Words and photos by Bridget John
Since being based back in Marrakech over the last few months I've been working away on adding new artisan partnerships and products to the Nouvelle Nomad range. All with the same ethos of responsibly sourced, sustainably handmade, authentic vintage and one of a kind artisan made products.
As a result, I'm really happy to be extending the Australian based collection this year to include both traditional and contemporary Moroccan ceramics and pottery.
The first drop arriving into Melbourne next month includes the iconic green and ochre coloured dinner plates, henna bowls, decorative candelabras, architectural vases and over sized serving platters from Tamegroute in the south of Morocco.
If you've visited Morocco you've likely sat down for a memorable Friday cous cous served up on a beautiful earthenware platter. Had your dinner served bubbling away in a traditional tagine, and taken an iphone full of photos of the brightly coloured and intricately hand painted ceramics you see perched perilously on display around the markets. Beautiful to photograph - unfortunately a bit harder to take home in your bag as a travel momento.
The ancient art of ceramic making in Morocco is some of the world's oldest and most recognisable in style. A craft that's lasted thousands of years, passed down from generation to generation of families who have perfected and continued the trade, which continues to be one of Morocco's biggest industries and exports today.
A visit to the local pottery markets in Safi
The making of these traditional ceramics forms part of the cultural identity and major source of income for entire townships, including two of the oldest pottery regions of Morocco. Tamegroute on the edge of the Sahara in the southern region of Zagora, and Safi on the Atlantic coast.
Each area with it's own unique style of hand painting and enamelling, open-air firing techniques and the specific mineral properties of the local clays.
The pottery workshops in Temegroute, Zagora
Visiting the pottery workshop in Tamegroute is a step into a simpler way of life. No factories, warehouses or machinery in sight. But an expansive open air complex where the families come to work, with areas dedicated to piles of raw clay being softened and stomped by feet.
Artisan work stations are dug into the ground to keep the clay cool and out of the heat so as not to dry out. Hand shaped terracotta toned creations are masterfully rotated on potters wheels, then lined up in the Saharan sun to dry. Before being fired in the hand built open air kilns.
The result is this beautiful earthy, raw and tonal finish. Each piece striking as a feature piece of art in it's own right, or part of a table setting.
Moroccan pottery has rightfully become more popular, recognised and sort-after across the rest of the world in recent years - But with this comes the inevitable and unfortunate replication by major retailers and homewares brands. With many now mass producing traditional Moroccan styles in commercial factories in Asia, passing them off as originally designed or artisan made pieces.
Since the Covid shut downs in 2020, Moroccan artisan communities have been impacted by the downturn of both tourism and their ability to produce and trade. And so have needed to innovate and evolve the way they work and distribute their wares to stay ahead. Expanding into bigger wholesale and trade avenues to keep the ancient arts alive and the local makers working and thriving.
I take pride in the direct relationships and partnerships with our artisan makers and suppliers, buying our ceramics collections directly from the source.
A traditional earthen kiln in Safi
Tamegroute ceramics before firing and enamelling
Our first collection of Moroccan ceramics is due to arrive into Australia next month. Continuing our efforts in making our logistics as sustainable as we can, this year's collection is making its way via the slow route by sea.
If you'd like to be the first to know as this new collection arrives into Melbourne, make sure you're on the mailing list to be notified.
We'll have the ceramics available both online and in store at our Melbourne locations - including our Summer pop up to be announced very soon!