Get to know the artisans of Fez.

23 01 2014

Start with the ancient North African city of Fez.  Add the often hidden, traditional artisans who tenuously preserve the old craft techniques.  Spice it up with local and international contemporary visual artists,. The result: – Exposé Artisanal –an exciting project emerging out of Fez’ old medina to inspire creativity, expand portfolios of design and celebrate the treasured yet dwindling number of Fassi artisans.  Exposé Artisanal offers a unique opportunity to foster a new appreciation of the talent and traditions behind the crafts people of Fez and celebrate the influence of their unique heritage on the wider world.

Probably you would like to be part of this project, give yourself the opportunity to be among those artisans thousands of stories ,legends, popular wise sayings. Be the person who can help the process of appreciation. Here’s how



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.



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

Artist in Residency Program – AiR Artisan

16 11 2013

Artists Call Out 

Residency 7th April – 6th May 2014.

Application deadline –  3rd January 2014.

Fez. Morocco.

Artists and designers are invited to apply for a one month artist residency with an attribute of working alongside a Fassi artisan. Culture Vultures invites designers, visual artists, installation artists, writers, musicians, performers, researchers or conceptual artists to spend a month investigating and practicing the techniques,  materials and personalities of the traditional crafts masters in Fez. The definition of artist is broad.  C.V. has a preference to unexpected collaborations that combine both approaches and an in-depth exchange.


AiR Artist – Artisan – Spend a month residing in a house in the ancient city of Fez, the world’s largest car-free urban metropolis and Moroccan capitol of crafts. Recognized by UNESCO and many national and international development organizations as a valued heritage of Fez, the crafts and their makers play an important role in the cast of this magical North African city. Artists will be housed together in a traditional house in the medina of Fez and spend extensive  time in the workshops of the artisans.


When – This residency will take place from 7th April to 6th May 2014.

Culture Vultures is an arts and cultural organization based in the Fez region. Founded in 2009 by visual artists Jess Stephens, C.V. has a rich and active portfolio of activities that encourage cross culture encounters through an arts agenda. With Jess’ experience in facilitating artist’s visits, projects and presentations in Morocco and good relations with a network of artisans based in the medina and beyond this residency promises food for thought, material for creativity and insightful exchanges.


Artisans portfolio  – Local artisans that are in C.V.s netwrok and welcome an artist into their working environment include traditional plaster carvers, potters, metal workers, weavers, mosaic ( zeliig) artists, carpet knitters, wood carvers, tailors  and tanners.


The program includes

  • Orientation of Fez medina. A half tour of the labyrinth-like old city of Fez with a historical guide.
  • An artisanal tour – an introduction to some of the artisans of the medina and the new artisanal centre for training.
  • Artists dinners. Informal dinners where visiting artists are introduced to the  Fez arts community.
  • Weekly lectures, round tables and presentations.
  • 2 excursions out of Fez to get a fresh perspective of the surrounding area.

Price   950 €


Half board, comfortable accommodation in the medina of Fez.

Extensive workshop time with the artisans and skills exchange.

Professional facilitation between visiting artists and artisans.

The rich program of activities mentioned above.

Does not include

Travel to or from Fez at either side of the residency.


One meal a day.

Application deadline January 3rd 2014.

Note – Full residency places are limited to 8 people. Places are secured after confirmation from the organization and a deposit is paid.

For an application form and proposal outline write to Jess at

All images courtesy of The Art of Islamic Pattern 

culture vultures

Andaluz weaving technique still alive in Fez.

27 08 2013

The art of weaving this highly textured and ornamental fabric was one of the arts of Fez, but has long since been lost. The fabric, called lampas, was developed in the Middle East in the 11th century and was much more ornate than previous textiles had been. The art spread from Andalusia across to Fez somewhere in the 13th century.

Datatextil, a trade magazine that features Dar al Tiraz in a 2010 edition, explains that the lampas technique in Fez was enhanced by immigration to the city after the fall of Granadain 1492. The lampas was used by wealthy women as belts and was made of silk, often embellished with gold or silver thread. The belts were worn folded lengthwise and rolled several times around the waist. They became longer, wider and more colourful over time as fashions changed.

Lampas production is time-consuming and expensive as it is woven on hand-operated drawlooms. The art was kept alive in Fez until about a hundred years ago when it disappeared. Sy Hassane and Isabelle have now reinvented the techniques and are producing exquisite examples of the fabrics.

Sy Hassan is an artist as well as being a trained Jacquard engineer. His father was a prominent master-weaver who specialised in silk brocade; this, and the fact that he loves old fabrics, led Si Hassan to restore the art of lampas weaving. This was no easy task as he had to start from scratch by designing and building the drawlooms. There were no loom craftsmen left who knew how to make them.

Sy Hassan

Datatextil reports that the date and place of birth of the hand-operated drawloom is not precisely known. But it is clear that this complex handloom was long in use in many countries, from Japan and China in the far East, to Spain andMorocco in the far West. Although all hand-operated drawlooms follow the same fundamental scheme, adjustments were made in the various countries where they were adopted. The Arabo-Andalusian type in use at Dar al Tiraz is typical of Fez and was used in the brocade workshops for which the city is famous.

The contemporary textile industry, of course, is now computerised, so hand-operated looms – and even more so, drawlooms – might appear to some to be completely outdated. In most countries, the hand-operated drawloom was supplanted as early as the 19th century by the Jacquard loom, its direct offshoot. In order to master this old-time weaving technique, one needs not only a comprehensive knowledge of textile engineering, but also a great deal of passion and patience. The result, however, is well worth the effort: the fabrics produced by such looms is almost without equal.

Sy Hassan has been studying the textile arts for more than 25 years. In the course of his extended research and work with the craftsmen of Fez, he gained a large number of skills and became an expert in the textile field. His passion is drawing new patterns, and he enjoys learning about the history of handweaving on a worldwide scale.

Isabelle Riaboff is a doctor of ethnology and specialist of the Tibetan-speaking populations of theWestern Himalayas, where she carried out research for more than 15 years. Since 2005, following a valuation which she conducted in Fez for UNESCO, in collaboration with the Ministère de l’Artisanat du Maroc, she has reorientated her research to focus on the Moroccan handweaving of figured fabrics.

What the couple are hoping to do now is prevent this outstanding knowledge from vanishing once again. Sy Hassan and Isabelle are happy to share their experience and knowledge with weavers, be they professional or amateurs, as well as with onlookers and travellers who want to know more about the amazing artisan heritage of the city of Fez. They have three dreams: to open an educational workshop for both visitors and students; to found a school dedicated to training young weavers so that the art will not be lost again; and to write a book about the history of the handweaving of figured fabric in Morocco and the weaving techniques related to drawlooms.

For more information, see

Written by Helen Ranger

To book at a tour of Fez to visit traditional crafts people and thier workshops contact Culture Vultures on

For more information on artisanal tours see artisanal affairs page.