Hidden down a narrow street in Fez medina, Morocco’s beautifully preserved old city, Nina Mohammad-Galbert works inside her light-filled studio. The designer and creative director of Artisan Project displays her nature-inspired collection of hand-woven throws, rugs and towels draped on chairs and benches. They sit alongside vintage kaftans and wedding blankets, beloved pieces she has sourced from local souks and kept for inspiration. Mohammad-Galbert founded Artisan Project when she moved from Los Angeles to Fez in 2011. She had always dreamed of living beyond the borders of the United States. Raised in San Francisco, by Palestinian parents, her entusiasm for textiles began in childhood, as her mother and grandmother had a passion for embroidery, which has a strong tradition in Palestine. Mohammad-Galbert had always loved the Moroccan aesthetic, and she chose Fez because it is the country’s craft capital, and more traditional and lesser known than Marrakech. Weaving blankets is mainly done by men (as it requires time and muscle), while women traditionally weave rugs. At first Mohammad-Galbert struggled to find weavers willing to try new ideas, and genuine women’s cooperatives, run by women, for women. A meeting with a master brocade weaver led to introductions to weavers with whom she could build mutually beneficial relationships. Today, her business is based on collaborating with weavers in Fez medina and the Middle Atlas Mountains. The artisans, who learned the skill from their elders, use handloom weaving practices to realise her designs, fusing traditional motifs with Mohammad-Galbert’s contemporary ideas. In Fez Medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and network of winding streets, squares and souks, the clip-clop rhythm of the loom fills Yihya Yihyawi’s workshop. Yihya is a fourth-generation weaver who produces Artisan Project’s towels and blankets. He learned to weave aged 10, standing on a stool to reach the loom. Artisan Project’s early pieces used vivid patterns and neon hues, but her recent collections are stripped-back and simplified, drawing inspiration from the textures and tones of Morocco’s natural landscapes. ‘These pieces are more sober and peaceful. It’s closer to how I feel about life now.’ Mohammad-Galbert uses predominantly raw cotton and wool, sourced in souks in Fez and the Middle Atlas mountain area, where the wool is cleaned and spooled by hand. Deep red skies and earthy desert colours are interpreted through interwoven metallic threads and dip-dye techniques. Though still a fledgling company, Artisan Project has built a loyal following of clients, including Boutique Majorelle inside the coveted Jardin Majorelle in Marrakesh; Le Jardin des Biehn, an exquisite riad, restaurant and gift shop in Fez, and Tigmi Trading, a leading Moroccan product retailer in Australia. Moving to Morocco meant Mohammad-Galbert began speaking Arabic fluently, which helped her to develop deeper relationships with artisans and... Article from Selvedge Magazine Issue 98.
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