks, owning a part of an artwork,” she said.

Quttaineh has signed up for workshops online ranging from textile-based art to painting and drawing, “to feed the artist” in her.

Participating in workshops with local young artists, such as the mono printing workshop she took with Raneem Al Jaloudi and Zellige clay tileing with artist Ruba Abu Shosheh inspired her in many ways.

Collaborating with artist Noor Al Taher also gave her new ideas and inspired new approaches to her work. They have been working on some textile pieces, transforming them till they become tapestries.

Quttaineh recently took a sabbatical to focus on her art, hoping to turn it into a full-time job. She participated in a few joint exhibitions in galleries like Jodar Artistry and Wadi Finan.

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