Fair Fabrics - NRC handgeweven zomer vloerkleed 2020

Hand-woven rug

A stylish and summer hand-woven rug. Exclusively for the NRC webwinkel, Fair Fabrics, in collaboration with one of its Tunisian artisan workshops and the Dutch designer Willemiek van Kuijlenborg, had a wool rug made and produced in a limited edition.

Photocredits: Geert van Hertum

Just as for many other entrepreneurs, the past period has not been easy. The workshops in Morocco and Tunisia were closed, the artisans had no income, the future was – and still is – very uncertain and the transports to the Netherlands are only finally (but laboriously) underway. Fortunately, this project has now come to a good point: the small cooperative in Tunisia does not have a communal workshop, but this meant that they were all able to work at home and earn an income in the past months. This makes logistics more complicated, but this was also their survival mechanism!

The small artisan workshop in the North of Tunisia is being runned by Sihem. She learned the art of rug weaving from her mother. She has passed on the skill to her two daughters, Sarah and Nour, who help her with designs for modern versions of traditional rugs. Sihem has managed to revive a craft that had all but disappeared from her village. She works with four or five other women weaving rugs and distributes these through local fairs and a crafters’ network.

Fair Fabrics NRC zomertapijt workshop Tunisia

Photocredits: Family Sihem

Both her daughters aren’t into the loom work. “We’re not patient to learn it because it’s hard. Everything has to be perfectly made without flaws. In fact, all we do is create new designs, ideas, and colors, but when it’s about weaving we get lost.” 

“Growing up with a mother like mine influenced me.

We do see the world differently,

but the customs and the traditions we were taught remain the same.”

Also Sihems mother is always there to help them. She’s more experienced and helps to clean the wool. The women Sihem works with also do some farming and during the olive harvest they don’t come to work. They can’t depend on weaving only since handcraft is no longer a profitable business.

Not going to school is the thing I regret most in my life.

Sihem regretted that she didn’t go to school, her father couldn’t afford it because they were seven kids. That’s why she encourages her children to keep studying and achieve what she couldn’t. The people in her village are really hard working, women work as much as men. Women who live there are real fighters, they help their husbands with everything they do. “This is where I belong. It’s my origin and the land of my ancestors.” 

Fair Fabrics zomertapijt NRC 2020 artisan

Photocredits: Moncef Ben Rajeb

My mother produces wool in the traditional way and she teaches us how to separate the threads and attach them the loom. She learnt all the skills from her mother. When she was a little girl she’d watch her weaving. She used to grab the shed stick and hold it like a pen. 

Her mom was taught how to do it by her mom. Long ago, women used to spin the yarn. When she went out she’d sneak in and spin some wool. Sometimes she hurt her finger so she’d run to her room and hide it from her mom. 

You can feel that some rugs have a soul, but if someone doesn’t make it with love and passion it won’t be appealing. I think passion is necessary to produce good work. Even if it’s to sell, it should be made with passion.

Fair Fabrics NRC zomertapijt 2020 detail

Photocredits: Geert van Hertum

Parts of this interview are from the documentary “The Thread”. A film by Brian Tilley.

The Morocco Project

Behind the scenes we have been working for over more then a year to realize the Morocco Project. This The Boundless Edit initiative has realized an incredible creative collaboration that allowes to showcase the talented artisan women working hard to support their families and community.

The final result we be a photo essay about the artisans. A summary of the creative process of their work and their everyday lives. Also there will be produced several movies including interviews with all the involved founders and designers. But actually the best result of this project was already visible in Morocco. We’ve had so many incredibly beautiful moments together where we shared music from both cultures, danced together. But most of all we share special moments that we would not have been able to create without each other.

© Image copyright TBE 2018. All rights reserved. 

The Morocco Project was and still is a big challenge. Traveling with a group that does not know each other, to a country and culture that is unknown to many. With different circumstances and a foreign language that most of us do not speak. With the goals to realize two large, ambitious projects on site; composing a photo essay & different films and a new design project.

Every Fair Fabrics’ trip is another great adventure, it changes your perspective time after time. But every roadtrip throught a beautiful country is also different. You get to know their inhabitants better, but also their language and culture. Apart from the fact that I know the way in the Atlas mountains by heart by now, the presence of so many like-minded people from the The Boundless Edit team was a perfect added value. Who would have thought that I would dance with the Berber artisans, who would have thought that everyone could make such special friendships? Without having a common language, where age and origin do not play any role.

“This is where we share some special and intimate moments. There is a familiarity that seems impossible, and yet it’s there, despite distance or culture.” [Bec] “This was honestly one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The people I met, the friendships I made, the memories I have will last me a lifetime. “ [Brenna]

It will be difficult to translate the hospitality and warmth that we have received into a book. The most difficult job is probably to choose from all the footage the most beautiful ones that will be published in the final book. The photo book with a nice reflection of the beautiful products that the artisans make and where the Design Project together with the women will be covered. But above all, the book will show the story behind the scenes. With the publication of this photo essay, Fair Fabrics’ mission will be clearly portrayed; stimulating the entrepreneurship of these artisans and keeping the crafts alive. Not only the end result is the actual and beautiful interior product what is created by the local craftsmanship of artisans. But most of all but the story you get with the product as a gift.

The special coffee table book will eventually be available in various bookstores in the Netherlands and Australia.

The Design Project is also made possible by The Boundless Edit. Through this project Fair Fabrics could start a collaboration with the Dutch designer Willemiek van Kuijlenborg. Together with the incredible talented Fair Fabrics artisans from the various cooperatives in the Atlas Mountains we could actually working and designing together from the start.

This collaboration is an incredible experience both for the artisans as well as Fair Fabrics .

© Image copyright TBE 2018. All rights reserved. 

The Boundless Edit is a profit-for-purpose organization based in Sydney, Australia. They create charitable projects to support women in developing communities around the world.

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