You don’t have to defend or explain your decisions to anyone. It’s your life. Live it without apologies.
Before we get into the juicy part, here is the backstory for anyone that hasn’t yet seen the shisha sculpture ‘1 PUFF HERE AND 1 PUFF THERE’…
This shisha sculpture is filled with character and detail. The idea of making a shisha out of random junk got me excited and bursting with ideas. As you know I’m a British Arab, and as many Arab families we love a good old gathering. When I was a kid, shishas were part of my culture. So, it wasn’t so much about the ‘smoking’ it was all about creating a relaxing classy ambience.
Its sad how many people today from different age groups interact with shishas. It’s lost its chic and elegance. Today its all about ‘smoke smoke smoke’ and who can puff out the strongest, which wasn’t like that before.
All I can remember was that when my mum and aunties planned to have a little cheeky smoke the whole day was planned and filled with positivity. It was as if it was a pampering day lol. There was great food, chilled drinks, music, one puff here and one puff there, even watching them set up a shisha was an entertaining experience of its own.
You can feel the warmth and the love in the house. Because it was an occasional thing waiting for the smell of burnt coal and the fruity tobacco was soothing. Then asthma came along in my life and now these smells take me back to happy memories.
And that’s why I decided to design a shisha sculpture to capture and express what it felt like for me.
Final shisha sculpture design… not bad made from random junk 😉
Initial doodle sketch…
Right… now we are all on the same page, let me begin by saying…
I tried my best to capture as many stages as possible, but I was having too much fun and wiping my tears now and then when things didn’t go to plan… so apologies in advance. The photos in my journal aren’t for photography purposes. I took them solely to show you my entire sculpturing process, from start to finish.
I found it challenging to take photos and draw beautiful sketches whilst I was working. It was ruining my damn groove lol. When it comes down to making its very frustrating to go in and out of the zone. Its like stopping a singer in the middle of a belter.
Although it was tricky, at the end I discovered ways to snap key moments of my full designing process. My husband bless him took a few photos of me after work (he was absolutely knackered), I created short videos then snapshot what I thought was informative and not feel embarrassed of sharing all my raw personal notes to you guys.
However, when I did complete my sculpture in the end, I had more time to focus on creating quality and detailed photographs of my final piece. You’ll see the difference yourselves and understand what I mean.
You see, things don’t always have to be ‘perfect’. The important thing is to understand what you want to achieve. You need to ask yourself, “What is the point of it all? What do I want people to take from this?” and “Is my heart completely in this?”
I didn’t hold back at all… It’s all there! The good, the bad, and the ugly.
For me, this journal is all about inspiring and teaching people.
Showing everyone that sculpturing junk isn’t just sticking bits and bobs together, it involves a lot of skill and time… And to help artists/designers avoid the mistakes I made and push themselves to do even better.
Despite all the odds that could have made me give up at any time such as not having a workshop, on a budget, limited space, and tools… I realised that with a little bit of creativity and a can-do attitude, you can also create beautiful things just like me. And if you don’t see yourself as a ‘creative person’ then at least you will be inspired.
Here’s me looking sooooo hot during the making of my wire tree sculpture. I went from collecting bits of junk to making an elegant sculpture… I tell you, It was an effortless process 😜
Drum roll please… (take notes if you want)
1. CREATE A PERSONAL BRIEF
I know that the word ‘brief’ is formal, and it’s used in the art and design industry a lot and right now you’re saying to yourself… what is Weaam on about? I thought this was supposed to be light-hearted not an art and design lecture. And it is, promise! Let me explain…
No matter what we plan to make whether it’s a sculpture, a painting or even a cake for your neighbours. We always find yourselves planning and doodling on a scrap paper before making anything.
Those doodles are our initial notes. Our raw ideas. Our solid foundation.
Everyone has different methods, but I know for a fact that too much planning can kill the magic sometimes. So, try to avoid this, because expressing real emotion comes from the heart not from a pen and paper.
I always tend to scribble what I’m going to make, what is the story behind my idea to allow me to express from the heart to connect with people, and finally what junk materials I need to collect to build my sculpture from scratch.
