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Experiencing Exquisite Craft in Morocco

Experiencing Exquisite Craft in Morocco

Graphic Design senior Kendra Xu reflects on a Wintersession travel course that invited students to soak in the country’s vibrant culture and renowned craftwork.

Graphic Design senior Kendra Xu 18 GD reflects on a Wintersession travel course that invited students to soak in the country’s vibrant culture and renowned craftwork.

From loud alleys to quiet interior spaces, Morocco is a spinning kaleidoscope of carved plaster, painted wood, copper filigree and Zellige walls full of mosaic tiles. During Wintersession, while enrolled in Morocco: Crafting the City, my classmates and I traversed much of the country, jumping from the vibrant cradles of cities such as Fès, Rabat, Casablanca and Marrakesh to colorful mountain towns beyond the reach of tourism.

Emma Werowinski 18 TX installs her final project.

It was in this visually rich environment that we studied Islamic design principles and the age-old craftwork practiced by local artisans, a learning process that proved to be joyous but challenging. As we were humbled by the caliber of the craftsmanship we witnessed, we learned how to communicate through limited means and break down latent prejudices, gaining an appreciation for what is new and unequivocally different—the lifeblood of any cultural exchange.

Pilgrims and tourists visiting Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca.

By the end of our trip, Kelly He 19 IA had found the perfect way to solidify her experience in Morocco: a plaster-carving project with local artisans that bridged the parallel histories of Chinese and Moroccan design motifs.

Kelly He 19 IA adds definition to her collaborative plaster project.

“For me the process of making traditional craftwork is much more valuable than the final outcome,” she explained, comparing it to her usual workflow in Interior Architecture. “The amount of effort you spend thinking, refining and improvising during every single movement of the chisel trains you to be persistent and filled with love.”

For most of us, her words resonate somewhere intangible and deep. Regardless of whether you’re a traditional craftsman or a contemporary artist or designer, the creative spirit has a way of forging an understanding that transcends language, distance, gender and age.

Enjoying the surf in Casablanca.

text and images by Kendra Xu 18 GD

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