At the end of last summer, we concluded the first edition of the Common Thread Program with the British Council. The program brought British designer Sabrina Krause Lopez out to Morocco to teach, learn and work with Anou’s artisan leaders in Morocco. Then, all artisan leaders flew out to London with Sabrina to showcase their work at the London Design Festival and visited with leading designers, studios, schools and artisans in London. To say the program was a huge success would be an understatement. The experience exposed the artisan leaders to a wide range of new designs and ideas and the people behind them, fundamentally altering how the artisan leaders think about and value design. Since the artisan leaders returned, some have launched new product lines for 2015 and others began creating drafts of their new ideas for the first time. The program was most successful in the more complex questions it provoked from the artisan leaders: What constitutes a design? How does one continually innovate and evolve their design? How can one’s design be protected? Having the knowledge and exposure to develop, much less answer these questions have long been elusive for the artisan community. That is until now. It is in this context that we are excited to announce the second edition of the British Council Anou Common Thread Program. Our vision with this program is three-fold. First and foremost, we want to continue exposing artisan leaders to as many ideas as possible so they can accelerate the development of their craft and the wider artisan community. Second, we hope that the topics covered will provide the artisan leaders more insight into how they can build the rules and policies that will help further Anou’s evolution into a vibrant community that fosters both skill development and creativity. And lastly, to ensure continuous exposure for the artisan community, we want to continue closing the gap not only between Moroccan artisans and British creatives, but also between Moroccan artisans and Moroccan creatives of the nascent design scene rapidly expanding in Morocco’s urban centers. Starting on August 10th, we will gather six artisan leaders alongside British creatives and three Moroccan creatives to gather for three weeks. Each person selected to attend will be asked to develop a small half-day workshop focused on questions artisan leaders developed after their time in London and/or their creative processes. These workshops will be presented in the first week and will all serve as the foundation for developing a theme that all the participants will each design a new product idea around. Once a design theme has been established, each artisan leader will be paired with a British and or Moroccan creative and will host them in their village and workshop for two weeks. There, artisan leaders alongside their partner will each develop their own product that will eventually be added to a special collection on Anou. We hope that by bringing together designers and artisans from many different backgrounds, it will create a nexus of creativity that will not only transform each person who takes part, but also ripple across the entire Anou community. Does this excite you? Are you a design minded person? Take a look at the call out and submit an application by July 6th! To learn more take a look at the British Council’s Open Call Announcement! https://vimeo.com/106479121
“Co-Existence” by Mustapha Chaouai
2.3m x 1.6m
Mustapha’s rug is available for purchase at:
All proceeds will go to Mustapha’s association (Association Nahda) and cover the costs of future artisan-led trainings to grow the Anou community in Morocco.
“The design I created represents Morocco — a country where all people and religions co-exist despite different languages and cultures.”
— Mustaph Chaouai
Mustapha, as one quickly learns after meeting him, is an anomaly in Morocco. When he was younger, he was always near his mother and grandmother while they weaved. Just by observing he became skilled in a craft that is reserved for women. With this rare skill set, he thought that he could help create jobs and opportunity for his wife and the women of Oued Ifrane.
Today, Mustapha serves as the artisan director for the Anou community.
On Wednesday evening at Design Junction’s VIP and Press opening, the British Council and Anou’s artisan leaders launched the Common Thread Exhibition! The launch kicks off the third part of the British Council and Anou’s Common Thread project. The British Council flew all the artisan leaders to London just in time for the launch. The artisans knew their rugs would be on display but were kept in the dark as to the final design of the exhibition. Needless to say they were shocked to find their rugs amazingly displayed in the middle of a bustling festival!
The exhibition, in line with the Common Thread project, places its focus on the artisans leaders and their personal stories that inspired all their designs. The feedback so far has been outstanding. Many VIP and press visitors noted that in a festival of designers talking about the obscure artisans they source from, it was refreshing to learn about and see the artisans who made the products on display. And of course, many of visitors were in disbelief when they found out that the artisans designed the rugs themselves while working with designer Sabrina Kraus Lopez.
