Short Insightful Apprenticeship

12 05 2014

Endearing new relationships, spiritual journeys and a deeper insight into the art of traditional Moroccan wood carving are experiences Minah Khalil encountered over her two week, Fez residency.  Organized by Culture Vultures, Minah’s apprenticeship was under the graceful and chuckling guidance of Hassan. His inherited workshop encompasses an thick inner wall of old carved doors, frames, shelves and other crafted  treasures going to, or coming from, the interiors of Fez medina. Pilled high from floor to ceiling it is a museum-worthy installation in itself.

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Day one our apprentice was having utilize a sports hand muscle builder as the practice of the chisel proves to strain a unaccustomed hand. Comfortable with a pen, hand gestures and a smile as a common language I left the scene of Mallum and Minah and a pot of tea brewing. By the end of the week she was in full flow, designing from her budding sketch book and filling every minute of her waking day.

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Minah’s spring break fortuitously overlapped the Festival of Sufi Culture and her spiritual practice takes that very path. Combining the gentle teachings of Hassan, the practice of a blessed skill, round tables, sufi performances, recycles, (Dikr) and new found acquaintances this open hearted Culture Vulture was full of serendipities and smiles.
For more information on our artist residencies, in particular AiR Artisan follow this LINK>

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[Aside] Look on and take note; let his silence play a part in the story

8 04 2014
Sometimes artisans are tired of talking. They just want to get on, quite contently, with their work. Fair enough. Like this dear man, the last wooden bucket maker in Fez, who attracts many a spectator with his workshop being situated on the main thoroughfare in the medina. Who will carry on this craft once he retires? Is he concerned that he has no apprentices to keep the craft alive? Did he learn this craft from his father or another mentor? We don’t know these answers. Yet. I guess it’s up to us be like detectives and map out his story; or let this man’s life be swept away along with the buckets and saw dust that surrounds him …
For the 3rd “Shakespeare in Fez: all the medina’s a stage”, a quote from Iago in Othello comes to mind to match this week’s photograph.
Iago: Demand me nothing: what you know, you know: 

From this time forth I never will speak word.”

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Alice Barnsdale.

Chief Editor Exposé Artisanal.





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.

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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 http://culturevulturesfez.org/air-artisan-fez-morocco/

Contact –  Jess at culture.vulture1@rocketmail.com 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

http://www.zoomaal.com/projects/exposeartisanal/1478





A Moroccan Woodworking Artisan Shapes His Trade

4 12 2013

Wandering through the old Fez Medina, where vendors of various goods peddle their wares, an older woodworker stands apart from the rest. In the middle of the hustle and bustle (emphasis on hustle), I notice him, an old man bent over his crafts. Beautiful wood pieces that he has carved by hand are stacked up and spread out in front of his stall. Surrounded by an incredible array of colorful crafts—leather goods, glassware, mosaic dishware, beautifully woven rugs, and tapestries—accented with pink, green, purple, and yellow, this man’s goods are all varying shades of brown. It was this contrast that first lured me in to take a better look.

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As I walk closer, I see inside of his roughly 50 square-foot stall, shelves displaying more of his work and pricing signs—ten Euros for this, five Euros for that. Virtually unheard of, set prices are a true rarity in the Fez Medina, the land where haggling reigns. He is sitting on a foot stool a few inches off the ground. He is hunched over and using his bare feet to operate a simple machine that is carving a piece of wood in his hands.

Wandering through the old Fez Medina, where vendors of various goods peddle their wares, an older woodworker stands apart from the rest. In the middle of the hustle and bustle (emphasis on hustle), I notice him, an old man bent over his crafts. Beautiful wood pieces that he has carved by hand are stacked up and spread out in front of his stall. Surrounded by an incredible array of colorful crafts—leather goods, glassware, mosaic dishware, beautifully woven rugs, and tapestries—accented with pink, green, purple, and yellow, this man’s goods are all varying shades of brown. It was this contrast that first lured me in to take a better look.

As I walk closer, I see inside of his roughly 50 square-foot stall, shelves displaying more of his work and pricing signs—ten Euros for this, five Euros for that. Virtually unheard of, set prices are a true rarity in the Fez Medina, the land where haggling reigns. He is sitting on a foot stool a few inches off the ground. He is hunched over and using his bare feet to operate a simple machine that is carving a piece of wood in his hands.

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Mohammed has six grown children who all have children of their own. Not a single one of his children has shown an interest in woodcarving, least of all as a vocation. They have pursued more lucrative careers like academia or accounting (a typical artisan in the Fez Medina earns anywhere from US$730 to US$1,400 annually). Most of his children no longer live in Morocco, having emigrated to France years ago. “Besides,” Mohammed shrugs, “most of this can be done with machines nowadays.”  He displays a quiet stoicism when he talks about this dying art that he has dedicated the past 60 years of his life to—but I wonder if it doesn’t break his heart a little that his family’s woodworking legacy will end with him.

Increasingly, Moroccan youth are choosing to forego traditional vocational arts in favor of more financially rewarding work. This trend triggered the Moroccan government to establish a couple of artisanal schools to preserve the heritage of these crafts. One of them, L’Institut des arts traditionnels de Fes, boasts 500 male and female students ranging from 16 to 30 years of age learning 40 some-odd arts. In addition to handiwork, it also offers introductory business education as well as micro-financing. The goal of the school is to preserve the “millennia-old tradition while adapting to a modern economy.” While the school has been successful enough to warrant new programs in other major artisanal hubs like Marrakech, few students, if any, have the desire to take their developed skill sets into the medina. It’s hard to imagine the medina without these artisans because the Fez Medina has been this way for so long, but the future of the medieval walled cities with respect to the artisans within is unknown.


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Mohammed gives the impression that he’s more interested in showing his handiwork and explaining his craft than he is in talking about himself or even selling his wares. He picks up a miniature spinning wheel and holds it. He’s really proud of this particular piece. In his stall, he has  articles with pictures featuring himself with this creation. He gestures at my camera and poses. I obligingly take a picture. “How much?” I ask out of curiosity, pointing to his most prized piece of work. He smiles. “This one is not for sale,” he says. “This piece is just for me.”

Jeni Wang

http://newglobalcitizen.com/mbas-without-borders/a-moroccan-woodworking-artisan-shapes-his-trade





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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 €

Includes.

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.

Insurance.

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 culture.vulture1@rocketmail.com

All images courtesy of The Art of Islamic Pattern 

culture vultures

cultrevulturesfez.org





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 Etsy.com, 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