The whole ‘before and after pic’ that some artists create doesn’t work with me. You know what I’m on about, the fancy photos that many people do as if the process was so straightforward. Well, we all know that that’s full of BS.
I always find new fascinating junk materials every day. I can’t keep up and things always change, because junk isn’t reliable.
At some point in your making process, you will find yourself having waaaaaaaaay too much fun or crying, because something just broke. Either way, you will have your personal brief (your doodles) that you can always count on to swerve you back in the right direction.
It acts as a reminder to help you refocus and remind yourself why you are sculpturing in the first place.
Here’s my personal brief for my wire tree sculpture: Nothing complicated, just straight to the point…
When you have a plan, and know your purpose of what you want to make… Take a deep breath, believe in yourself, and just get stuck in…
2. START OFF BY DESIGNING A COMPACT SHISHA BASE
(What. A. Day…)
I had a cracked ceramic plate that I needed to stop eating off and smashed it gently to create rectangles that I also shaped with a ceramic cutter (barrowed it from my uncle). I stuck them around a broken bulb with a hot glue gun, and then sealed them with silicone window sealer (I know weird right? But this did the job) onto the second bulb.
When I finished with the dancing rectangles that couldn’t stay still, I realised that the ceramic rectangle pieces needed more support, so I cut a long piece of old rubber door mat (looked just like a belt) and stuck it around the inner faces of the rectangle pieces.
The ceramic plate and the bulbs didn’t really add any texture or colour that I wanted for the shisha design. So, I decided to paint the whole base with black acrylic paint.
After a few attempts on mini samples that I created on the side, I applied the paint technique on my shisha base to achieve the marble antique finish. This added a traditional flair.
For the final touch, my husband’s drill broke (what brilliant timing lol sorry my love if you’re reading this) and I ended up finding a few tiny metal balls inside it that I used to add a subtle sparkle, because the real sparkle was yet to come.
3. HARMONISE THE BASE WITH THE GLASS VASE AND MAKE IT ONE PIECE
(Why break now! Whyyyyyyyyyyyy!..)
The challenge here was how on earth was I supposed to create a tapered vase with recycled jam and pickle jars, and then make it one piece with the rest of the design?
It was simple! (I saw that, don’t look at my face carry on reading 😂) The same way I smashed the ceramic plate to achieve rectangle pieces that were filled with character was the same way I approached the recycled glass jars. Since the shisha vase is one piece, I wanted the junk that I used to have similar visual language. So, in this case imperfect rectangles.
To achieve the form, I worked around the bulb then filled the spaces between the rectangles with hot glue gun. When things dried, I re-melted the glue and stuck tiny pieces of glass to create the crystal appearance. Apart from it looking sparkly, nothing about this technique was a fairy tale.
I had to burn the middle of a CD to create a slot for the vinegar bottle and stuck it with a lot of hot glue. I couldn’t hide the big ugly blobs of glue so, I started to design ways to cover the excess by designing a circular ring with beautiful chunks of thick glass from a bottom of a perfume bottle.
You see, by not having everything this drove my creativity to new places that I hadn’t been before.
Experimenting spontaneously, and not being afraid of failing these good old jam jars had three make overs. Glass rectangles. Glass crystals. And chunky beautiful glass rocks. By this point, the junk materials harmonised elegantly and there was one technique left to do to make the whole shisha vase/base look like one piece.
I mixed PVA glue, water and washing up liquid and sprayed it all over the vase. Not only did this technique sealed everything together, but it also added a frost look that complimented well with my concept of ice.
I was so happy with the results and just when I picked it up to take pictures for you guys with a massive grin on my face, I noticed that there was a massive cavity on the bottom that I forgot to design because I was too busy focusing on the outer surfaces. So, when you are doing your celebratory dance, you need to pipe it down and remember…
4. DESIGN THE BOTTOM EVENTHOUGH ITS NOT VISIBLE- ITS STILL PART OF THE SCULPTURE AND STORY!
(I can get use to this…)
The little voice in my head was telling me to just close the bottom with an actual lid and continue with my celebratory dance. But as much as that sounded nice and the bottom of the shisha didn’t show, I still wanted to design every detail of it.
