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Potters compete with Asian mass production

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(29 May 2017) LEADINPotters in the Safi area of Morocco are trying to maintain their traditional style against competition from mass produced goods from Asia.They are taking advantage of new technology and adding to hundreds of years of local creativity.STORYLINEAhmed Serghini opens the large double doors to his pottery shop in Safi.The Moroccan city is nationally and internationally renowned for its ceramics.It has the advantage of an abundance of quality raw materials and it became a place of significant cultural heritage.Serghini is among a number of well-known potters to have inherited eight generations of pottery skills."I started practicing pottery with my father. For him it was a source of income, but for me it was an art and creativity," he explains."My aim from the beginning was to develop this craft, because the pottery history of Safi is full of achievements and this craft deserves to be more developed."Serghini is a pioneer in innovative pottery, expanding on old methods while preserving a traditional touch.After working for his family's workshop he opened his own aged 22.He now owns two large workshops with 20 employees as well as a string of shops.The clay of Safi is very calcareous and rich in iron oxide, which creates a texture which gives metallic reflections to the pottery,The potters put the clay in water and leave it for 24 hours to become a paste. They then put the paste in the sun and divide it into slabs. They leave the slabs in a humid room for 10 days, then put it through a machine which crushes it and lets the air bubbles escape.Then it is ready to be moulded into pottery, decorated, enamelled and fired.Serghini is keen to perfect all the techniques of pottery production in order to satisfy customers from all over the world. He currently sells his pottery in Morocco as well as other countries including France, the USA and Canada."I organised many fairs in Europe where I exhibited a new collection of pottery every year," he says."I worked always to renew my collection, to not stagnate and to satisfy all the customers. And all that with keeping our authentic character."But while Serghini strives to be original he says he's constantly struggling with competition from other manufacturers, particularly from Asia, copying his designs then offering them at lower prices. Because of this he says he has had to reduce his employees from 100 in 2003 to just 20 today.The crisis has been felt by potters across Safi. There are several sites of pottery production in the area, but the main ones are located in two quarters of the city: the Potters Hill and the Chaaba valley.The Potters Hill is one of the oldest quarters of the city and its workshops are well equipped. But in the Chaaba Valley, where there are 100 workshop potters, the remote location on the edge of the valley makes business difficult and the old, traditional ovens are not always efficient.But now a new programme will gather the Chaaba potters in a craft zone next to the clay quarries. This area will be fitted with new equipment, including 100 gas ovens. The potters be able to carry out their craft in the new workshop in March 2018.Legriaa Hassan is a member of the Crafts Chamber in Safi and says the programme is an important step to helping local potters work more efficiently.Despite the challenges Moroccan potters have faced from mass produced goods, they say there will always be a vast difference between what a potter's hand can make compared to a machine. But that won't stop them from taking advantage of new technology and combining it with the craftsmanship of their ancestors.You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/you... Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork

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AP Archive 4098699 e5074250f4d8f09e84f0119e1dda07d9 MEEX Morocco Pottery Morocco North Africa Lifestyle Arts and entertainment
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