As chief designer for the wrought iron, interior design and furniture shop Choufani, Alice and her team are keeping the tradition of forging alive and burning. Staff writer Ferdinand Godinez talks to the talented artist-creator to find out more about the age-old craft and taking a shot at a Guinness World Record
How did you get into iron forging and how difficult it is to master the craft?
Actually, iron forging came to us. We are proud third generation blacksmiths. In 1987, we moved from Lebanon to Abu Dhabi to continue our craft here. It takes many years of practice for a blacksmith to master the art. Unfortunately, most schools have now died out. Younger generation blacksmiths usually seek out older professionals for help and guidance.
Can you walk us through the process?
The design process is the first, and without a doubt, the most important stage in our production. We take into account the style of a home, the measurements and the client’s desires when we draw our designs. Afterwards, the manufacturing process starts. It involves lots of welding, hammering, grinding and plenty of noise! Outdoor products are galvanised to protect them from rusting. Products are then levelled and smoothed. Finally, they are painted and patinated to the desired degree.
How has the process evolved over the years and are you incorporating new technology into your process?
Iron forging is a craft that is still as traditional as ever. Our factory operates on machines some of which are almost 100 years old – and most of the work is done by hand using nothing more than a hammer and anvil. Although theoretically, technology could make our work much easier, we feel that technology can never replace the hands of a skilled blacksmith.
Can you tell us more about your Guinness World Record attempt?
In an effort to revive interest in the noble art of steel forging, we manufactured a massive wrought iron armchair. Produced with the greatest attention to detail, the armchair could easily be mistaken for being crafted out of real wood and fine fabric. We worked for months on end to complete this project. Made completely out of steel, every detail was studied to create the most realistic impression of a soft, comfortable armchair. We are proud to say that we are the first to attempt this feat. Now it is up to Guinness World Records to decide if we are worthy of a title.
Why do you think there’s a need for people to rediscover iron forging as an art form?
With the influx of cheaper alternatives to wrought iron, people have strayed away from traditional wrought iron products without realising that they have strayed away from art. Although wrought iron is still produced in a traditional manner, the product can be anything but. We can create a classical piece inspired by the Gate of Honour at the entrance of the Versailles Palace in France, or it can be unconventional and contemporary – like something you might see at the gates of Park Güell in Barcelona.
Choufani is located on 3rd Street, Khalifa City (opposite Al Raha Gardens). Sat-Thu 10am- 7pm. Contact: 02 556 7533, choufani.com