Moroccan Pottery

April 01, 2007


One of the things we noticed our first night in Fez up on the terrace, was an area filled with billowing black smoke and we guessed that it was a fire. What we did not know was it was a controlled fire and was part of the pottery process which is quite famous in Morocco. We also admired the beautiful pottery and ceramic tiles in our riad. So we were very happy to learn more about ceramic arts in Morocco and see it first hand in Fez.

We really enjoyed getting the tour of the cooperative where they make  pottery and getting a closer look at this huge billowing black smoke and the ovens that creates it. One would think it was extreme pollution,but we were told other wise and indeed it did not smell bad close up. The fire is made from the pit of olives which we even smelled from the pile that goes into the oven.

What is even more shocking than the smoke, is the people making the pottery. There is something startling about walking into a room jammed full of artists working on individual pots, or seeing another area with double rows of men in bare feet, sitting on the ground chipping away on tiny parts of ceramics. One just does not see that kind of intensive labor in many places these days and gives new meaning to all those things one sees in places like Pier One stores or even many fine shops.

I guess it made me feel sad to see these wonderful artists so clearly working for almost nothing. The image of some of these workers like the barefoot man in raggedy clothes keeping the hot fire going or girl painting a pot are seared in my mind now. Of course it looked like a much better job than one the tanners had to put up with or some other jobs in Morocco. It was enthralling to watch them as well and learn more about the techniques that this area is so famous for. One could not help but admire the talent and ancient culture connections.

Morocco’s most coveted ceramic’s are the blue and white distinctive Fassi (Fez) pieces. They are also called Fakhari or Bleu de Fez. Blue is the Fez imperial color, although many other colors are made here as well. The decorative tiles are painstakingly painted by hand using the Moorish geometric patterns. The aesthetics vision that is an ingrained part of Moroccan culture is reflected in the ceramics and has a strong Spanish-Moorish and oriental influence.

We had an English speaking guide who guided us thru the process from the clay (allowing us to play with some), firing the kilns, making the tiles, painting the pots, and the glazing of tiles and pottery. The craftsmen (and some women) are apprenticed from childhood. We watched a young apprentice work on the potters wheel that he propelled with his feet.

There were lots of beautiful things to buy afterwards and if I ever buy another house, I might consider a shopping trip to Morocco for the many lovely hand made things. Mozart ended up with a little souvenir that the guide gave her, but we just had no room for gifts or a place to send them. I would have to know a lot more about pottery and ceramics to know if I was getting a bargain or not. We certainly enjoyed watching the process and learning more about it!














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