© Dilesh Solanki
© Minesh Parmar
© Dilesh Solanki
© Campbell Addy
10 October 2018
by Seetal Solanki
For Saudi Design Week 2018, the British Council KSA has partnered with the annual festival and are supporting five UK-based designers to participate in activities in both Riyadh and Eastern Province. This partnership forms a part of the Culture and Sport Programme. We caught up with one of the participating designers Seetal Solanki, founder of Ma-tt-er, to find out more about her practice.
Please tell us about your work. What is the primary issue or challenge you’re exploring at the moment?
Ma-tt-er designs, advises, communicates and educates what materials are and can be in order to implement them more responsibly across all industries and education.
There is a lack of understanding and awareness of what a material in fact is and its potential we are working with a number of sectors and educational institutions to work towards a more responsible future by applying materials more responsibly as this can have a positive social, economical, environmental and political impact.
Why are you interested in going to Saudi Arabia and why does the Saudi design scene interest you?
As there isn’t a design history as such within the region of Saudi Arabia there is a an opportunity to start with a clean slate of integrating sustainable practices right from the start, so that it’s implicit and not an added bonus. There is also an opportunity to create practices which are a lot more interdisciplinary, which is definitely something that is happening naturally within Saudi Arabia - that is exciting to see and feels like its so much more inclusive and holistic.
What are you hoping to explore or discover on your trip? What is your workshop going to focus on?
We’ve been doing a lot of research into the materials that make up Saudi Arabia, a materials map of sorts, some of which include marble, limestone, clay, granite, sand and dates. The dates were the material that we found most interesting as agriculture and the middle east aren’t something that would be associated with each other, as well as dates being a daily ritual and custom with all local communities. We’re going to be visiting a date farm to observe and experience the full cycle of farming, production and packaging. This will help us unpack the end to end processes involved to see if there might any surpluses and perhaps alternatives ways in which to utilise the materials to their full potential. I’m excited to see what we might discover.
Our workshop will be in the form of a deep dive into Ma-tt-er’s materials library to discuss and demonstrate how some of these materials are made, the impact they are having and give the participants the opportunity to explore them through a multisensory way so that they can understand the value of materials not just through their aesthetics, but through the weight, the tactility and really through more of an emotional lens as well as a practical one.
What do you hope to gain from the trip?
This time I will be part of SDW’s Ithra programme which is based in the Eastern Province which will be exciting to see a different region of Saudi Arabia as well as meet other industries and educational institutions. I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the culture, design scene and attitudes towards materials.
Why are international opportunities important for your practice?
Culture is a huge part of the material world as one material can have different values and meanings from one country and culture to the next.
Materials affect and impact everything and everyone, it’s valuable and meaningful for us at Ma-tt-er to have the opportunity to understand how materials are impacting other cultures and other countries so that we can understand the value and meanings behind the materials that make up our world to ultimately be able to design and advise of how we can implement them more responsibly.