Dreams of Clay

Egyptian artist Dina Okba was born with a creative streak. Whether it’s cookery classes or cold porcelain miniatures, food remains an integral part of her creations.

Dina Okba likes to play with clay. At her Janabiya studio, you will find neat little trays of miniature cupcakes, doughnuts, pizzas, pastas, Chinese dishes and sorbets that look good enough to eat — except that they are not. These artefacts are Dina’s creations made out of cold porcelain.

A mother-of-two, Dina has always been an enterprising person. The American Women’s Association member runs cookery classes specialising in Indian, Pakistani and Arabic dishes. That possibly explains her fetish for food miniatures. Dina tells us why her fingers can’t stop playing with dough.

Woman This Month (WTM): How did you venture into this hobby?
Dina Okba (DO): My passion for miniatures started long ago when I visited Thailand as a little girl. I saw these beautiful miniatures and loved the concept. I’ve wanted to experiment with porcelain for years, and finally got down to doing it when I came to Bahrain in 2003.

April-2014_People2_01WTM: What techniques and ingredients do you use for your creations?
DO: I use a kind of homemade dough prepared from corn starch, white glue, water and oil. I prepare it and store it in a plastic bag for use the next day.
I use different kinds of tools from home as well as from craft shops for my work.
I also use two other kinds of dough — salt ceramic and polymer clay ­­— depending on what I’m making and the design.

WTM: Do you have any plans to turn this hobby into a career or business?
DO: I’ve started advertising my creations on my Instagram and Facebook pages. I also run porcelain workshops at my studio.
I now make personalised gift items for clients and am planning to open an online store soon.

WTM: What’s the most challenging part of your work?
DO: I think the challenge lies in making my creations as close to life as possible.

WTM: Some of your miniatures are very finely detailed. How long does it take to make an entire food tray?
DO: The intricately done food trays with assorted dishes take over two days’ work since they involve multiple stages in cooking and drying the clay.

WTM: What do you find most enjoyable about this craft?
DO: Cold porcelain is a very versatile, non-toxic material that’s easy to work with. It doesn’t need to be fired up. You can simply air dry it.
I’m always looking for new challenges, trying to make things look as real as possible. I find this pastime very relaxing during times of stress or hardship. It’s almost therapeutic.

WTM: What is your ultimate dream in life?
DO: I really care about my work and all its minute details. My dream in life is to be recognised for my creations.


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