The Future of Craft?

text: Birgitta de Vos

The next generation of craft is linking tradition with art and design. Why is it that men are always seeking something new? Why can’t we keep things as they are? Animals do the same thing over and over again, but as humans we need renewal. This inner need gets us out of our bed in the morning, or even in the middle of the night. It takes us to new places, we move forward. It is the basis for evolution; it creates awareness. Although we may be longing for peace of mind and would love to have things remain the way they are, there is a drive more powerful than willpower to attract us to the new.

In Marrakesh I am in the right place for innovation. The city is bubbling with creative energy. Heading to the medina in the heart of the city, one might think of going back in time and viewing it as a place where workshops are located and filled with traditional products, and if you stay a little longer and take a closer look at the buzz in the streets, you’ll see there is a world within a world to discover.

It is behind closed doors; in the small shops where the new is taking shape. It is like a dream within a dream. It is there that tradition has blended with innovation. To get into the right mood go for lunch at La Terrasse des Epices, or Café des Epices, have dinner at Riad El Fenn or Café Arabe. Stay in Riad Dar Seven, and later drink tea and admire the latest Moroccan art at one of the oldest riads Dar Chérifa. On your way to find these places you might run into Jean Paul Gaultier who is one of the celebrities who owns a house in the medina.

The most innovative crafts I discovered are all created together with designers from outside Morocco, either at Expo Artisan, the Medina, the Gueliz district or in the upcoming designer district/ workshops in the industrial area. I met with the most inspiring nomadic people: designers and artists who traveled the world and found their home in Morocco, creating beautiful products as a result of their cross-cultural encounters. Amazing innovations in carpets from Youssef Bouzouba made in collaboration with Paulig Teppiche from Germany. Candles from Nour Bougies produces the most colorful candles, also made to order, handmade in Morocco with imported German raw materials. French designer Ludovic Petit designs under his label Lup31design for the most exclusive riads. His most recent interior design project is for resort Palais des Paysan. Frederic Alcantara worked for Aids to Artisans, traveled the world and is now stationed in Marrakesh designing and sourcing for US clients. Sylvie Pissard has her own gallery/shops and collection SissiMorocco made by artisans in the Medina and Industrial Area. Jamo artisan is a workshop that ships thousand of handmade babouches to Japan every month. Belgian designer Martine Hillen designs high-end leather handbags and has her own shop/showroom in Marrakech. Fenyadi claims to be the first brand specializing in high-end artisan products working with international designers for its ceramics, candles, light shades and home linens. Alnour Textiles is a social enterprise with a day care centre for handicapped women and an embroidery workshop that creates delicate embroidered home textiles.

The list of designer crafts nomads is endless. They come from everywhere, with varying styles. Each of these inspiring people, places and products are worthy of their own article. They are the gypsies of the 21st century. I feel there is a book in the air. Too much to show, too much to tell about Morocco, this place of wonder and this guideline for the future of crafts, with its amazing renovated riads, and its next generation of artisan designers. Anyone ready for a journey to a new adventure?

If you plan to visit Marrakesh, the author suggests to start your search for innovative handcrafts at 33, rue Majorelle in the trendy Gueliz district. A concept store and coffee shop, conceived by Monique Bresson, just opposite the Majorelle Gardens formerly owned by the late Yves Saint Laurent and his partner. The store carries more then 80 art/craft/designers.