Interview with Yasmin Falahat
by Valentina Orrù
Yasmin Falahat is a multi-disciplinary artist and ceramicist based in London. Moving between design and visual art, her practice explores themes of cultural identity and community through food and personal stories. Yasmin's work often draws from her own cultural heritage sharing both intimate and relatable narratives. Her signature pomegranate and fig ceramics are unique handmade pieces whose design interweaves with their everyday use.
Yasmin has recently been commissioned by SPACE to design With these hands, the billboard currently on display at SPACE Ilford, London.
Even when doing textiles I always ended up making more 3D/sculptural pieces. My final degree show work consisted of hand-moulded wax & mixed media pieces, and then after university in my own time I experimented with air dry clay which then led me onto wanting to explore clay and ceramics a bit more.
I’ve always been interested visually and texturally by fruit and food, always taking photos of fruit in abstract ways and looking at them in detail. I started drawing figs and pomegranates as something interesting to draw and then in 2018 I was asked by ‘We Are Here UK’ run by Erin Aniker and Jess Nash to take part in an exhibition about what activism means to you as a woman of colour in Britain. As this was after the Trump vote and the Brexit vote, it felt important to me to embrace my cultures (Iranian and Turkish Cypriot) and I realised I do this mostly through food and art, especially fruit. So I began to explore the fruits that had more of a personal connection to me and my family which are the figs and pomegranates.
Your works are both beautiful design pieces and at the same time everyday objects, whose peculiar shapes are enhanced by their aesthetics. What is the relationship between the design and the cultural meaning of your ceramics?
Thank you! The design of the figs are based on the actual figs from my parents’ fig tree, and both the design of the fig & pomegranate ceramics gradually developed while learning the ceramics process and realising that some of the creative control has to be given up to the process of using clay and glazes. I also really like the idea of making pieces for people’s homes as opposed to ‘art objects’. I grew up surrounded by Turkish ceramics and Persian rugs in the house, all things I consider pieces of art but they become so much more when they’re woven into the narrative of a home and the lives of friends and families. Homes and the spaces around us are so important that it feels really special to know that people have chosen my designs to be in their personal spaces. Also someone mentioned to me that especially pieces like the large fruit bowls I make will probably get passed down through families over the years which is really lovely.
Identity plays a big part in your work. Your pomegranate ceramics remind me of being a kid messing around in my parents’ garden back in Sardinia. Many people can relate to and get your work which makes it very powerful. Is it what you had in mind for it?
That’s so nice to hear it reminds you of your parents’ garden! I really didn’t expect all the responses of people relating to my work, but I get lots of messages from people sharing their stories similar to yours - figs and pomegranates reminded them of their parents’ garden or reminding them of certain people. It’s so heartwarming to read those messages and to have people share their personal stories with me. Even though it started out as my personal project/story it’s become something that connects a lot of people which is amazing and much more than I expected.
You have recently been commissioned by SPACE to make a billboard piece, With these hands, which has just gone on display outside their gallery in Ilford, London. The work responds to the theme of “care” and you have involved different people in the making of it. Could you talk more about the process you followed for this project?
The first thing that I thought of with the theme of ‘care’ and that represents the local community of Ilford was the idea of sharing food. I asked local friends and family if there’s fruit/veg that has a special meaning to them - maybe reminding them of a certain time or a special person. I then collected these stories and made ceramic pieces of the chosen fruits. I wanted the poster to look like different people sharing and passing food to one another and the viewer, while also fitting around each other. So I photographed local friends and family holding the pieces and then photoshopped them together.
The way the fruits and the hands are together on the billboard feels spontaneous but also staged. Personal stories activate the ceramics in a way that is both personal and relatable. What comes across is the joy and playfulness of a moment. What is your vision behind the work?
I’m glad the joy and playfulness come across! I wanted it to feel familiar, warm and joyful - and part of the fun I realised comes from people assuming they’re real fruits then taking a closer look and noticing they’re all ceramics. After over a year of lockdowns and hands being in gloves, touch becoming ‘taboo’ and the hesitance of sharing things like food, I wanted the work to be a symbol of joy and care and of things that actually come naturally to us that we’ve had to suppress during the pandemic. Even though we all still need to be very careful in our everyday lives while covid is still around, I hope this artwork gives a bit of hopefulness and happiness.
I’ll be doing some hand-weaving workshops with SPACE and EDS (Empowering Deaf Society) in August which I’m excited about! I’m also taking part in Bow Arts Summer Makers’ Market at my studio on Saturday 17th July - it’ll be nice to meet customers in person again instead of selling online all the time. I would like to experiment and try out some new pieces, as well as do ceramics workshops at some point but I’ll see what happens!