Because that’s who I am. I’ve always followed one of my mum’s priceless advice… “When you work on something you either do it from the heart or don’t do it at all”.
Every detail of your sculpture should have meaning or at least thought through.
I experimented with a few ideas until I went ahead to cut two circles out of normal white card and then wrapped them around some kitchen foil. I decorated the lid with a good old nail to mimic the coal shisha bowl circular pattern.
I didn’t stop there… To add humour and practicality to the base design I then stuck four keyboard letters showing the word L-O-V-E as charming feet to help lift the shisha from the bottom when moving the shisha sculpture around for the owner.
(L is for the way you look at meeeee, O is for the only one I see…)
To cover the glue as much as I can, I couldn’t use the chucky glass again, so I created a pattern with the hot glue and painted it black.
Leaving the base to dry, I began designing the bottom half of the shisha stem. I had to put my product design engineer hat on for this part. The question that kept looping in my head and made me giddy was… How high can I go?
5. ENGINEER AND DESIGN THE STEM AS HIGH AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN (BUT BE CAREFUL!)
(Is it straight? Is it straight now? How about now?..)
I had to study how shishas were engineered. To capture the humour of ‘how high can I go’ concept I had the idea of stacking different tops together but that was weak. So, I went back to sketching.
Technically the bottom of the stem should be heavier than the top to avoid wobbliness, so I incorporated industrial waste such as a light torch and a drill that had metal parts in them to give me the weight that I was looking for.
The higher I sculptured the more it was challenging to get it straight. All the odds were against me at this point in the process. Who was I kidding, I didn’t have enough space for a sculpture this size, I worked with what I had, the junk materials had minds of their own, parts cracked and detached, and my astigmatism was taking the mic. My eyes were lying to me.
I got frustrated (well I did have a little cry). I could’ve stopped at this point and went down the easy route. Get a long pole and stick parts to it.
But I didn’t. I turned these trails into fuel and used them to my advantage.
I began experimenting with the illusion of the shisha falling to add humour and character to the sculpture. I engineered it in a way that it looks like it’s going to fall but its secured and well designed.
When I figured that out, I started designing the valves and other details.
Like many, I haven’t got a lathe machine hanging about, so for the stem to have that metallic visual I spray painted it and used hot glue gun to secure parts together. As you can see it looks like one lathed piece. Well close enough 😉
All these imperfections that kept rising just added more character and love to this piece.
To minimise the hot glue gun attachments (and she says this after using so many glue sticks) I tried to attach parts without glue like the drill and motor attachment. That made the shisha stem even more secure.
Things were coming together nicely. There was no time for celebrating and to be honest I was already swearing and blinding lol. So, I kept in the zone and used my frustration in a positive way. That adrenaline helped me feel confident to make a bold statement in my shisha focal point design…
6. DON’T PLAY IT SAFE! CREATE AN EXPRESSIVE FOCAL POINT PIECE
(What am I thinking? I can do better…)
In many shisha designs this part is the heart of the shisha. I didn’t want to design another ‘diamond’ with no meaning behind it. I wanted to make a strong statement yet design something elegant and discreet.
The concept of incorporating inhalers came from a joke that me and mum laughed about. One day I was showing her a few ideas for the shisha sculpture and whilst I was talking, I was taking my inhaler. One of the funniest things that came out my mum’s mouth…
She said sarcastically in Arabic whilst giggling “you’re taking a puff here and me and your aunties are going to have a puff later…. 1 puff here and 1 puff there 🤣”. And I was like that’s it! Mum that’s what I’m going to call this shisha sculpture. And the rest is history. (You can read the full meaning of the inhaler feature by clicking this link)
Initially, I was going for a simple clean look, but then I wanted to see how far I could go with the plastic material. So, I started my burning technique and pushed different screwdriver heads against the melted material to get fascinating texture.
