Calligraphy logo for Hijab Boutique – The great, and the awful.

•June 12, 2013 • 1 Comment


This is a logo for a Hijab boutique I did. The clients are great, and I hope they’re doing very well.

This, for a complete swing of the pendulum, is a logo I did for another Hijab Boutique called  Boutique Al-Khaleejia 


and that, is where it gets weird. I was contacted, and in the normal course of things I got 50% down for a logo for the company. Did a logo I liked, sent it to her, she liked it. For non-watermarked full res images, please send remaining balance. No word. For weeks no word. Months pass, and i consider myself stiffed, then “I am so, so sorry Josh. I had a devastating death in the family and I was too busy with family greif to get back to you.” OK. Went to her facebook, read the “recommendations”. Turns out that she not only owed me, she owed like, mmm 10-15,000 worth of wedding hijab orders that people had placed with her company, based on fake photos stolen from other designers. Women had put orders in of hundreds of dollars worth of clothing, and in the words of one UK customer: “She done a runner.” Some choice samples of her recommendations:

What a sad situation, replicated images of other peoples hard work. All these images were not even yours to begin with. Dania you threatened and harrassed my friends, those who tried to tell you were wrong. Then you send us made up lawyer letters to threaten and we all knew you gotten it written from a friend. How do you sleep at night? To steal from others, you have a debt that is owed to Allah in the afterlife.
about 2 months ago
Assalam o Alikum sister i read that a lot of you had problems with Boutique Al Khaleejia. I’m sorry to hear that a Muslim sister could do that to other muslims, and i hope this experience doesn’t affect your online/facebook purchases from other sellers. We are an honest business Alhumdolillah and if you would like to give our company a try we are willing to give everyone here a 10% discount on any product we have. Also we only accept Paypal as a payment source so if you ever have any problems we refund your payment instantly. I hope to work with you sisters soon InshaAllah
Yes Tianna Medeirors is absolutely correct, Dania ran away with all the money. Not only money for orders she got in last few months but also money she owed ME and her other tailors. Many abayas/jalabiyas were shipped out to her but i could still see those ppl messaging and asking abt their orders. Thats Shocking! She didnt even spend the money to ship out the orders to clients after she received them, let alone getting remaining orders ready. She kept on promising us all that she’ll clear her dues….what fools we were to believe her!!!!!
So, I was not the only one.  A very sad story about a very dishonest person.

DJIbz’s Ambigram

•June 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

This was a fun project I worked on a few weeks ago. The client is a DJ whose name is Ibrahim, so he goes by DJIbz. He wanted a logo to reflect his Arab heritage and thus be legible in BOTH Arabic and English. Arabic reading from right to left, English left to right. Here is what I came up with. He went with the last one, after a few back and forth revisions. It reads:د ج ا ب ز in Arabic.




see more at

Soo Rae’s Bamboo

•June 5, 2013 • Leave a Comment

For months, if not years, I have been trying to find a particular species of bamboo, it is the ideal species for use in calligraphy pens. It has a sulcus on one side, or flat groove, that allows us to use the flat to create a ready-made flat on one side of the pen. It is also incredibly hard and retains an edge for weeks and weeks.


Finally, after many months of searching, my friend Soo-Rae came through with the connection. She was working in northern China at the time, and drove out of the city limits to an industrial area where a bamboo operation was located, and there, among the piles and piles of bamboo – many hundreds of thousands of stalks- she found me the bamboo I had been looking for.  The perfect bamboo.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit E

She then meticulously cut the long lengths into shippable portions, packed them, and sent them to me in MD. It was a glorious, wonderful thing to receive. I cut three pens as tests, just to see how it would perform. For the last 3 months I have almost used nothing else, they are that. good.

Death is Our Marriage to Eternity

•April 17, 2013 • Leave a Comment


The Holstee Hamsa II

•April 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment

A few days ago I wrote about the Holstee Hamsa project I worked on. Here is a short video I shot about the project and my thoughts on the impossible perfection of calligraphy.

Nowruz at the Freer|Sackler

•April 10, 2013 • 1 Comment

Fatema Abbas3

First off, Nowruz mobarak ve shirin ve piruz, belated as it may be. This year I was very honored to be able to take part in the Smithsonian’s massive festivities (to the tune of 12,000 attendees in one day). I did calligraphy for guests in a variety of styles, traditional and contemporary. This is the third time I’ve worked with the Smithsonian and it is such a wonderful fun time each time. I’m always exhausted by the end, but I love talking to the guests about calligraphy and watching their expressions as I create their piece with multiple colors of ink and various sizes of pen.


