1000 Shades of Local Green
Tamegroute lies in the South of Morocco, just before the immense Sahara. In the Berber language, Tamegroute means "last place before the desert". The town arose in the 6th century and is one of the oldest towns in Morocco. It was the last stop for the well known trade caravans who travels to Timbuktu with their camels.
This village is a short drive from the Sandcastle (Ait isfoul) and one of my favourite places to add to my growing collection of Tamegroute Pottery. The sturdy pieces with small imperfections which make each piece unique, calls to my artist handmade soul. The town is not hard to find with its 7 ovens, belonging to 7 families, each family has its own oven and clay atelier. Each member of the family has their own task in the process of creating this art and the teachings have been passed down through the generations.
The process has multiple steps and each one building on the last. Hunks of Clay are dug out of the Draa riverbed and bought to the atelier. The clay is then mixed with water. It then is stretch out on the ground to let the moisture evaporate. They seem to some know how it is just the right time to knead. When it is perfect, the potter spins it, each atelier has a hole dug where the potter sits up to his waist and spins and forms the clay. Piece after piece is worked and tamed, and the wheel goes on for hours. The way the clay melts into what its desired outcome by the masters is magic to my eyes. It is then stored and fired and they will fine tune any corrections at that time.
Then it is baked only once, the glaze is painted on prior to the oven. It consists of manganese, silicon and copper. The 1% copper and the clay is what forms the shades of green. It can sometimes be replaced with iron oxide which produces more of a brown olive colour. Each piece will be baked at high temperatures which will make the initial glaze turn to its specific and variable shade of green. The oven reach 1200 degrees Celsius and they say the hotter the oven the stronger the pottery.
It truly is a work of art that requires years of experience, no measuring or thermometers are ever used. Each piece is unique and nothing is ever exactly the same. The spot in the oven, the composition of the glaze, the heat of the firing, the potters technique are all elements that shape the outcome.
Simple, practical, decorative and made for daily use. When you come to Ait isfoul, you will be served off these local works of art. I believe that all things are better when made by hand and especially when you have the ability to pay the artisan directly. I think I can taste the difference when I use these little pieces of art?