Through root systems and common mycorrhizal networks, plants are able to communicate with one another below ground and alter behaviours or even share nutrients depending on different environmental cues. Inspired by this concept, Studio ne+ strives to define a new form of design that is inclusive and positively contributes to the built environment by considering people’s actual needs for maintaining communication with their roots, creating a sense of belonging and fueling interaction with their social environment.
By Studio ne+
Putting this concept into practice, Studio ne+ launched the CRAFTURA Collective in 2021. CRAFTURA is a community where crafts and heritage meet futures design, striving for resilient community development while exploring the relational potential of insight, creativity and innovation and reviving local Egyptian crafts, products and materials. It is run by a living system of sustainability advocates, futurists, strategic foresight consultants, experts and researchers working to set sustainability principles and environmental future studies at the centre of the conversation on responsible design. Here, designs that sprout into new ownership are created by translating the tales and crafts of ordinary life, in an effort to propose new, sustainable and meaningful forms of consumerism.
The Siwa Oasis is an urban oasis situated between the Qattara Depression and the Great Sand Sea in the Western Desert.
More specifically, CRAFTURA aims to preserve and celebrate the cultural and material heritage of the Siwan people. In the far reaches of Egypt’s Western Desert—between the Great Sand Sea and the Qattara depression—lies the mesmerising Siwa Oasis, an isolated land inhabited by Berber communities who speak a unique dialect. A fleck of life full of trees and water springs in a sea of sand. Despite the existence of other oases and Bedouin dwellings in the desert nearby, Siwan culture remains distinct and unusual. Everything you see in Siwa can only be found there, starting from their architecture and crafts to their geography, language, traditions and history.
And they are not the only ones. CRAFTURA Collective believes that Egyptian heritage is rich with a great number of cultures and traditions that deserve to be a worldwide focal point and a model for resilient communities. However, as a result of unequal social exchange between Siwans and modernism, the cultural heritage of Siwa is starting to deteriorate, gradually losing its features and crafts in the process. Here, we take a closer look at two projects achieved within CRAFTURA that reflect the collective’s approach to communicating with roots, heritage, culture and traditions.
CRAFTURA explorations and embroidered fabrics, images by Studio ne+.
SIWA: HERITAGE OF THE LAND
Today, traditional crafts have started to regain popularity throughout Egypt and other countries. Many of these crafts are produced by Siwan women: clothing, pottery, cooking pots, jewellery, salt lamps, basketry, silverware and embroidery. They have their own set of unique designs that include specific symbols and motifs that have a backstory in their heritage. This includes traditional colours of black, dark green, yellow, orange and red. These are associated with the date ripening cycle since the date palm trees are extremely important to the Siwans and the Siwa economy.
The Siwans are originally nomadic; they used to (and still do, on some scale) spend their time in the desert. They build tents using lightweight equipment for easy manoeuvring, and to be able to pack and unpack without causing a hassle. For a recent project, CRAFTURA took this accessible and sustainable lifestyle and infused it into a stool design. The form takes inspiration from date palm trees, which are abundant in Siwa and are of great importance to their culture. They eat the dates, use the leaves for sewing crafts and use the wood for building furniture and other necessities. Siwans are also known for their weaving techniques and their usage of intricate symbols and patterns. With this in mind, the collective also applied the concept of weaving and symbols as a decorative aspect of the stool.
Mind map & prototype of stool design, CRAFTURA by Studio ne+.
The use of gemstones in arts and crafts is very popular worldwide. In Egypt, one of the most prominent stones is lapis lazuli: a gem that has been used in jewelry since the ancient Egyptian era. The main goal of the CRAFTURA gems project was to create a jewellery line that reflects the beauty of this age-old practice and heritage.
For most of recent history, jewellery has been used primarily for decorative purposes, and to reflect a certain status or wealth. However, in the Middle Ages, gemstones were sometimes used for practical and even medical purposes. Many ancient cultures, for example—including ones in Egypt, Greece, and China—believed that crystals had healing properties. Some of these beliefs continue today, with some people claiming that crystals promote the flow of good energy and help rid body and mind of negative energy for physical and emotional benefits.