It’s funny, in Persian there is an expression, a very common ta’aruf- دست تان درد نکنه- which translates literally as “may your hands not hurt” but in practical usage means ‘thank you so much [for the effort you put into x]’ and many of the guests would say this to me after I did their names, not really considering the literal meaning of the words, and when I would reply “!نه, جانم, میکنه” it would get a laugh.

The Fall of Constantinople

•April 7, 2013 • 1 Comment


I’m honored to have been able to be a part of a really cool project recently when the Folio Society contacted me about doing a book cover for Steve Runciman’s 1965 classic “The Fall of Constantinople 1453.” I did a curving piece of Thulth calligraphy based on a Hadith they had selected. They were nice enough to send me a copy, too!

For those who don’t know, the Folio Society is an amazing company based in the UK that takes classic works and reprints them with unique and beautiful bindings, be they leather, gilded, boxed, and more. Very cool collection, I highly recommend checking them out.

Sultan-e Qalmha

•April 3, 2013 • 2 Comments

My current favorite pen:


سلطان قلمها، تو هستی، تو هستی

The Holstee Hamsa

•March 31, 2013 • 5 Comments

Mock Up 7

I’m extremely honored to have been asked to participate in a remarkable project for a great company out of NYC, Holstee. Their foundational project was a manifesto outlining a guide to a happy life. They wanted to render the manifesto in both Hebrew and Arabic, and after some back and forth, we decided on the shape of the Hamsa. We thought that the idea of a shared symbol of good luck and protection that is shared throughout the Middle East would work really well to physically manifest in calligraphy.

I used an underlay of a hamsa to create the lines of text, photographed each piece individually, and then assembled it all together on the computer.


The whole process took around 30 hours. I did the whole outline in Diwani, but didn’t like the pen size I used, so I decided to redo it with a smaller pen, which I think came out way better.

FinalsmWhen it was all done, I sent the file over to Holstee, whose incredibly talented design team added the color and pattern, and the whole thing was then sent to a letterpress studio to be printed as posters.

photo 4

photo 2

The Desk Hutch

•March 12, 2013 • Leave a Comment


This week I finally managed to finish a desk hutch for Rach that I had been working on for a while. It’s all solid cherry, and after the surfacing it’s all hand-tool work. More than 70 hand cut dovetails. Wedged tenons with walnut wedges hold the top to of the carcass to the sides, the step drawers are all dovetail joinery. No plywood or hardboard, everything in it from the back to the drawer bottoms is solid cherry. I found these cool card catalog label holder pulls, but we haven’t dropped in the labels yet.

I wanted to throw a little Asian influence in here, hence the the step drawers and the overhang of the top of the center case. The center shelf has a dedicated space for the paper correspondence box I made earlier.



Here is the process:


Drawing, including the desk I eventually will build down below it.


Wood milled.


Drawers laid out.


Cut, fit, channeled, and chamferred.




On the case, the dovetails came in proud.


So I took them down with the block plane.


Case coming together.


Adding the dividers.


Wedged tenons.


The drawers for the center case are bookmatched figured cherry with proud finger joints.


Thanks for looking!

New Arabic Calligraphy Tattoos

•January 14, 2013 • 3 Comments

Here are a few new pieces I’ve done lately, trying to get better at posting work. If you’re interested in an Arabic tattoo design, visit my site at








The Correspondence Box

•December 29, 2012 • 3 Comments


This year I decided to make Rach a correspondence box to hold stationary. It was a fun project, made entirely out of book board and decorative papers I got at Hollanders, in Ann Arbor.

It’s a pretty basic build: first I built the structure out of the book board, using PVA glue.


Then I covered the individual boxes with the decorative papers. Each box is covered with a single sheet of paper, cut to fold over the edges of the box on all sides, as opposed to a series of strips. This preserves the continuity of the pattern.


The shell is essentially two boxes joined with a paper hinge: one box to sit inside, one shell to fit over top. The inner box is glued to a piece of book board the size of the outer shell, so when the box is closed the lid sits flush with the base.


I made an envelope inside the cover to hold stamps, then I went to the post office and got some cool forever stamps: USS Constitution, DC Cherry Blossom Commemorative, Edith Piaf and Miles Davis, and Mohamad Zakariya’s Eid stamp (of course).


Then I made two smaller boxes to fit in the top corner:



One long channel for pens, and one smaller box to hold a letter embossing stamp, red sealing wax, and a box of matches.


All done!


Roads of Arabia Calligraphy show

•November 18, 2012 • Leave a Comment

This weekend I had the honor of participating in the opening of the Roads of Arabia exhibition at the Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler gallery. The show exhibits a variety of archeological treasures recently excavated from more than 10 archaeological sites throughout the Arabian Peninsula. As part of the show, the museum brought an ensemble of traditional musicians from Saudi Arabia and hired me and two other calligraphers to work on calligraphy.

