Elham Nejati ruminates on aberrations and completeness through ‘Tohi’

At the Milan Design Week 2022, Elham Nejati exhibits Tohi, part of her collection which celebrates imperfections, as part of the 5Vie Design District.

by STIRworldPublished on : Jun 11, 2022

While the 60th Salone del mobile moves towards its culmination, the spirit of Milan and its conurbations is at an all-time high. Italy’s moral capital is once again witness to the wonders of its cultural roots that bring together the design world, and engulf every corner of the city in passionate design discourses. Milan Design Week, in a relative post-pandemic time, is anchored on the concepts of sustainability and the vast potential that the industry bears in addressing current world problems. With different design districts extrapolating Fuorisalone’s theme, 'Between Space and Time', into their own narrations - 'Fluidity and Design' for Tortona, 'Together as one' for Isola, and 'Designing the present, choosing the future' for Brera - 5Vie interprets the theme into 'Prototyping Utopias', in between pivotal discussions on the environmental crisis and the alarming state of the planet. In its manifestation of prototyping these utopias, 5Vie brings together architects, artists, and designers to imagine a sustainable city from the future which is guided by design.

Tohi is a part of the group exhibition for 5Vie Design Week | Tohi | Elham Nejati | STIRworld
Tohi is a part of the group exhibition for 5Vie Design Week Image: Sina Pouyan, Courtesy of Elham Nejati

In the matrix of innovations on display at 5Vie, amongst a plethora of idealist, romanticist, realist, minimalist, and perfectionist interventions, stands an imperfect piece, seemingly even incomplete. A piece that is conjoined yet disconnected; still work of art that seems to initiate a conversation with the observer even in a loud room full of people. A step closer and you’ll find the errant identity for it to be a vase in marble and steel named Tohi.

  • Tohi, which translates to hollow in the Persian language, is made entirely out of marble and a little steel | Tohi | Elham Nejati | STIRworld
    Tohi, which translates to hollow in the Persian language, is made entirely out of marble and a little steel Image: Hoomans Studio, Courtesy of Elham Nejati
  • With its suspended balance, Tohi explores the notions of mutual trust and interdependence | Tohi | Elham Nejati | STIRworld
    With its suspended balance, Tohi explores the notions of mutual trust and interdependence Image: Hoomans Studio, Courtesy of Elham Nejati

Tohi, the word, hails from the Persian language, translating to 'hollow'. The 19 cm x 34 cm vase is the solidified leitmotif of Iranian designer Elham Nejati, and speaks for her intriguing quest for ambiguity in designs. Tohi is tantamount to mutual trust, with the whole of the marble cylinder being separated in parts but held by a suspended balance of a steel form. While the group exhibition for 5Vie Design Week, titled 'Surfing Surfaces' presents Tohi, it is only one among the many ruminative works created by the designer who believes that her works are "one step beyond what we call normal".

  • Designer Elham Nejati with her creation Tohi at Milan Design Week | Tohi | Elham Nejati | STIRworld
    Designer Elham Nejati with her creation Tohi at Milan Design Week Image: Sina Pouyan, Courtesy of Elham Nejati
  • Conceptual sketches of Tohi by Elham Nejati | Tohi | Elham Nejati | STIRworld
    Conceptual sketches of Tohi by Elham Nejati Image: Hoomans Studio, Courtesy of Elham Nejati

From her childhood inclination to finding new ways to express herself beyond restrictions, the interior designer turned industrial designer Elham Nejati creates pieces that speak of human emotions, perceptions, and extended thoughts of life. A design process that dwells in the beauty of imperfection and the never-ending potential to interact with different minds is the basis of her works. While each product is a collection of interpretations, their names are the most direct keys to uncovering their inherent symbolism. Naturally so, every time a designer names their work in a native or regional language, it ignites a certain level of curiosity among international observers - the urge to know the unknown. While Nejati pays tribute to her cultural roots with the names from the Persian language, the etymology stirs up in-depth conversations about the what, why, and how of the product. This quality of initiating a conversation with the user in all their incumbent stillness is the most intriguing element of her designs. While talking about her philosophies, Nejati says, "I embrace nature as it is. I put no effort into changing it or to demonstrate it without any imperfections and flaws, I only mix it with my own thoughts. I hit rocks, and break them, and I allow them to show themselves with all their flaws and defects."

The designer experiments with an array of products that reflect the concepts of imperfection and human emotions | Tohi | Elham Nejati | STIRworld
The designer experiments with an array of products that reflect the concepts of imperfection and human emotions Image: Sina Pouyan, Courtesy of Elham Nejati

Tohi is only a preface to Nejati’s metanarrative of designs. Khiz, Mahar, Najva, Majal, and Panah are few of her vase designs. Khiz manifests as a modern symbolism of nature where the plant has boldly taken roots outside the vase. Panah and Mahar integrate the most dynamic state of the cylinder with the balanced form of the triangle. She further explores unique designs in crockery with Vaghar, Shogh, and Shour. Though her designs attempt to narrate their being through ambiguity, what can be said to remain rather uniform is their materiality. Nejati believes in the ancestral connection to stone which led her to use it in all her designs, along with a splash of modernity in steel. While mentioning her love for natural materials and imperfections, she adds, "Each strike at each point of time has a different outcome. An outcome that is impossible to replicate precisely."

Elham Nejati's Tohi is on display at SIAM 1838 - via Santa Marta 18 as a part of the 5Vie Design Week.

Elham Nejatti in the process of crafting Tohi, the vase Video: Hoomans Studio, Courtesy of Elham Nejati

STIR takes you on a Milanese sojourn! Experience Salone del Mobile and all the design districts - 5vie, Brera, Fuorisalone, Isola, Zona Tortona, and Durini - with us. STIR’s coverage of Milan Design Week 2022, Meanwhile in Milan showcases the best exhibits, moods, studios, events, and folks to look out for. We are also excited to announce our very own STIR press booth at Salone del Mobile - Hall 5/7 S.14, Fiera Milano RHO.

(Text by Sunena V Maju, intern at STIRworld)

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