The Mingana Collection, based at the University of Birmingham, which is home to the 'Birmingham Quran' also houses an amazing collection of Islamic manuscripts. An outreach programme organised by the university commissioned me to deliver some workshops as part of a larger manuscript project with local women's community groups, inspired by the manuscripts in the Mingana Collection.
For me personally, I couldn't be more excited! Working on this project was like a wonderful dream, delving into and exploring antique manuscripts from places like Iran and the Arabian peninsula, adorned with hand painted illumination, gilding, and calligraphy. After a tour of the archives, the manuscripts we looked closely at included a handwritten traveller's Quran, a book on the sayings of Imam Ali, and a book of Rumi's poetry.
These manuscripts provided the inspiration for some illumination that the participants would use in their own handmade books. We started off by introducing Islamic art and architecture, and looking at Islamic book art, including how they are made and the tradition of manuscripts. We learnt how to draw a basic geometric pattern, and in the second session, looked at floral motifs and the shamsa design. The participants then drew their own floral motifs, and designed their frontispieces, which were painted in very diligently and carefully painted. There were some excellent results, especially considering that many of the participants hadn't used a compass before, and some not since they were children at school. History, heritage, culture, art, design, manuscripts, we had just about covered it all!