Saud Khan, a renowned master of Jali Diwani and a student of Ibrahim al-Arrafi came from Saudi and Elinor Aisha Holland came down from NYC for the show. Saud and I did names for the attendees while Elinor taught kids about the basics of calligraphy and shared some of the tremendous history of calligraphy.

We worked for 7 straight hours, no breaks, and by my estimation Saud and I wrote more than 500 names. There was a line out the door the entire time.

Workshop Air Filter

•November 15, 2012 • 1 Comment

This is an air filter for my shop I installed last week. I don’t like working in a cloud of saw dust, and when I’m working with MDF or other processed materials it’s even more important. This is basically a furnace fan hooked up to a 4 inch HVAC duct.

The fan is secured to the plywood frame with some zinc strapping. There’s a hole cut in the plywood with a wall flange to hold the duct on. The unit is hooked up to a wall switch and a standard plug.

The standard way of dealing with the exhaust is to layer some air filters on the outfeed side and just blow the air into the filters. I thought it may just be easier to route the air to the outside and bypass the filter system altogether. There was already a 4 inch hole cut into the window for the dryer exhaust, I just hooked a Y link into it and fed it out the window.



Likka for Calligraphy

•October 18, 2012 • 1 Comment

One of Islamic calligraphy’s most important and most oft-overlooked tools is Likka (ليقه in Persian). It is raw silk fibers that are put into the inkwell and used to soak up the ink. This serves two important functions. First of all, it regulates the amount of ink on the pen and prevents big puddles of ink from forming, which is what would happen were you to just dip your pen directly into a pool of ink. This allows your first line to be sharp and clean right out of the gate. Secondly, it prevents spills, because if you knock over an inkwell with likka in it, assuming you’re using it correctly, there isnt enough ink in the well to pool and spill out. So it is a regulator of both technique and workspace safety.

Here is how I make likka in the traditional way. First of all, you must use raw, gummed silk fibers. Ideally you want the silk right after it has been unwound from the cocoons, prior to any processing or refining. They should be stiff. You don’t use silk thread, you don’t use silk yarn. Raw mulberry silk is the best. The silk I use isn’t cheap, it’s $150/lb, and it comes by the skein. Each skein produces roughly 15 likka.

The skeins look like this before we start the process.

You can see the silk has tiny crimps in the threads; it’s right off the cocoon.

First thing to do is boil it for 15 minutes. This degums it.

After it comes out of the water, rinse it off to get any residual gum down the drain.

Then, spread it out on paper towels. The threads will be sticking together to form big ropes. Pull those apart by streching and pulling the wet silk. You want it to dry quickly and evenly, so any clumping should be gradually worked out.

Turn it over every few hours, pulling and streching it apart as you do. You’ll be able to feel the areas of dampness, you want to air those out and turn them face up. The point of drying it all out is that if we put it in bags or jars damp, it will mold and mildew. You could just put it in the inkwell and put ink on it right away, but if you have an entire skein’s worth (or in my case, 4) that isn’t practical.

After a day it will be puffy and dry.

Section it out into individual inkwell sized portions, but carefully. When you cut the likka, you want to try and cut as few threads as possible, because loose thread shards end up on your pen and that’s a pain in the ass. So tease out a section and try to divide it as best you can so that when you finally cut it from the rest, you’re only cutting a thin section of threads. Then, shake it out a bit to get the fragments out as best you can. This will help down the road.

Then put it into your inkwell and soak it with ink until there’s just the right amount in there. You can test this by writing a bit and seeing how much ink you get on your pen. If there’s too much, just hold the inkwell back over the ink jar and press the likka a bit and the excess will run out.

If you need Likka but don’t want to go through this process (or buy an entire skein) you can get individual likkas at

Daniel’s Lion

•October 5, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I had a wonderful project this week for my friend Daniel’s (belated) birthday. His wife Zohra commissioned me to create an exact copy of a 17th century Mughal calligramme of a lion done by Shah Mahmud Nisapuri. The piece is part of the Aga Khan collection, and is a traditional Shia dua lauding Ali ibn Abi Talib. It reads:

ناد عليا مظهر العجائب تجده عونا لك فى النوائب كل هم وغم سينجلى بولايتك يا على يا على يا على

“Call Ali who is the manifestation of marvels; You will find Him your helper in calamities. Every anxiety and grief will come to an end Through your friendship, O Ali! O Ali! O Ali”

From the AKDN site:

