Fueled by travel, culture, and craftsmanship, Artisans & Co. highlights the beauty of Moroccan Berber rugs. Their carefully curated selection is full of brilliant colors and exciting patterns, and features work sourced from women’s cooperatives, merchants, and individuals in Morocco. By focusing on the connection between artisan and product, each rug communicates emotion and story through tradition and technique. Their collection will soon include pillows, blankets, and more. Read on as founder Chloe D’Angelo shares a behind the scenes look at process and product.
What led you to start Artisans & Co.?
In 2014 I went to Morocco for the first time and was totally overwhelmed and in love. The chaos of the souks, the colors of the desert, the ornate architecture, the craftsmanship and artistry everywhere you look – it was incredible. Ultimately, what started as a casual trip to Marrakech turned into the start of my company. I became obsessed with collecting and shopping for rugs, and the more I talked to people about it the more I realized I wasn’t alone. Friends, family, and friends of friends all seemed to be in need when it came to sourcing rugs. From there, I decided to make it official and turn my sideline hobby into a business.
What are some interesting things we might not know about Moroccan Berber rugs?
Berber rugs’ patterns, colors, and weaving techniques represent the region or origin of their tribe, many of which have been maintained for ages. You’ll see names like Beni Ouarain (the wildly popular white or natural-colored rugs with the simplistic black, gray or brown diamond lines running through it), Azilal, Boucherouite. Like the distinctive designs that vary among regions, the names reference each tribe or place of origin.
So much of the overall style is influenced by tradition, yet each individual rug is unique; it’ll have subtleties and variations to remind you there is a person creating the work. This is my favorite part, the bits of flair found in each piece. It can be as small as a symbol or fleck of color on an otherwise neutral rug, or, it can be powerful enough to blow you away. In some cases you look at a rug and say to yourself, this person is an artist…the unicorn of the group.
Have the rugs and weaving techniques changed over time?
Not really – that’s part of what makes them so amazing. In a lot of ways the practice itself is a time capsule. The styles and techniques are passed on from generation to generation and remain relatively preserved because of how remote the areas are. That said, you can definitely tell the difference between an old rug and a new one. The mystery and history behind an old rug is beautiful, and the aging process and visible wear of time is in itself an art form. Bright colors become pastels and thick, spongy wool becomes thin and silky.
Where do you source the rugs from, and what is it like to interact with the weavers?
Most of our rugs come from very small villages in the mid and high Atlas Mountains. We originally found them by driving up to villages and talking to locals – kids would bring you to their aunt’s, who’d bring you to their sister-in-law, who’d bring you to her cousin. Almost everywhere we went, we were surprised by how welcoming they were of total strangers. Women would invite you into their homes, serve you Moroccan tea and pastries, and be totally at ease. There was usually a pretty big language barrier, but food is a universal that can transcend languages and create a bond. That, and gratitude. Some of my favorite memories are sitting in those homes, sipping tea, and watching as they pulled rugs out one after another. Each reveal contained such optimism it was hard to stay focused and not let your emotions take over the selection process.
The thrill of scoring a sale – both for them and for us – was part of what made it so exciting. Not only were thrilled by the beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces we found, but also by the joy it brought them to pass their work on. The personal connection that we made in each case is why we love it so much.
Anything else you’d like to add?
There are a couple fun facts that add to the uniqueness of Berber Rugs. First, for superstitious reasons Berber women often don’t unroll the finished parts of the carpet before it’s completed. This is evident in irregular or straying patterns you’ll sometimes find in these rugs. And second, you’ll find a lot of Berber rugs have a warmer, almost yellow hue. This is because the rugs are made from live wool, or wool that’s been shorn from a live sheep (as opposed to animals that are used for their hides/fur). It’s something that sets these rugs apart from factory-made and sold pieces, which are bleached or dyed.