Funny enough the more I applied this technique the more the inhalers looked like damaged lungs but in a weird way looked beautiful. At this point I was excited and dancing the shuffle, but little did I know what was going to happen next…
7. MAKE SURE THE TOP HALF OF THE STEM IS WELL ENGINEERED TO AVOID DISASTERS
(Noooooooooo #$@&%*! Whyyyyyyyy…)
After some research, having technical insight really helped me decide what I was going to do for the rest of the stem design. I glued my beautiful inhalers, finished the top half of the stem design, started working on the cup and tong, listening to music and dancing and then… BANG!
The shisha collapsed! Everything was in slow motion. You couldn’t hear a pin drop. Then all I heard was my camera setting off. My husband took a picture of me and I was like oh now you are awake to take a photo of the process. He was like “Weaam you’ve got this, chill! You’re real and people will appreciate you sharing this.”
I do get it now bless him, but at that moment I wanted to… well you can imagine 😜.
I took a deep breath and started over. I had a few pencil crayons laying around, so I wrapped them with foil and stuck them on the bottom of the plate and right through the inhalers. This little bit of creativity made a massive difference to the top half of the stem’s stability. Instead of using heavy duty industrial waste I thought of a different way of attaching… I added a few magnets.
After that roller coaster ride, I wanted to chill a little bit and just have fun…
8. ADD A LITTLE TOUCH OF CHIC TO YOUR SCULPTURE DESIGN…
(Mum is going to kill me when she finds out that I used her real Oud perfume…)
Many people forget the small details that can bring a whole design together. I wanted the shisha tong design to match the engineering appearance of the stem, so I stuck Pepsi can lids, spring, small metal gears, scrap metal, spray painted everything, and then burnt the whole tong.
For that rusty vintage look I gently scraped off parts of the paint and burnt more. Compared to other parts of the sculpturing process, this was more relaxed and so much fun to make.
Whilst the tong was drying, to capture the smell of a memory I poured a little bit of perfume to add a different sense of interaction to my sculpture. Initially, I was going to use one decorative perfume bottle, but then that leaked. I broke it and kept the bottom half and glued a classic small Oud bottle on it.
Again, trying to hide as much excess glue as possible, I wrapped foil around the Oud bottle and sealed it with my coal bowl design. And now things went to a whole new level… It was crunch time!
9. BUILD YOUR COAL SHISHA BOWL AROUND A RECYCLED CUP
(What am I going to have for breakfast mmm…)
I had an old flask bottle top that still lingered the fresh smell of Arabic coffee that my family use to drink from when they smoked together. It was the perfect size and form to begin the coal base design.
I worked around it and used it as a structural foundation. I sawed pencil crayons into more than 150 tiny hexagons to create texture, colour, and warmth. I wanted to move away from the ‘cold’ touch that the rest of my shisha design had.
Despite all the planning I had made, things still went wrong. The making process wasn’t as simple as just sticking bits of wood to a cup.
There were so many pencil bits everywhere. Some snapped and cracked, some were on the living room floor, and even flew in the kitchen. There was constant back and forth of sawing, designing, placing, gluing, burning, varnishing for days. But after the time and effort that put into this, the little bowl looked rather charming and had a traditional flair to it.
Do you remember at the beginning of this journal when I said to you that too much planning can kill the magic? My magic moments came from my failures and just simply getting stuck in.
Failing can grow your confidence, patience, and creativity.
At this point I felt like I could face all the upcoming challenges head on. So, instead of playing it safe and settling with the design as it was, I wanted to push myself even further…
10. SMASH A GLASS PRODUCT THAT HAS A THICK GLASS BASE TO CREATE YOUR COAL PIECES
(What on earth is she doing now? Is that her mum’s perfume bottle…)
I could have stuck 2 real coal onto my shisha bowl design, but I knew that I wasn’t going to do it any justice. Since I came this far, why play it safe? So, to keep the design coherent with the engineering and crystal appearance that ran through the shisha sculpture, I smashed and shaped big glass rocks to replicate the natural form of coal. To add more humour.