While this calligramme in the form of a lion may have been executed in India in the seventeenth century, its inventor is one of the leading calligraphers of the first half of the sixteenth century, Shah Mahmud Nishapuri. Whereas the letters forming the calligramme from the Safavid era are cut out from a sheet of paper, this Indian re-interpretation is drawn in black ink and supplemented with numerous diacritical marks that do not appear in the original. The calligramme stands out against a fully gilded background, its uniformity broken up by sprays of coloured flowers. The image is framed by two borders, picking up on the colours of the background and the flowers: small touches of blue, red and gold for the foliage and flowers of the first, a fine white pattern on a blue background for the second. The use of multiple floral sprays depicted in a relatively naturalistic manner around the calligramme is characteristic of the floral style that developed in India from the reign of Shah Jahan onwards, and allows us to date this calligramme to seventeenth-century India. The calligramme is a prayer in Arabic which refers to the first Imam and is encountered in many forms in the Iranian and Indian traditions. The lion here refers to one of the epithets of ‘Ali, who is frequently described as the “lion of God” (asad Allah). The text starts at the lion’s ear, reading from right to left and switching between the letters that form the outline of the body and those placed inside it. The first word, Nadi, starts beneath the ear and ends in the ear itself (the dhal is the ear); ‘aliyyan, that starts with the letter ‘ayn (“eye” in Arabic) is located appropriately alongside the animal’s eye. The first word of the phrase mazhar al-‘aja’ib is placed below, ‘awnan, the second forms the forehead, muzzle and two lips of the part-open mouth. The verb tajidahu forms the lower jaw, the alif of the adverb ‘awnan starts at the first forepaw but ends much higher to the left, in the long line that traces the collar and ends beneath the ear. The phrase laka fi al-nawa’ib follows a similar straddling movement from the front leg to the inner body. Kullu hamm wa ghamm sayanjali outlines the second front leg and the belly while bi-wilayatika is written inside the hindquarters. This prayer, one which is commonly copied, can end in various ways after sayanjali, but the triple repetition of Ya ‘Ali seems to be a constant feature. Here this repetition is formed by reading the three particles ya – one rising from the back leg and the two others together forming the outline of the hindquarters and the back – in conjunction with the three ‘Ali: the first visible between the two back legs, the second forming the tail, the third located above bi-wilayatika. All that remains are the two words that form the two back legs. The first can be read as qat‘an (absolutely) or qata’an (by cutting out), which may refer here to the practice of cut-out writing. The second can be read as katib (scribe) or katiban (by writing). Here it is tempting to read qata’an and katiban, two terms that refer to the activity of writing on the one hand and of cut-out calligraphy on the other.

Here is the original I was to recreate:

And here is what I came up with:

What I found interesting, as a side note, is that the calligraphy used in the piece has become largely subsumed, updated, or rendered obsolete in the centuries after this piece, such that when I was doing it, I would knowingly do things now considered ‘wrong.’ Pen angles, thicknesses of lines, transitions, and letterforms were all slightly out of whack, by 20th (or late 19th) century standards.

Nesting worktables

•September 25, 2012 • Leave a Comment


This week I decided to make a couple of work tables for my shop. I wanted something that could move around the shop, but conceal one within the other to save space. I also wanted to use the torsion box method of worktable construction that has become so popular, but I made a slight modification in that I had fewer internal boxes and left one side open for space. Here’s what I came up with.

Basic torsion box, just to keep it steady and stable.

Top on, with screws countersunk.

I made the back high to accommodate some pegboard. That’s basically the outer table done. Second table is basically the same construction, but I put total lock casters on to move it around.

All set!

Bayan’s Multilingual Ketuba

•August 23, 2012 • 1 Comment

This week I had the great honor of designing a wedding agreement document for a young couple here in Washington DC. The couple, one Baha’i and the other Jewish, had a rather specific ketuba in mind. Having met in grad school for Arabic language and linguistics, and given their own heritages, they wanted a piece in four languages: a Persian quote of Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Baha’i faith, one Hebrew quote from the book of Hosea and another from a Hebrew folk song, an Arabic testament of love, and a body text in English.

We had a couple of meetings to flesh out the idea visually, and get a sense of how it would manifest. What we decided on was a central emblem in both Hebrew and Arabic, reminiscent of Hassan Massoudy’s work, with one important word pulled from each quote, and the remaining words written smaller in amongst the larger lettering, then the remaining quotes as solid text blocks below, and finally a line for the signatures.

It took a while to get a design I liked for the top. I am incredibly indebted to Michel d’Anastasio, who I consider to be the best Hebrew calligrapher working in the world today.  Once I had four designs I liked, we decided which to use and I went to work. The paper I used is a wonderful cream colored, slightly metallic paper that has a luminescence to it and holds a pen beautifully.

When I was in Istanbul on my way home from Tajikistan, I picked up some Iranian inks at the Sahaflar Carsisi, the center of my world. I mixed a few drops of brown, and one of black in with the red ink and I got a rich and beautiful burgundy that glides across the paper elegantly and without blotching, stuttering, or faltering.

