Hidden Gem: Handmade in the UAE

Arte MarketMiriam Walsh ensures sellers display their own creations l Image Credit: Courtesy of Arte Market

The art market scene in 2005 consisted mainly of a mishmash of people selling second-hand, suppliers of imported items and a few artisans seeking a platform to flaunt their creations. The lack of venues for local artwork alarmed craftswoman Miriam Walsh, so she decided to do something about it. And that marked the beginning of the Artisans of the Emirates (Arte) Market, which was initially nomadic, travelling from Crowne Plaza Dubai to Al Ghazal Mall, until it found a permanent home in Times Square Centre.

“There was a small core of artisans that met up regularly at various fetes and fairs organised by hotels, schools and clubs,” says Walsh. “Most of these events had a mission to raise funds for either the school or a charity. We needed the focus to be on the work of the makers, and not on other aspects around the market.”

Walsh says the people who helped lay the market’s foundation continue to support it today. She considers maintaining positive relationships with everyone involved in the Arte Market a priority and this has earned her a bunch of devoted friends and supporters.

Versatile items

An element that distinguishes the Arte Market from others is that it’s a haven for everything handmade. To get a stall at the market, sellers have to prove that the items they’re selling are their own creations. Selling products made by someone else is not permitted. This rule hasn’t hindered the range of versatile fare exhibited and sold at the market. Everyone from jewellery designers to soap makers, cushion weavers to doll makers can be found here. Some of them have even walked away with commissions to decorate homes, hotels and nurseries.

“We have had a bookmaker from Finland at Arte. The craft was so organic — just beautiful,” says Walsh. “We have a lovely range of paper craft makers. They make cards, boxes and notelets. We even have a vendor who makes her own paper, then presses and prints and paints on it. Each artisan is incredibly unique and we see a progression in innovative products each season.

“With such a multinational country, Arte manages to satisfy all styles and taste.”

Walsh says she has witnessed remarkable creativity at the market over the years. A felt maker herself, Walsh has a profound appreciation for artistic talent. Her desk welcomes silk fabrics and wool from specific corners of the world, which she transforms into vibrant scarves. She also crafts enchanting little fairies that can be used as festive ornaments.

Satisfying criteria

Walsh says she ensures that all products on display and for sale at Arte satisfy a certain criteria and that they should all be handmade by the vendor in the UAE. “Vendors need to be able to proudly claim they make what they sell.”

Over the years Walsh says she has received more than 6,000 applications, and it’s exactly this type of enthusiasm that has kept the Arte Market up and running for a decade.

+Arte Market is hosted every second and fourth Friday of the month at Times Square Centre in Dubai and every third Friday at Al Hamra Mall in Ras Al Khaimah. Interested artists can send information and photographs of the product to hello@theartemarket.com

Source: Nichole C. Miranda, Special to Property Weekly

This section features lesser-known places and events that are delightfully distinct in their own way. It could be a quaint little café or simply a charming lake. If it’s got character and brings a smile to your face, it’s a hidden gemthat will find a place on this page. If you know of a hidden gem, email the Editor at enag@gulfnews.com.

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