Monday, June 19, 2017

The Artisan's School

Last Tuesday we took a tour of the Artisan's school with Jeff McRobbie from Green Olive Arts (if you're ever in Tétouan, Morocco you should sign up for this tour as it's for anyone not just their artist residents!). We started by cutting through a new area of the old medina.  Since we've been staying in the medina for weeks you'd think we'd be used to the place but we still see things there that just take us by surprise.


Like this gigantic swordfish just lying next to the fish sellers on the pavement.


We used this doorway to exit the medina. As you can see there are cannons at this one. Hundreds of years ago, before the modern Spanish part of town was built, this was the edge of the city. They used the cannons to defend the city from mountain invaders who stole their children in the night and took them as slaves. There was a strict rule that residents had to be inside the gate by sundown, and even though the soldiers on guard knew you and might be your friends they were required to shoot you if you tried to enter after the gate closed.


From here we walked across the street to the artisan school.


This inside the entrance. The school was established by the Spanish to ensure that all the old crafts would continue to be taught and thrive in this area.


Our first stop was inside the decorative artists' workshop and classroom.


Here the instructor is showing us how they transfer their cut paper designs using a sock full of talc (which is a white powder) and tap it out onto the surface.


The master artist shows off the horse hair paint brushes he made for his craft.


Finished painted door.


The next classroom was wood working.


This is one of the kinds of drawings all the students must learn to do before they can work in wood or paint, or do anything.


Almost al the designs are centered around this star. It is called the Seal of Solomon.


For the wood carving students they simply glued the design to the board and carved out the pieces. Then we watched students spend a long time sanding off the paper.


Next stop was an embroidery class.


A lot was happening in this class. The students were all girls and young women.


I think they were trying to fill a large commission for a wedding, perhaps. Jobs like this help support the school.


Next was pottery and tiles. Every classroom was like a treasure trove.


These are student desks in the ceramics classroom. 


For the tiles student learn to use these wooden pieces as a guide and cut the shape from soft, but firm clay that is then fired and used in designs.


These are the various pieces assembled to make a tile.


This is inside the pottery kiln. He's firing some of the student work from over at the Art university.


Chloe took a minute in the school courtyard.


While we walked around the courtyard the brass worker instructor opened up his classroom.


His room was full of more treasures, like these stunning lanterns. He didn't have any students today as kids aren't showing up as much during Ramadan.


This is inside the iron working shop. 


Two of the blacksmith teachers discussing technique.


Last but definitely not least was the plaster carvers.


The intricate patterns they carved into plaster were no less than stunning. They also cast some designs in a mold, and then carved into them, like in this arched window piece.


This is the different kind of gypsum they used to make the different kinds of plaster. Some kinds are harder and some dry softer and are easier to carve.


Here's Naomi reading in the courtyard. She was getting fatigued and needed a break.


After leaving the Artisan's school we walked around the edge of the medina over to the artist's co-op.


Inside here graduates and other skilled artists make their products and sell them directly to customers.


A leather worker in his work space.


A camel stamp he uses to make an impression in the leather.


This is a weaver making a blanket on a loom.


Here you can see a rug in progress on this loom.


And another rug on a different loom. 

Learning about all these crafts was fascinating and I feel honored that all these artists were willing to share what they do with us. It's amazing to me that these traditional methods are still used each and every day in Morocco.

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"People are willing to take these extraordinary chances to become writers, musicians, or painters, and because of them, we have a culture. If this ever stops, our culture will die, because most of our culture, in fact, has been created by people that got paid nothing for it--people like Edgar Allan Poe, Vincent Van Gogh or Mozart."-Kurt Vonnegut

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