As for the bottom quotes, I played around with several calligraphic styles, Naskh, Thulth, but the issue was that the Hebrew quote on the bottom was shorter than the Persian quote and both needed to fit on the same size paper for visual continuity, so in the end Diwani worked best, as it can stack better than any other style.

I bordered all the quotes, Hebrew, Persian, and English in a light blue paper with leaves embedded.

The border was simple enough, but a bit tricky technically. It consists of two parts: marbled paper underneath, and a stencil cutout of a design overlayed. As long as the floral design fits and repeats seamlessly it’s no problem to create, but glue-up is a bit of a pain.

Just time consuming.

Once the border was done and the bottom sections had been written out, it was time for final glue up. Good thing Taunton makes a heavy book!

And it’s done:

Please direct all inquires to Thanks!

Traditional Tajik Woodcarving

•July 9, 2012 • 2 Comments

Soon after I arrived in Tajikistan, I started noticing impressive examples of hand-carved ornamentation on doors, gates, signs, and crown moulding all over the capital and beyond. When I went to the Tajik Museum of Antiquities and saw similar carvings that came out of excavations from the time of Alexander the Great, I knew this needed further examination. I wanted to talk to some craftsmen. Today I got into a cab and asked the driver if he knew of a workshop. He made some calls and we set off to the other side of the Varzob river, till we arrived at a fenced compound of industrial buildings on the far northern side of the city.

There we found Dushanbe’s Technical School #30, where four master carvers teach traditional Central Asian relief carving and decorative woodworking (kandakariy-e chub) to 15 students each year. It’s a 3 year apprenticeship, completed while the students are still in high school, and culminates with a final project of the students’ own design and execution. The program is a holdover from Soviet times, and a massive hammer-and-sickle greets visitors above the door.

The program is under the directorship of Safarali Nazimov, a native of Dushanbe who learned woodcarving first from his father, and later graduated from this same school. When I asked whether the majority of his students come from woodworking backgrounds, he answered, “Absolutely, for several reasons:” first of all, students who grow up seeing woodcarving have a working vocabulary of skills needed and thus take to it with more skill and aptitude than those who do not, and secondly because there is pressure at home to keep a family craft alive and for the son to take over the family business. Mr Nazimov told me that he stresses creativity within tradition in the design process: rote copying is discouraged, but the students learn the language of pattern that defines traditional Tajik carving.

I asked who most of their customers were, and Mr Nazimov said that the work is not for sale, it is instead labeled with the student’s name and year, and kept on school premises so that the students can revisit it years later, when they are master craftsmen with apprentices of their own. He showed me a carved column that he made in the early 1980s, when he was a student at the school.

Shop-made V-Gouge

The majority of the wood that they use is pine, which is the most plentiful tree in Russia, by far (most of the wood is imported, not locally harvested). They also use native Tajik Plane trees (Chanor in Persian, a hardwood tree in the Sycamore family that is common here), as well as beech and cedar. They told me that they will occasionally use fruitwoods like walnut or pear for their own projects, but not for the students because it is just too expensive.

The program the students undertake is comprehensive: drafting, math, and design are taught in the adjacent classrooms, while stock preparation, tool care and sharpening, finishing, and of course actual carving technique and execution are taught in the workshop. Many of the hand tools are shop-made, while most of the machine tools are Soviet-made beasts.

Varzob River – The Siyoma Valley

•July 2, 2012 • 1 Comment

“If you can imagine a hidden place, tucked safely away from the world, concealed by walls of high, snow-capped mountains, a place rich with all the strange beauty of your nighttime dreams, then you know where I am.”

Tajikistan, nestled between the Pamir mountains to the south, the Alay to the northwest, and the Tien Shan to the northeast, is home to breathtaking mountain views, and vast valleys untouched by human settlement. 93% of the country is mountainous, and this week I had the first chance to get out of the city and into the mountains.

The Varzob river runs from the hills into Dushanbe, where it is little more than a muddy trickle, but at its source it is a rushing, cascading, ice-cold torrent of water, fed and encouraged by hundreds of small tributaries that run from the glaciers into the valley.

To cross the river, we go four at a time over a hand-pulled cable car.

Once on the other side, we walk through high foliage until we come to a small cottage nestled in the trees at the meeting point of two stunning valleys.

A well-maintained vegetable garden promises fresh tomatoes, peppers, and herbs, while several grilling pits are set up for making tea and dinner.

It is the house of Ivan, a Siberian hermit with a passion for photography. Inside, black and white photographs adorn the walls and climbing equipment hangs in the corner. The house is open to any traveler for any length of time, and there is an honor system of take-and-leave, ensuring the next travelers have food and supplies.