Instead of using a foil sheet, I used one of my husband’s electronic circuit sheet that already had beautiful holes on it. I did in end add tiny bits of real coal to add to the burning impression. Finishing details such as scraping, sanding, burning, and painting the bowl sheet wrapped up the whole design ingeniously.
Before making my final tweaks to the sculpture, it was time to change the linear form of my shisha and add another dimension of perspective…
11. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A TEXTILE MASTER TO JAZZ UP AN OLD RECYCLED PIPE
(Wrap, wrap, twist, and wrap mmmm… well that youtuber made it look easy didn’t she hahaha…)
I’m not that familiar with fabrics, but that didn’t stop me jazzing up my shisha pipe design. I watched videos and learnt how to create beautiful wool balls. My grandma had a few different wools that she didn’t want so I selected the colours I wanted and cracked on.
Wrapped, and wrapped, and wrapped until my pipe design came to life. I also lightly burnt the fabric to give the wool a little bit of a charred touch to complement the shisha bowl design.
When I stepped back, I realised that I relied heavily on my burning technique throughout my sculpture to create captivating texture, colour, and fascinating effects. So, I decided to make it a meaningful and expressive design feature.
(Yesssssss more burning…)
Even though my shisha sculpture was built with different junk materials, by applying this traditional technique, it brought everything together… All the individual parts became one family. One piece.
At this point I was happy with what I achieved, but there was one thing missing before I called it a day…
12. POP SOME MUSIC ON AND DO YOUR FINAL SPRING CLEAN
(As if cleaning the house wasn’t enough…)
It’s a simple task yet many of us forget and underestimate this stage… The end of my making process, I realised that I had to do a full spring clean. Each day went by; I had to keep dusting off, and even retouching a few areas before packaging.
(Tip- when your gut feeling is telling you to call it a day… STOP AND LISTEN TO IT! Because as creators we always love to retouch endlessly and that can ruin all your hard work.)
Keep your sculpture in a safe place.
Trust me, I know this sounds like common sense, but things can hide in your sculpture without you being aware. So, before packaging make sure your attention to detail is tip top.
13. WRAP UP… BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT
Now you’ve seen my entire making process… I bet you’re surprised about how much work goes into junk sculpturing.
The process thrives from creativity, technicality, design, effective skills and working from the heart.
You see, anyone can create things and learn a new skill. But what makes you different is your life experiences, your perspective of the world, and your unique character. No one is you.
I have a product design first class degree and I am a self-taught artist and yet I failed numerous times. Every day I learnt something new and every day I surprised myself. As Theodore Roosevelt said…
‘Believe you can and you’re halfway there.’
And this is true!
Making this sculpture has taught me two important values:
You must believe you can do it well before you start anything
You must believe in yourself
If you don’t. Well, all the challenges and issues you’ll face will be twice as hard. Just like life. Sure, I didn’t have a workshop, quality materials, design resources, and the list goes forever.
But why would you let negativity stop you from doing what you love, when you can deal with it with an open mind. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it in the end.
It’s going to be your story. Your achievement.
For artist/designers you’ll look back and say to yourself… ‘Yes, I designed this. Yes me. I did it’. And for art lovers you will also learn how to keep your sculpture alive by putting your own personal touch when things begin to deteriorate.
Let me tell you this, it will feel damn good, because most would have given up and miss the magic at the first hurdle. But not you.
You will see solutions, just like what I did. I’m just saying if I can do it so can you.
Be positive, be persistent, be determined. Trust me the challenges that you’ll face in your sculpturing process will feel like a problem-solving game. So, the next time you think ‘I haven’t got the right resources bla bla bla’
Well now you know that you have more than enough.
Just enjoy the making experience and remember work with whatever you have! And if you need help, I’m just a call away. If you are an artist/designer you’re probably thinking to yourself right now…
Hang on a minute, how did she end up taking quality photographs of her sculpture when she was on a budget? And for art lovers who are excited and wondering if this sculpture is for sale…
Well, all will be revealed soon in my articles… and in the gallery there is a sculpture information page about ‘1 PUFF HERE AND 1 PUFF THERE’ shisha sculpture.