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symbolism of design in hammam

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screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-9-46-15-ammy paternal great grandfather, haim behmoiras from edirne, turkey, was a lawyer and an advisor to the ottoman sultan. one of the few heirlooms that have been passed down through the generations is a tapestry that was given to my great grandfather by the sultan. i grew up with this piece hanging over the piano in our living room. one of the best things about practicing piano was looking up at this large tapestry, wondering at its intriguing stories told through incredibly intricate, geometric patterns sewn in gold thread onto burgundy and lapis blue brocade.

above: tapestry from my great-grandfather’s collection

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the geometric design for red flower hammam and the rich colors of burgundy, lapis blue, gold, pearl and silver are all inspired by this tapestry and extensive travels to my grandmother’s homeland in turkey. she described stories of her opulent childhood: from the richness of the sweetly boiled black coffee with lemon in gold demitasse cups, to the luminescent twinkle of sunlight through the cathedral like heights of the traditional hammam.  these stories deeply influence the aesthetic experience of the red flower hammam collection.

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MOROCCO from Nathaniel Connella on Vimeo.

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“only in turkey, morocco and andalusia do you see such rich geometric decoration take on such importance. the importance of geometric patterns is multifold but comes from the forbidding of the depiction of the human form or craven images, which might be seen as man’s attempt to compete with god’s genius. stars, octagons, sinuous, vine like motifs and calligraphy became a spiritual expression.  there is also deep symbolism in the patterns. abstract decoration enhances a quality that could only be attributed to god, namely, his irrational infinity.”* “the pattern of the arabesque, without a beginning or an end, portrays this sense of infinity, and is the best means to describe in art the doctrine of divine unity.” repeated over and over again, seemingly exponentially, these geometric patterns, whether quietly monochromatic or richly polychrome, seem to inspire a sense of cosmic harmony. the exquisite beauty and deep richness seemingly shift our sense of time and put us in a space of hushed awe and light-filtered quiescence.

the geometric pattern graphic on the packaging of red flower hammam is both a highly personal return to the warmth of the turkish hammam and family heritage, and an aesthetic expression of the need to find space and respite in a rushed, high-tech world.

*Wajhid Ali

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