This was told to me by the current occupant, a young Uzbek guy named Rustam from Dushanbe who explained that Ivan had gotten sick recently and was in a hospital in the capital. Rustam told me he had been there 2 days, but comes several times a month and often hikes up the valley to the glacier, where the air is cooler and “constantly spring.”

On the way back, we walk over glaciers that span the river, and wade through one of the tributaries that feed the river, and along the side of the mountain until we are back to the road.

Near the road, a mobile bee-keeper’s trailer and stock hums with bees while jars of honey in various sizes sit on display in a stall by the road.

In Tajikistan

•June 30, 2012 • Leave a Comment

For the past month I’ve been in Dushanbe working on my Persian. I really like it here, and I love speaking Persian/Tajik and Uzbek to people outside of the classroom setting which was all I knew for 2 years of my MA work in Central Asian studies. I’ve been getting a lot done, hence the lack of posts, but will be posting more soon, as I have a couple of cool stories lined up.

Intro to Uzbek Dialects

•June 9, 2012 • 2 Comments

This year for the Association of Central Eurasian Students annual conference I put together a series of teaser videos introducing the concept of Uzbek dialectology. I recorded three short interviews with native speakers from three separate regions of Uzbekistan, transcribed them, and identified the words or construction which were non-standard and specific to the dialect. There were no Xorezmians in Bloomington so I found a clip on Youtube and used that for the Xorezm dialect. Part of the problem of studying Uzbek is the lack of good materials. It would be great if there were an al-Kitab-esque textbook which had good videos in standard Uzbek, but with the option to re-watch the video, but this time in dialect. One day…

We looked at four dialects: Tashkent, Samarqand, Margilon/Ferghana, and Xorezm. We only looked at Uzbekistani Uzbek, no Afghan or Kazakhstani Uzbek.

Here are the videos, the dialect is yellow. I mention the present continuous marker because it is kind of the litmus test for what dialect you’re dealing with, given that it changes with all of them.


Tashkenti is defined by (among other aspects):
•High prevalence of Russian loanwords given the fact that it was the capital and thus the influx of Russian speakers
•Low Persian/Tajik Influence
•Dropping of final ‘-r’ on suffixes.
•-vot as present continuous marker
•High prevalence of Persian loanwords
•High Persian/Tajik Grammar Influence
•Dropping of final ‘-r’ on suffixes.
•-ov/op as present continuous marker
Note how he says: “Aytishim mumkinki, Amrikada hayot yamon emas” putting the Persian relative pronoun -ki on the end of ‘mumkin’. That is 100% Persian grammar, and completely reverses the normal order of the sentence. Standard Uzbek would say, “Amrikada hayot yamon emas deb aytishi mumkin.”
•Closest to standard Uzbek
•High prevalence of archaisms/Arabic
•High influence of Persian/Tajik
•-yap as present continuous marker (same as in standard Uzbek, reflecting the fact that it is the closest to the standard language)
•Most distinct/different of Uzbek dialects
•High Turkmen/Oghuz Influence
•Voicing of consonants
•-jak as future marker
•Dialect of what?
There is some debate as to whether this is a dialect of Uzbek with a huge Turkmen influence, or a dialect of Turkmen with a huge Uzbek influence. It was drawn within the borders of the Uzbek SSR, and many contend that Soviet linguists reinforced the idea that it is a dialect of Uzbek to justify that border (why should it be Uzbekistan if populated by Turkmens). In any case, it is almost entirely different from standard Uzbek in many cases, making it the most challenging dialect for a student to learn.


Hope you enjoyed! Hopefully we’ll see more substantive work on this topic in the future!

Settled in

•June 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Finally, I can say we are mostly settled into our new house in DC. After two long years of graduate school, Rach and I are living together again. It’s like a massive sigh of relief. Here are some pictures of our awesome house.

A small house on a quirky block with continuously entertaining neighbors.

We have some great photography in the house, thanks to Rachael’s own work and that of her colleagues and mentors.

Flowers courtesy Dupont Circle farmer’s market.

When we moved in I saw an ad on craigslist for a free futon. It’s now in Rach’s office/reading room/guest room.

Rach has also brought with her to the place an amazing collection of gorgeous plants and terrariums.

The upstairs is an amazing work space which I have taken over as my studio. Not totally moved in yet but pretty close.

We have a cabinet of curiosities which holds a variety of objects that we’ve found, been given by friends, or otherwise hold serious importance to us.

It is a good house on a nice street with great neighbors, and we both feel so lucky to be here, together, finally.


A Tree Grows on Paper

•June 5, 2012 • 4 Comments

Here are a few pictures of an original piece I did today. It’s a quote in Dari.


