Dubai:   With a penchant for furniture design and having lovingly fawned over FORMA at this year’s Design Days Dubai, I’ve been wanting to interview Rand Abdul Jabbar, the designer of the beautiful furniture series that evokes the sea-faring heritage of Dubai and its dhow builders, while celebrating their relevance today.

Rand developed the FORMA chair and table series during her time in the Tashkeel Design Programme, the brilliant year-long initiative, which aims to foster the local design community and encourage greater collaboration between designers and UAE-based manufacturers. Rand’s FORMA table is currently on show at Tashkeel as part of the Made in Tashkeel summer exhibition.

Tell us a little bit about your background – how did you originally get into design, what did you study, etc.

My background is in architecture. I received a Bachelor of Environmental Design from Dalhousie University in Canada and a Master of Architecture from Columbia University in New York. My studies in architecture led me to think about design as a fluid exercise across multiple scales – from objects and furniture, to installations, buildings and urban projects.

How would you describe your work and what influences your style?

My work does not follow a certain ‘style’ per se but is rather research driven. I investigate concepts or contexts that I find fascinating and respond by adopting a formal language that I find most suitable to conveying my intentions successfully.

What was your project for the Tashkeel Design Programme and why?

My project for the Tashkeel Design Programme is a furniture series titled ‘FORMA’, which references the templates that traditional dhow builders use to define the structure and shape of the boat.

The project seeks to shed light on the disappearing craft of dhow building by using its procedural and material logic as a framework for design. The pieces are entirely handmade, highlighting the corporeal and technical qualities of dhows using tools and materials sourced directly from the Al Jadaf dhow-building yard in Dubai. By exposing the public to the beauty of dhow building, FORMA aspires to instil a renewed sense of appreciation for the craft, its history, and the profession that it sustains.

What does a typical day at work involve for you? Are you home or studio based?

Since most of my design work and writing is produced using my laptop, I am based wherever I find a comfortable and quiet place to sit and think. However, I do enjoy getting out to photograph and collect information while conducting on-site research during the early stages of a project and, if it’s a physical piece, to follow up with visits to oversee the fabrication and/or construction process.

What are you looking forward to?

I am in constant search for exciting learning opportunities that challenge me and allow me to continue to explore the power and potential role of design as a physical and cultural mediator within society.

Which other local designers, artists or creative people are you loving at the moment?

I am a big fan of Farah Nasri’s HKD jewelry line that pushes the use of 3d printing technology to produce pieces that interact with the body in unconventional ways. I also really appreciate Faissal El Malak’s adoption of artisanal fabrics from across the region as a foundation for his clean-cut contemporary fashion line.

All photographs of Rand Abdul Jabbar and FORMA by Ekta Saran (Wild Beast Media).