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“When you have treasure, why start with nothing? We have a long history of visual art throughout the world. As soon as you want to start doing something, it’s very important to see what happened before. And then, accordingly, you can build something above that. If you connect yourself with your traditions, you’re going to get much deeper, more emotionally powerful results.”

We’re speaking with graphic designer Reza Abedini on the value of incorporating old traditions into new designs. Along with fellow designer Diana Bou Dakka, Reza has been leading TUMO Studios students through TYPOEM, a shapeshifting atelier that fuses tradition with modernity. Reza, marked by a sharp wit, a piercing blue gaze and a disarming laugh, hinting at a comforting, self-deprecating sense of humor beneath, has spent the past few weeks imparting his own vision of what design can be to a handful of students, with the goal of combining centuries-spanning and contemporary fragments of Armenian poetry into a variety of 3D mediums — silkscreen prints, fashion, ceramics, jewelry and wood engravings.

As perhaps one of the more evocative, enigmatic forms of art, poetry proved the perfect format to transpose onto other forms of arts and design, with soul-searching, gut-searing lines packed with longing and emotion (or shorter elliptical and ambiguous lines that leave the reader scratching their head) bleeding into forward-thinking designs.

“The atelier really opened my eyes to the power of poetry. Learning that the words on the page can transcend to other types of design and jump to other mediums while still being so expressive was just really touching,” said Sona Hambardzumyan.

“I loved working with Reza and Diana,” remarked Abel Martirosyan. “They tapped into our creative spirit and gave us the freedom to go in any direction we wanted. Letting people take their time to explore their own ideas…it’s such a huge part of the creative process.”

“TYPOEM was a very inspiring and enriching experience, not only for the students but for Reza and myself. Extracting emotions, meaning and ideas from such beautiful poems was just such a stimulating experience,” recounted Diana.

Ultimately, by integrating poetry into these mediums and providing it with a visual form, Reza and Diana showed their students that poetry (life other forms of art) need not be fixed and confined to its original form. By moving beyond the page, the power of those poems is still there. Something to be felt, not read.