In Egypt, gemstones were also used as powerful symbols, with each stone carrying a different meaning. There were a lot of varieties in the use of gems in the ancient Egyptian era including accessories, pendants, armbands, rings, head gems, anklets, and collars. The shade of the jewelry and gemstones was very important to the Egyptians, since specific tones were thought to give insurance against evil and bad luck.
Top: Ancient Egyptian jewellery pieces, colors and symbols. Bottom: Sanding and polishing of stones, images by Studio ne+.
A window into culture
According to the ancient Egyptians, good jewellery design followed the ergonomics of the human body. Jewellery makers were taught to take into consideration the shape, weight and width of the final outcome or the final designed product in order to fulfil the users’ needs. Pieces had to be comfortable to wear on the body, otherwise they would not sell. They also believed that designers should consider how the materials they used interacted with the temperature of the human body. For example, if an embellishment is made out of metal, it should not produce metal corrosion on the ears or neck. Also, the designer should consider the variation of sizes for example the flexibility of different lengths and diameters. For Egyptian jewellery, styles, material choices, fabrication techniques and even object type and decorative meaning changed over time.
For this project, CRAFTURA made jewellery designs targeted at young Egyptian women between 18-35 years old. These are women who are attached to their roots and heritage, and who love to wear fashionable jewellery designs inspired by ancient Egyptian culture in a modern and trendy way. The final design is an abstraction of three prominent symbols: the lotus, the scarab and the eye of Horus. Each symbol has its own meaning: the lotus represents creation, changes and life. The scarab is a symbol of rebirth and fertility. The Horus eye refers to the Egyptian god of the sky who gave away his left eye to save his father Osiris. The eye is one of the most famous symbols of the ancient era, representing protection and good health. This concept is based on the combination of symbols together in order to create a powerful meaning within the jewellery piece. And the design is based on the morphology of the symbols itself, in order to create abstraction for the piece designed. The design process included several steps of using raw gems and then sanding them, shaping and varnishing them so they can be clear and neat.
The second design is inspired by the action of entering the ancient Egyptian temples. Temples are constructed to be the house of the gods, and are dedicated to the performance of rituals. This particular piece is designed to tell the story of walking into a temple in order to spark change and start a new creation. The main focus is on the symbol of the scarab beetle, which represents change and new beginnings, and on the form of the temple gate, which recalls an ankh, the Egyptian hieroglyph signifying ‘life’.
Value Gems Collection, CRAFTURA by Studio ne+.
Throughout these projects, we prioritise transparency and respect for people and the environment at every step. Since we focus on empowering local communities, CRAFTURA collaborates with a group of skilled Egyptian craftsmen, craftswomen, and jewellery makers on its designs, encouraging and allowing these individuals to play a pivotal role in their communities.
Viewed together, CRAFTURA’s work offers a small glimpse into how Egyptian heritage continues to inspire contemporary designers today. The use of ancient Egyptian symbols and motifs continues to capture the imagination and inspire new generations of designers and makers. More and more, modern jewellers are seeking to draw information and inspiration from the styles and individual pieces created in ancient times. Fortunately, there are still plenty of beautiful pieces available for study, thanks to Egyptian burial rituals and the fact that many tombs were well hidden. For scholars, even one bead can tell an entire story if its archaeological context is clear. Different materials can explain sourcing and origins, and modern scientific techniques allow researchers to create detailed compositional analyses and comparisons with other eras. In this way, our hope is that designers can continue to support the revival of Egyptian ways of making — and the communities that preserve them.
About the author
Studio ne+ is a creative, artistic and operational think-tank, a multidisciplinary studio and creative direction firm specialized in design-driven foresight research working across spatial & experiential design, creative trend consultancy, interior branding, creative content and product design. Relying on its expertise in matters of trend forecasting and market study, Studio ne+ offers made-to-measure services and offers an original, rhythmic, sensitive and humanistic approach.
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