Happy New Year

29 12 2013

Our resolution for this coming year is to boost the size of a community supporting the sustainability of tradition Fez crafts.  Exhibitions, residencies, round tables and creative exchanges are all added the boiling pot.  Add more visitors and artistic encounters, a crowd funding project, pOp up Museum and a book this coming year already glows.


Here’s to a firey and cracking coming four seasons from us 


Culture Vultures


Women’s Hairstyles of Morocco from the 50’s.

21 12 2013

The header image of this blog comes from an investigative book of studies titled Coiffures Feminines du Maroc ( Female hairstyles of Morocco).  Mereille Morin Bard took on the task of creating this scientific and artistic documentation between 1950 and 1952.

The often sculpture-like hairstyles and rich ornaments found in this book are ways of identifying tribes or ethnic groups often dispersed geographically ;markings maintaining autonomy. The women in this book are of  Berber/Amazigh, Jewish and Arab origins,  south of the high Atlas mountains.

To order a copy of this book see : http://www.amazon.fr/Coiffures-f%C3%A9minines-Maroc-Haut-Atlas/dp/2857444923

Henna حِنَّاء, Body Art.

17 12 2013

henna powder

Henna is a flowering plant used since ancient times for dying hair, fingernails, drumheads, leather, wool and skin and to decorate the female body, bringing baraka (good destiny).  In several parts of the world it is traditionally used in various festivals and celebrations.

Henna freshly applied

The adornment of hand and feet during holy festivals in Northern Africa continues to be popular today. Often seen as something that attracts the opposite sex, henna is not applied during the month of Ramadan. Brides will typically have the most henna, and the most complex patterns, to support their greatest joy, and wishes for luck. . Infact henna adornment is not only for women but also for horses and donkeys on hooves and tails.

For skin dyeing, a paste of ground henna (either prepared from a dried powder or from fresh ground leaves) is placed in contact with the skin from a few hours to overnight. Henna stains can last a few days to a month depending on the quality of the paste, individual skin type, and how long the paste is allowed to stay on the skin. The plant paste reacts to fat in the skin thus henna is stronger on parts of the body with a higher protein level.

Henna also acts as an anti-fungal and a preservative for leather and cloth. It is know to be used for medicinal purposes. Henna repels some insect pests and mildew. The flower has been used to create perfume since ancient times.


15 12 2013


In Morocco, textile handicrafts are traditionally made by women. This work enables them to contribute to family resources. Traditional weaving renowned around the entire Mediterranean basin has been carried out for centuries at the heart of Marrakesh, one of the most beautiful cities in Morocco. It is also in this timeless city of a thousand colours that the ‘Femmes de Marrakech’ cooperative was created in 1991 with the goal of developing a channel for quality fashion accessories and increasing the income of the women producing them.

Original: http://www.befair.be/en/content/femmes-de-marrakech-moroccan-fair-trade-fashion

Artisan Grants. Morocco.

14 12 2013

The reports here represent a tiny fraction of the grants given out by the volunteer group at the heart of HETAG in the course of almost 2o years of grant making. For more information email Joanne Heard at joanne@handeye.org

Hsini Family Yarns.

Bouarfa, Morocco
Crafts: Rugs, weaving
$1152.50 Award for Spinning wheel, dyes, equipment

The small grant has allowed the group to have spinning equipment designed and built locally. Traditionally, wool for their carpets is spun by hand-held equipment – like drop spindles and hand-held combs. This is laborious and hard on the spinners’ health – especially tendons in the wrists and arms. Together we researched spinning equipment and designed a foot-pedal spinning wheel, wool picker and rolling drum carder that could all be made with local resource.


The group is learning on the equipment now with plans to host a training in the coming weeks for other wool spinners and weavers in the community.  The Moroccan ministry in charge of artisan work caught wind of this project through my community counterpart at the Artisan Agency. They want the group to do equipment training throughout the region.  A post-grant report from a volunteer working with touch with the group reads:

We have held one natural dye training and have a second planned for next week. We dyed with materials easily available in Morocco: dried pomegranate shells, leaves from olive trees, onion skins, turmeric, tea leaves, coffee, madder,  chamomile, henna and dried orange peels. The pink-orange color produced by the madder was a hit. We will bring in a trainer from Sefrou to train on dyeing with indigo. Natural dyes are addictive! I have started buying wool from the group and dyeing in my kitchen for some of my own art projects. 

Does the grants organization visit groups? Artists’ Association of Spinning and Weaving extend a very warm welcome to ATA, should anyone be visiting Morocco in the future. They would love to share their work with the group that has opened up so many opportunities to them.  As we say in Arabic: Marhaba bikum! 

Cooperative Tissage Ain Leuh
Ain Leuh, Morocco
Craft: traditional Berber weavings including carpets, shawls, pillow coverings, and bags
Granted: $1,500 for weaving tools and looms (World of Good Grant)

tissage ain Lueh

The artisans report a variety of results from their grant support, including a broader product offering, additional artisans employed, more orders/customers and improved production:
“The new looms, equipment, and supplies that were purchased have enabled the women to expand their product line.  They can now make blankets, shawls and jellaba fabric on the horizontal looms and continue to make rugs on the vertical looms.  The new products enable them to use different materials, such as cactus silk, and to produce products faster and therefore at a different price range, so they can expand their customer base.  were just installed mid-March 2008.  The number of regular weavers increased from 10 to 16.   Also, there are a number of local women weavers, not currently members of the cooperative, who could now participate on a part-time basis, based on the expanded production capacity.”