The Walnut Suite and The Third Function of Furniture

•May 8, 2012 • 2 Comments

I think that there can be so much deeper meaning in the things that surround us, if we have the ability to direct what goes into them. It is with that in mind that I’ve developed an interest in working in the idea of ‘place’ in furniture projects.

I think that furniture that is hand-built or custom commissioned can integrate what I refer to as a third function- that of place and memory. When you think about it, most furniture usually has up to two functions: it’s purely utilitarian (think the giant cable spool used as a table in a college apartment) or it is both utilitarian and beautiful. For the vast majority of furniture, it stops there. But if we make our own furniture we can add a third function, and that third function deepens our connection and embeds a degree of meaning within the piece that is otherwise impossible.

For example, in March of last year I bought pretty much an entire walnut tree here in Bloomington. It was a tree that grew from a seed in Bloomington, fell down in a storm in Bloomington, was milled into lumber in Bloomington, and ultimately was turned into three pieces of furniture in Bloomington. I built Rachael’s coffee table, my bar, and our dining room table from that single walnut tree. Three matching pieces with similar design elements made from a single tree. Thus, when we move away from Bloomington, those pieces will forever link us to the time we spent here, and be intrinsically linked to each other as sibling pieces. To separate them is to separate a family, and they are thus pieces that I hope will stay within my family for many years after I have gone.

Stickley Dining Table in Walnut

•May 4, 2012 • 4 Comments

In a few short days I will move to Washington DC from Bloomington, IN. I will have spent two years here to the day, driving in on May 15, 2010, and driving out the same day two years later. With just a few days to spare, I finally completed my dining table.  It’s based off of a design from FWW called Stickley Done Lightly, which appeared in cherry. I did this in walnut, and changed a few features that I feel lighten the design a little.

This piece is built from the same tree as the last two walnut pieces I’ve done, my bar and Rach’s coffee table. All came from a single lumber purchase I made last March.

I began by cutting the legs.

First in half, and then ripped on the bandsaw.

Then I made the top. Obviously, this is the most important and thus time consuming piece of the project, so I spent a long time ensuring the timbers were flat and jointed properly.

I cut the natural edge slabs to width first. Then I planed them down with the help of a small table I made specifically to hold them up as they went through the planer. This process took weeks to get them all clean and even.

When they were finally done I worked on the edges.

Then I glued it together in sections using 2×4 cauls to keep everything totally flat so I wouldn’t have a ton of work to flatten it out when it was all glued.

Table is out, but still rough and needing a lot of work:

Then I made the apron parts:

When the top was mostly clean I made the breadboards and seated them with maple plugs.

Top is done:

So I put the finish on it:

I assembled the bottom with my friend Vincent’s help, and then Rach and I moved both pieces upstairs and put them in place on a sunny spring afternoon.

The Suzani we got in Istanbul from an Afghan Uzbek guy who gave us the hook up when we spoke to him in Uzbek and Dari.

We made our first meal for the new table, soba noodles with mangos and fried eggplant from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty.

Cho’lpon’s A Girl of the East

•April 27, 2012 • 1 Comment

Here is an Uzbek poem I translated from the Jadid period in the early 20th century.

This is Abdul Hamid Cho’lpon’s 1920 poem Girl of the East. It was chosen as an excellent example of veiled references to politics, cloaked in the metaphor of a young girl’s whimsical musings. It is a calm and subtle call for political independence and the access to self-governance of international affairs for Turkestan in the light of growing Soviet power.

They say, a cold, sorrowful, black winter
In passing, may bring the beauty of spring.
And supposedly, birds who love flowers will sing.
The flower, too, may look coquettishly to those birds.

Only I, alone, a girl of the East, do not feel the coming of that spring.
As the long, black winter’s traces have not yet passed,
I go to meet its friend, the fall.

For me, the pleasure of this light-filled world
Is but to dance my eyes around four walls.
For me, the time of greatest joy
Is when I awaken the dreams inside my heart.

I am an Eastern girl, like the East itself.
My entire body and soul is the nest of dreams.

My black eyes are like a deer’s,
Unaware of the hunter’s arrow’s aim.

They say in summer, everything is alive.
One can breathe freely, be happy, and enjoy oneself.
They say, about women of the East,
When will they enter that light-filled world?

The poet’s vantage point of a ‘girl of the east’ is clearly in reference to the East itself (in case that was unclear, he lets us know with “I am an Eastern girl, like the East itself.”) The reference to spring and the blossoming of foliage here refers to the political developments around the world following breakup of the old world order in the wake of World War I. Around the world societies were opening up, peoples were asserting themselves as national entities with self-determination, but Central Asia was once again falling under the dominion of a foreign occupying power. The reference to her life inside four walls is both a cultural reference – women in Central Asia are said to live ‘inside four walls,’ i.e., that the woman’s place is in the home – and a reference to the geographic enclosure of Central Asia between four countries, political giants compared to Turkestan. Here we also see two other major stylist devices of Jadidist poetry. Again, the flower, about to blossom and come into its flourishing beauty, is used as a metaphor for Turkestan. We also see the comparison to a deer- an unwitting, unaware victim about to be pounced upon by a predator. His line, ‘Unaware of the hunter’s arrow’s aim,’ refers to those nations who sought to sweep in and exploit the land and its people.

