maria iqbal
"I design my life."

Maria Iqbal is an Afghan-American artist based in the UAE. The world is her canvas; She creates and transforms everything from chairs to handbags, walls and clothes. Her designs spell out a new language of high-end art pieces that span traditional shapes and forms and cannot be neatly labeled or contained. Materials are only limited by the imagination and include locally sourced leather, custom printed textiles, canvas, plastic, wood, paints, and even the humble pencil.

Born in Kabul and raised in Dubai by her traditional Afghan family, Maria grew up with Bollywood films, Japanese anime, larger-than-life icons, and inspirations gleamed from the melting pot of cultures that bring her adopted city to life. She received a Bachelor's degree from The College of William and Mary and a graduate degree in Art Direction from Miami Ad School before going on to a high-powered career as an art director at prominent advertising agencies in Chicago & a unique year in Mumbai.

Maria's heart remained attached to art, and after her inspirational stint in India, she moved back home to Dubai in 2011 and founded Maria Iqbal Art. Maria's designs have become recognized in the region's design and fashion circles and highlighted in numerous publications including VOGUE (India). She was also nominated for the 2014 Emirates Woman of the Year award for her unique contribution to the region's arts and culture scene. Maria's work can be discovered in various fashion and lifestyle boutiques, art galleries, and specialty design spaces. Occasionally she conducts pop-up workshops and events, on site installations for well-known brands, or engages in collaborations with fashion houses, design showrooms, and galleries.

The designer's playful studio in the heart of Dubai is an explosion of colors, textiles, and concepts. Her creations are functional works of hand painted art, deeply influenced by pop culture, irreverent humor, travel, and societal trends. Although she is no longer an advertising art director in the big city, Maria's creations send eye-catching messages in a clever, snappy way and are constantly evolving to reflect our fast-paced, consumer-centric world.

Each of Maria's functional creations represents a conversation between the designer and the collector. Many of her favorite pieces have come as a result of bespoke commissions by fashion houses, design showrooms, global brands, or fashionable individuals. Maria loves the challenge of hearing a collector's simple idea and transforming a color, shape, or need into an all-consuming vision.

"I love to make things that tell a story."

It began with an antique chair gathering dust in the corner of an attic. I stripped and sanded the frame and gave it a new coat of paint. Then many more colors started screaming ME! ME! ME! The old, drab upholstery discarded, a new seat took its place like a beautiful dress. There was depth, and so many more interactive possibilities. Bold, refreshing and much more satisfying than working on a two dimensional canvas! I sat on this chair, and became transformed too. Thus began my love affair with painting on and repurposing surfaces non-traditionally, while at the same time sustaining the inherent beauty within.

I believe that design should represent your individual style. If you want to live a unique life, surround yourself with objects and fashion that tell your story - from the bed that you sleep on every night, to the bag you'll carry to a special event. As a former advertising creative, I naturally think in slogans and am attracted to words, humor, and faces that are famous in popular culture. I can't help but smile at the idea of wearable, fully functional art that is part of the human experience and does not belong in a sterile gallery.

In the attempt to live a unique life, there are no limits. The journey has just begun, and I look forward to the unexpected juxtapositions that await and surprise us.