UpcloseWhiteLozengesKilimTiaage Ain Leuh. Kilim.

They also note expanded access to the local market and an increase in the portion of the price that goes to the artisan:

Previous sales were primarily the high-ticket items ,hnbl  carpets, accessible mostly to tourists.  Now there are a number of lesser priced items, l’haik shawls, for example, that are within the price range of local residents, and have been enthusiastically received.  These new items are also marketed in the nearby Azrou Ensemble Artisanal.  The women could not quantify sales before and after but they did say that where they previously paid each weaver 500 dh per square meter, they are now able to give each weaver 700 dh per square meter.

The weavers also plan to introduce natural dyes to their product lines, as a result of this overall expansion. Finally, the report summarizes:

The grant enabled them to by everything they needed to expand their business – looms, weaving combs, yarn and wool.  They have enthusiastically jumped into the process of learning the new looms and of weaving new products.  These women have ambition, skill and imagination and the grant helped them to expand their potential.

The grant underscored that others outside the Region had an understanding and appreciation for the work the women are doing.  They are committed, experienced, excellent weavers making an exquisite, traditional Berber product, which is at risk of disappearing if the women cannot support themselves.  Thank you for your grant and your confidence.

Original Post HandEye Magazine

Musthaves from Tameslouht

13 12 2013

We’ve written about our friends at Marrakech Musthaves before– Elke and Wietske, two inspiring entrepreneurs from Holland, visited us last May in preparation for the product line of their online company. Since then, we’ve worked closely with them to develop several artisan items, included camera straps made from leather and kilim fabric, sequined clutches and beaded clutches. The results were great, and we were so excited to share them with Elke and Wietske on their trip to Marrakech this week.


Yesterday, Elke and Wietske came to Fatima’s house and we discussed business! It was really cool going over each product in person, making small adjustments (lengths of camera straps, positioning of the flap on the clutch) to make the samples exactly what they were envisioning for Marrakech Musthaves. This was all done with a hot glass of Moroccan mint tea in hand, of course!

After agreeing upon the final products, we walked with Elke and Wietske to visit Ridouan, one of the artisans who works for a sewing & weaving cooperative in Tameslouht (and therefore fits under our umbrella of Zajal Designs artisans). As usual, our guests were stunned by the incredible designs Ridouan literally pulls out of a bag– scarves, blankets, and other pieces of fabric adorned with the most intricate patterns in the most chic of palettes. The ladies were especially interested in his wool blankets as colorful add-ons to some of their bag designs. Ridouan also surprised us with one of his latest works– a wall-hanging made from scraps of fabric, newspaper, and cassette tape ribbons. The effect was stunning. How ingenious is that?!


Last, we made a trip to the Artisan Ensemble in the middle of Tameslouht. This is the only artisan association in Tameslouht that has a building, and it’s conveniently located right next to the bus station– thus, making it the first thing that you lay eyes on when arriving in Tameslouht! Some very talented leather artisans work in the building, and we talked to them about bags, balgha (traditional house shoes), boots, and working with goat’s fur. Elke and Wietske joked that they should just rename their line “Musthaves from Tameslouht,” since our artisan town basically produces ever type of product they could ever need for their line. We couldn’t leave either without having Elke and Wietske pose in front of the GIANT Moroccan flag adorning the side of the workshop– that’s a Musthave from Tameslouht, if I ever saw one!


We’ll be handing off the final samples to Elke and Wietske this weekend, and, from there, will be working with them to supply Marrakech Musthaves. We’re really looking forward to seeing these two ladies succeed, and we love that we have an opportunity to be a part of it!



8 12 2013

Embroidered linens are found in nearly every Moroccan home, no matter the location of the village nor the social status of its inhabitants. It’s not uncommon to take breakfast on a beautifully embroidered tablecloth and dab the corners of the mouth with an embroidered linen napkin as you sit at a table beneath a window embellished with embroidered sheers.



Fez stitching

Delicate embroidery serves as both a means of financial support and social interaction among Moroccan women and is an art that has been passed from one generation to the next. In the 19th century, Moroccan girls were sent away to special schools to learn the art from experienced teachers known as maalmas.  These instructors kept all the pieces created by their pupils in consideration of their time spent teaching.  At its peak, there were more than 2,000 maalmsa operating in Morocco, though the wealthiest children learned at home from private maalmas, often using expensive fabrics collected during their parent’s journeys throughout the region.


Rabati Style

Though most pieces are now machine-embroidered, the art continues to play a key role in Moroccan culture, as it has for the last several centuries. Embroidery if often part of a bride’s dowry, accumulated through several generations. On the eve of her wedding, a processional typically carries the treasured items to her new home and the bride almost always wears embroidered garments during the actual ceremony. Embroidery plays a key role in births as well- each newborn is gifted a delicately embroidered pillowcase and cover sheet known as a rekab.

imgp5306Stitching from the High Atlas.

Many major cities throughout Morocco have their own unique style, though the city of Fez is the celebrated as the epicenter of Moroccan embroidery arts. The beautiful pieces created here traditionally involve monochromatic, geometric patterns in threads of deep blue, red, green or black on crisp white cotton. The triangle is a key design in this style of embroidery and is said to represent the eye.

Original article http://www.frommoroccowithlove.com