If spring represents the burgeoning hope of independence and summer the full blossoming of political freedom, Central Asia here skips over both and goes from dismal winter right back to fall’s ominous dark clouds. As the hope and optimism that came with the downfall of the Czar waned with the consolidation of Bolshevik power in the 1920s, Jadidist leaders saw their first great opportunity for independence and self-determination being taken out from under them.

Vintage Industrial Scissor Lamp

•April 26, 2012 • 7 Comments

I saw a picture a few months back of a cool lamp on a scissor extension and mounted to the wall, which could be used as a reading lamp either above the bed or in a study, so I thought I would make one. It was really easy, it took me about two days once all the stuff arrived. It’s all brass, and I didn’t really intend for it to be so steampunk, but because most of it is made from brass plumbing parts, that is kind of how it turned out.

The first thing I did was source the guts that I knew would not be at the hardware store. I used two main sources for the project:, and I got the shade and bulb at Schoolhouse and the antique-style cord, socket, shade adapter, and the ball finials from GrandBrass. Everything else was from Kleindorfer’s Hardware. I also got a brass-darkening solution from Rockler.

After everything from online arrived, the first thing I did was think about how to fit it together, then I went to Kleindorfers and got a bag of stuff I thought might fit. Some worked, some didn’t. I went back and exchanged the stuff that didn’t work for more stuff that would. Then I came home and fit it all together.

Basic idea of how it fit together.

The lamp basically consists of three parts: the lamp end, the scissor extension, and the wall mount. I put the lamp part and wall mount together just to have a look (At this point the shade hadn’t arrived from Portland) :

Then I made the scissor thing. I got a bunch of brass strips, cut them to length, rounded off the ends on the grinder, drilled them, sanded them with 400 grit to remove any burrs, then buffed them with 0000 steel wool.

Now at this point I darkened all the brass to give it a more antique feel. Then I assembled the scissor section. It’s super easy- over, under, over under, held together with rivets.

Then I wired the socket. Thanks to the assistance of my friend Hannah who is a proper electrician, I had no problems with this. I guess a disclaimer should be made that this or any operation involving electricity is dangerous and should only be done by professionals. While I agree with that statement in principle, this is an extremely easy thing to do. Black wire = hot wire, white wire = neutral. Connect black to brass and white to steel, end of story. Make sure the cardboard housing inside the socket stays there, it’s insulation.

I drilled a hole in one side of the pipe, fed the wire through that and into the socket. All wired up. I put in a normal bulb and plugged it in. It works.

At this point I was basically done except for the connector pieces to bring the three sections together.

That part was a pain in the ass. I don’t have anything hotter than butane (extremely low heat), so I can’t bend metal so easily. I found the best way to make these four connectors was just to bend about 2 1/2 inches of leftover brass strips at a right angle 3/4″ down till I had a square U shape where the bottom of the U equaled the circumference of the bars it was supposed to fit around, then simply take two sets of pliers in each hand and bend the thing into a ring, then adjust in the vice. Because this method scuffed up the brass, I used a polishing stone in the Dremel to smooth out the pieces. I rounded the edges of these pieces, so there were no sharp corners. Then I darkened them in the solution and put them on!

The shade and bulb were from Schoolhouse Electric.

At this point I thought it would be ready to go. It wasn’t. I measured poorly and the assembly would not close as the end pieces were to short and prevented the scissor from expanding in order to close. This presented me with a bit of a problem because a) I didn’t want to order a longer wall-mount piece from online and b) the threaded brass I used for the lamp end doesn’t come in 9 inch sections, 6 is as big as they get. So I opted to do two 4″ sections with a coupling in the middle. Not thrilled with that but I do like that it mimics the lamp side aesthetically.


•April 19, 2012 • 2 Comments

I had the opportunity to work with a great new startup this month out of Boston this week, Overthrow Clothing. You all should check them out, I’m really excited to have been able to collaborate with them and I’m hoping to do a bunch more work in the future.

Some Arabic Calligraphy as a Wedding Gift!

•April 14, 2012 • 2 Comments


Here is a piece of Arabic calligraphy I did this week as a wedding gift for a couple getting married. It reads Cadence and David, and is on my 18×12 hand-dyed paper.  For all inquires, write me at arabic.calligrapherATgmailDOTcom.