Connecting artist to artisan – globally and locally

25 02 2014

Culture Vultures (C.V.) is an arts and cultural initiative coming out of the Fez region in North Morocco, that now celebrates its 5 year of being. One of C.V.’s main objectives is to facilitate artists experiences and to bridge the local and the global. Culture Vultures designs and hosts  artist-in-residency  ( AiRs ) projects annually featuring rich programs, insightful social engagement and quality presentation.  Artists from all mediums are invited to take part in the residencies with given application deadlines.


Photo by Anaas Med El Ismaeli

The new residency AiR Artisan in now open for submissions. Artist from all practices are encourage to apply for this rich and insightful residency. Spend 4 weeks alongside a Fassi artisan and discover the skills and approaches involved in traditional Moroccan crafts.  Exchange thoughts and concepts on a personal, artistic, and cultural level.

For more information see

Contact –  Jess at for an application form.


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

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

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

ANOU – connecting the public to the artisan directly.

13 09 2013

Anouis an artisan-managed platform that empowers illiterate artisans to sell their work with independence. Anou gives artisans the tools they need to overcome the challenges they face when selling internationally. Finally you can buy amazing crafts directly from the artisan who made it.

by Niza Saidi

by Niza Saidi

Anou’s Story

The idea for Anou was developed by Dan Driscoll during his Peace Corps service in Morocco from 2008-2010. When Dan started his service in Morocco he began working with a woodcarving shop that was deemed illegal by the Moroccan government. He opened up negotiations between the carvers and the government and an agreement was made that the carvers would plant a tree for every item they sold.

However, this created another problem: the woodcarvers couldn’t afford to plant the trees. The carvers had traditionally depended on middlemen and fair-trade organizations to sell their work. But these organizations would not provide the carvers enough profit to cover the cost of planting a $1 tree. The organizations would then resell the items for 400% mark ups.

With the Internet just introduced into the valley, Dan focused on training the carvers how to use, an American e-commerce website. After six months, the carvers were independently managing their own store and keeping all of the profit on sales. They also chose to reinvest the income back into their community! It proved that artisans, no matter how rural, could sell their work independently and then thrive because of it.

Unfortunately for the carvers, Etsy was not a long-term solution. The site was made for English-speaking, computer-literate users and was simply too difficult for artisans in Morocco to use. As a result, Dan and the carvers decided to build Anou, an entirely new platform, designed specifically for artisans throughout Morocco. Today, Anou is an artisan-led e-commerce platform enabling hundreds of Moroccan artisans to overcome the barriers that have traditionally held them out of the global market place. As a result, they can thrive independent of the middleman resellers.

See more at – ARNOU

Morocco’s Ensemble Artisanales

16 08 2013

Morocco’s Ministery of Artisan provides every town and city in Morocco with an Ensemble artisanal ( craft center).  A facility beneficial to both artisans and visitos alike. The building provides workshop spaces for craft cooperatives for each local area as well as an exhibition and shop aminity. Visitors are invited to look around the workshops and this showroom is a great point for anyonr interested in the local and regional crafts to discover what skills and what materials are locally sourced. A big advantage to all parties is that the prices are fair, fixed and go straight to the artisan.

Marakechi Felt Maker

Ensemble artisanals across Morocco vary in their quality and diversity of portfolio. Marakesh hosts a large and assorted range of artisanal workshops that are available to visit as well as purchase crafts. A valuable insight into the skills and input into artisanal items. Check out the felt maker when there and discover how much time and effort goes into the production of a pair of felt slippers.

Marakechi Felt Slippers

A  fine example of how an Ensemble artisanal should be is the new Center in Azrou in the Middle Atlas mountains. Azrou is a town of approximately 50,000 people, located at the crossroads of the Fes-Marrakesh and the Meknes-Errachidia routes.  The name Azrou means “Big Rock,” after the town’s principal feature, a rock where Berber tribes used to gather for trade.

Their new crafts centre has recently been inuagurated  hosts a tourism office, a cafe, a multimedia room to encourage e marketing for artisans as well as a training room and the obligatory workshop spaces. The newly renovated building reflects the skills of architectural handicrafts of Morocco such as intricate zeliig( tile work), plaster carving and wood painting.

Craft skills that are typical of Azrou are rug weaving, pottery,´copper work and ceder wood carving. Azrous Ensemble artisanal also hosts tailors, iron work and much more.

For further information on Azrous Ensemble artisanal see

To book a tour of the traditional artisans in Fez contact Jess on

For more information see

Alternatively we can arrange a visit to Azrou and visit the new Ensemble Artisanal and its craft people.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend

14 08 2013

Something you cannot and do not want to miss in Morocco are Berber carpets and rugs. They are everywhere; they come from everywhere, and each one of them tells a story. It may well be one of the oldest and finest crafts in the country.


The word Berber also Imazighen or Amazigh is said to mean “free people”. Berbers are farmers, shepherds or goatherds who live in the mountains. Traditionally, the men take care of livestock and their farming. Animal husbandry provides them wool, while cotton and plants are used for dyeing. Women have a prominent role in the household; they look after the family and make handicraft for their personal use, and to sell sale in the local souqs.

The nomadic and semi-nomadic lifestyle of the Berbers in earlier times was very suitable for weaving kilims. The tapestry maintains the traditional appearance and distinctiveness of the region of origin of their tribe, which has in effect its own repertoire of design for ages. The plain weave is represented by a wide variety of stripes, and by geometrical patterns such as triangles and diamonds. Additional decorations such as sequins or fringes, are typical of Berber weave in Morocco. The customs and traditions differ from one region to another. The social structure of the Berbers is tribal and it is not unusual for women to be leading the tribe.


The carpets and rugs the women weave, knot and embroider are traditionally made from ‘eco’ wool meaning “live wool” (that is wool shorn from a sheep, rather than taken from a sheepskin after the sheep has been killed), organic cotton, linen and sometimes even silk, leather and reed, and old textiles that have been ripped to pieces.

Getting acquainted with the different type of rugs turns into a major research project where you come across exotic names like Beni OuarainBoujadHendira,ZemmourZaiane AzilalBoucherouiteMrirtTaznakht,Beni MguildAit OuauzguitMarmushaGlaua and Ulad Busba. These names derive from the name of the tribe or the place or region where they are produced. There are approximately 45 different tribal groups, each of which has distinctive designs and sometimes varying weaving, knotting and embroidery styles and their own color palette.


Within all these differences there is one factor that popped up while examining the carpets collection at Le Cadeau Berbere. There was playfulness, imperfection and an abundance of diamonds used as patterns. The idiosyncratic shapes were created according to the whim of the weaver. These design inspired dreams about the free spirit of the women weavers. How they loved their crafts, the joyfulness showed through their work. How they use colors and patterns. I imagined them sitting there doing their job and getting into a trancelike state or meditation making archetypical patterns and choosing colors that suited their mood of the day. Each weaving project is a personal story–a unique piece with a dream of its own.

Most Berber women today don’t remember why they make certain patterns. It has always been like this. The patterns have symbolic and talismanic meanings that the women themselves are not always aware of anymore. The diamond is said to protect you as a watchful guardian, warding of the evil eye. It can, however, depending on its positioning and color represent a vagina a well as fertility, virginity and sexuality.

There are vintage carpets and newly made ones. Architects like Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright of the mid-twentieth century, embraced the graphic beauty of the White and Black Beni Ouarain carpets. Each carpet is different and more appealing then the previous. 

Original Article