February 23, 2009

A Day's Work

On my fourth day in Morocco, my fellow travel companions and I traveled around the city of Fes and visited several local artisans. We saw tanners, potters and rug makers. It was by far my most expensive day, having scored many of my souvenirs at the aforementioned places. I even got myself a pair of yellow leather shoes.

Our portion of the day spent at the pottery studio was by far my favorite. It wasn't nearly as high pressure a buying situation as the rug place (think used-car salesmen type pressure). And the tanner, while he made amazing leather goods, had by far the most smelly of shops. (My yellow leather shoes were dyed in part with pigeon poo.) The potter though, had nothing but pretty ceramics to show us. We even got a few demos from each of the work stations.

First there was the man who shaped the clay to form the dishware, pots and vases.

Next we were shown the bits of clay that were dyed and broken in order to form mosaic tile pieces.
Then we were shown the area where men sat hammering away at these little bits. They shaped these tiny pieces to form mosaics that would become tabletops.

These men sat on the floor, hunched over small bits of clay and hammered away. Their sitting position looked far from comfortable. The space they worked in was a small concrete room exposed on two sides to the elements. It was poorly lit and they sat on the ground, their backs against the wall. They sat there and tapped, tapped, tapped away at these bits of sand and stone, all of us in the meantime wandering around, examining their work and taking their pictures. They seemed as intrigued by our wild, foreign group of women as we were by their work. My travel companions and I, more accustomed to cushy office chairs and computer screens, found it unfathomable that this could be someone elses 9 to 5 working position. The owner of the shop went on to tell us that the work these men and women do is considered very good by Moroccan standards. That they are lucky to have these jobs.

The most visually pleasing part of the work was done by the men and women wielding small brushes. They held their pottery close to their faces, hunched over their work, their tiny, elegant strokes becoming miniature masterpieces that crowded their feet.

Despite all the photos I took that day, the one at the top of this post is my favorite. It's simple. The composition turned out well and honestly I felt fortunate to be able to peek into this woman's world for just a moment or two. Hers is a life much different than mine. Hers is a work far different from mine. And while I may have the luxury of a cushy desk chair and climate controlled working conditions, she can leave at the end of her work day and admire all the beauty she has created with her hands.


kelsalynn said...

did you end up buying one of them? I probably wouldn't have been able to resist... after seeing the personal touch that goes into each one. I'm absolutely amazed.

Again, your photography is beautiful. That top pic is stunning.

Amy said...

I did. I bought a vase for myself, a vase for my parents, coasters and an ashtray for Mike. All in blue and white. And trust me, I wanted to get more.