Meet The Emirati Designer Behind UAE-Based Design Studio Tinkah

Tinkah, Kholoud Sharafi, Ayesha Shaikh, Emirati Design, Culture
Photography by Aasiyah Jagadeesh
Kholoud Sharafi in Tinkah’s Dubai workshop
Multidisciplinary design studio Tinkah explores traditional crafts in a future-forward way. Ayesha Shaikh catches up with its co-founder Kholoud Sharafi about its many feats

It takes great skill to alter one’s sense of the everyday object, but it seems like this ingenuity comes naturally to Tinkah. It has been breaking new ground with its collaborative projects and specialised services, both at home and its London outpost. Having joined creative forces with Dubai’s Etihad Museum, Sole DXB and Dubai Design Week for typography, event and product design, the collective has been earning its spurs since it launched in 2012.

At the forefront is Dubai-based Emirati designer Kholoud Sharafi, who conceived the concept along with colleagues Reem Al Ghaith and Abeer Tahlak. “After graduating, we were exploring the [design] scene and felt there was a gap in the industry,” says Kholoud, who is a visual communications graduate from the American University of Sharjah. “We decided to set up a firm that could contribute to defining the identity and design language of the city,” she adds.

Kholoud works excessively with natural materials and organic forms, lending a futuristic spin to traditional utilitarian objects. “I try to stay true to the subject’s culture and concept and derive form and material selection on that basis,” she explains. “I work a lot with ceramics and the technique of slip casting, but I do not limit myself to that. I am passionate about discovering new materials, methods and techniques.”

Kholoud Sharafi

Pieces from the Ramel collection. Image courtesy of Tinkah

Some of her most memorable creations were for Grey Area, an achromatic dinner experience created in collaboration with Inked at Alserkal Avenue during Dubai Design Week this past November. The immersive, six-course dinner featured customised tableware designed by Tinkah and Mexican C37 Material Development Studio. Created using materials such as Magma 04, ceramic, Parian ware and glass, the pieces followed a tonal palette, all titled as percentages, referencing the gradual transition of grey. “The concept behind Grey Area was purely developed towards the dinner concept, where colour was vacuumed from space and food, hence, the monotone colour scheme,” Kholoud explains.

In contrast with these space-age designs is Tinkah’s revisionist approach to the nomadic dining experience in the Constructed Feast range of tableware. The collection featured in the Future Nomads exhibition, part of the 2014 Abu Dhabi Art UAE Designer Programme, which brings to the table designers exploring crafts and heritage in a future-forward way. It also travelled overseas to be showcased at the seventh edition of Milan’s
Ventura Lambrate design event in 2016.

The designs hark back to the festive, traditional Emirati style of dining, where food is prepared on an open fire and eaten by hand from a single large platter as family and friends gather around. “Constructed Feast was a commissioned project that addressed the concept of local craft being incorporated into design. The idea was to focus on our local dining culture of sitting on the floor,” says Kholoud, alluding to how families would
sit on thick woven floor mats and sand.

Kholoud Sharafi

A view of the Constructed Feast collection. Image courtesy of Tinkah

She explores natural materials such as clay, pewter, textiles, sand  and leather, which beautifully embody traditional values, while the functional design makes these nostalgic pieces the perfect fit for a contemporary dining table.

Tinkah also teamed up with curated art and design company Inéditions for a collection named What Goes Around Comes Around, which revisits the conventional tupperware. Tinkah maintains an online presence through its online store, The Foundry, which was launched at Dubai Design Week last year. On sale are creations made by the team at Tinkah, ranging from products and furniture to prints and books. “So far, we are only selling on our online platform and through our presence in different exhibits but are looking into partnering with selective platforms,” she shares about expanding the collective’s reach.

Of their upcoming projects, Kholoud says, “We have many projects under branding research and experiential coming up. One of them will be the Ramel collection – a continuation of our initial experiment done during constructed feast of incorporating sand into our tableware.” Tinkah’s groundbreaking designs are collectibles of today and tomorrow.


Tinkah.com, Thefoundry.ltd

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Tinkah, Kholoud Sharafi, Ayesha Shaikh, Emirati Design, Culture
Photography by Aasiyah Jagadeesh
Kholoud Sharafi in Tinkah’s Dubai workshop