‘Most people only appreciate art, not the man behind it’

September 27, 2020

Ceramic artist and designer Maqbool Qamar Meo shares his life story

Hailing from Karachi, ceramic artist and designer Maqbool Qamar Meo studied art from the Karachi School of Arts and passed out in the ’80s. He has also worked as a set designer for the PTV and later as a ceramist with a renowned tile company. He shares his life’s journey with The News on Sunday.

The News on Sunday (TNS): Being a ceramist, do you see much scope in ceramic art?

Maqbool Qamar Meo (MQ): An artist should know his/her capability and skills. Today, we get of exposure in every field. All we have to do is to be good at it.

TNS: How many building exteriors have you designed?

MQ: Initially, I was doing oriental art which has religious undertones. This led to my interest in observing this work deeply. The Aga Khan Hospital and the Lahore Airport projects are some of the biggest I have undertaken. I have also designed the exteriors of some mosques, imam bargahs and shrines.

TNS: Have you completed any project abroad? How do you get these projects?

MQ: Yes, I have done work in Iraq, England and the US. Right now, there is a project that I am working on in South Africa.

TNS: How much acknowledgement do you get for your work from the general public?

MQ: Most people only appreciate the art, but don’t try to know the man behind it. People usually think that the kind of work that I do, is only done in Iran. Pakistan is ahead in terms of technology. Their architecture and exterior designing is mostly traditional.

TNS: Do you do follow up on work in case of any deterioration?

MQ: We don’t abandon the projects after competing them. We are also doing restoration work on some shrines including the Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine. Following the blast at the Lal Shehbaz Qalandar’s shrine, we went there and did the repair and maintenance.

TNS: How did you start your business?

MQ: I was working with a famous tile company. I headed most of their projects. So, when I started my own company, I started getting projects because of the quality of my pervious work.

TNS: How does this process of designing ceramics works?

MQ: We have an industrial studio where we have a design department, printing department, exposing and filing department and packing department. So there is a team of 27-28 people.

TNS: Tell us about your field work?

MQ: We complete 10 to 12 projects a year. Our working area is a maximum of 300-350 square feet and it requires 12 to 14 hours at each site. We have kept it low-key because we can’t work on a large scale as we are a team of just 27-28 people.

TNS: Is the Archeology Department supportive?

MQ: We don’t need their funds, but we need their support. Some of their officials come to the shrines, praise our work and then leave.

TNS: How different is designing and building mosques or shrines in other countries?

MQ: I have been to Afghanistan and Iraq and had great experience. Their people love Pakistanis.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Karachi

‘Most people only appreciate art, not the man behind it’