Each of the rugs the artisans designed will be on sale throughout the Design Junction event. To order one, just go to our Common Thread page at www.theanou.com/commonthread. The first person to buy a rug will be receive the rug on display, orders after that will be custom made and shipped from Morocco. All revenue from the sales will go directly into the artisan community!
The exhibition was the result of many months of hard work by the British Council as well as Moira and Kieren of the Faculty, who designed the exhibition. We can’t thank all the individuals and organizations behind making the Common Thread exhibition a reality!
To see more pictures of the exhibition, take a look at our Facebook album of the launch!
Last week, all the artisan leaders completed their rugs they designed during part one of the Common Thread project and shipped them to London. The rugs will be the centerpiece of the Common Thread exhibition, which will detail the design process the artisans used creating their rugs during the project.
We got a sneak peak of the exhibition designed by Moira and Kieren of the Faculty and it looks outstanding! More excitingly, all of Anou’s artisan leaders will be making appearances at the exhibition to answer any questions you have about the Common Thread project and the Anou community. If you’re in London, we’d love to see you in person!
Here’s everything that you need to know if you’re in the area!
- The Common Thread Exhibition will take place at Design Junction from September 17th-21st. Anou’s artisan leaders will be present at the exhibition on the 17th from 4-6pm. All days are free and open to the general public, the 17th however requires registration in advance (register here)!
- On the 21st at 12pm , the leaders will be taking part in a panel at the Design Junction. Admission to the panel is free and open to the public!
- Design Junction is located at 21-31 New Oxford Street and is within a short walk from the British Museum. Here’s a map.
- Learn more about the London Design Festival and Design Junction.
As always, send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any other questions! We’ll look forward to seeing many of you there!
The core experience of the Common Thread project is rooted in collaboration, understanding and the exchange of ideas. After the completion of the design workshop led by Sabrina Kraus Lopez (www.sabrinakrauslopez.com), Sabrina accompanied Rabha Akkaoui back to Tounfite where she stayed for three weeks working and living alongside the women of Cooperative Chorouk (www.theanou.com/store/3). In this album, Sabrina reflects on her experiences through pictures taken throughout the three weeks.
“It is hard to believe that this small mud hut sandwiched in this incredible landscape will now be my workspace for the next three weeks.”
“The first few days at the cooperative consisted of me staring at the women weave, trying to take in all their movements in order to understand how their looms worked. Once we set up my loom I was ready and excited to begin weaving my own rug.”
“At the moment when the women and I realize that I have been weaving, unaccompanied and successfully for the last 30 minutes, there is a loud applause, as only now have I finally earned my place in this remote village cooperative!”
“There are two other looms in the Chorouk Cooperative, each carefully shared and cared for by ten women, each of whom can be found preparing, cleaning and spinning wool for weaving, but most importantly, laughing and telling stories.”
“I was taken by the individual artisans themselves and their situations, sometimes funny, sad and occasionally touching; each of them has a story to tell.”
“From collecting and spinning the wool, to picking and hand dying the yarn, it soon became clear to me that for the artisans this is not simply a livelihood but rather an intrinsic part of their culture and everyday life.”
“Intensely proud of their heritage and traditions, the Amazigh believe that these carpets have been crucial in keeping their cultures alive. Even today, some tribal women still carry these symbols and motifs tattooed on to their foreheads, chins and arms, in days gone by this would have distinguished them during times of war.”
“After two weeks, I begin to feel settled in Tounfite. Every morning I wake up to Rabha’s amazing mint tea and breakfast, all of which is loaded with sugar to get me through each day of weaving.”
“Later, I finally know how to ask for bread, water, phone credit and make it to the closest store on my own. I also know that the Hamam is one of the best things in town and that Sundays at the souq are priceless.”
“At the end of my time in Morocco, I have learnt how to say “Hello”, “thank you” and “I am full”, in Amazigh. I am also now familiar with sleeping on layered carpets, having bucket showers and eating with my hands at almost every meal. However, it is exactly these new experiences, sharing of cultures and most of all friendships that I will miss most and what makes collaborations like this so special.”