Date of this Version
From Textiles in Daily Life: Proceedings of the Third Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 24–26, 1992 (Earleville, MD: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1993).
My original desire to study an urban center which still produced elaborate handmade textiles was to provide some possible clues to more seriously consider the practical side of historic production. In other words, what were the physical concerns and limitations of cloth production. In the end I learned that textiles often function in a very complex, multidimensional form and cannot be truly understood without considering many facets of the society which produced them. Conversely, in societies where textiles are highly valued, their study can add much to understanding everything from cultural values, economics and technology to international politics.
In addition to the obvious subject of this paper, handweaving in everyday life of artisans, merchants and consumers in Fez, my object in this presentation is twofold. First I would like to help form a better understanding of the degree of specialization and complexity of cloth in a society which has traditionally depended upon handwoven production. Secondly I would like to provide a basic knowledge, a certain degree of comfort, and thus an appreciation about drawlooms and the fabrics produced by them. The means I have chosen to achieve this two point agenda is to introduce three weaving workshops which were active in the late 1980's in the old city of Fez, Morocco, noting the physical surroundings and learning of the weavers' training as well as their business concerns. We will conclude our exposure in the textile showroom of an old, well established crafts family that has successfully made the transition to industrial production while still maintaining much of the essence of the Moroccan cloth tradition.
As noted in the foregoing papers presented on this panel, Fez is an urban center which has long been associated with cloth production. During the 14th century when it was considered second only to Cairo in the Moslem world, Ibn Abi Zar1 a contemporary writer cites documents that indicate that as early as the 12 century the city already had over 3,000 looms while a 16th century account, written shortly after the Andulian migration, states that there were 20,000 textile workers in the city.2 Even today when most of the world's cloth is produced industrially the Handweavers Cooperative Association, a government sponsored organization supporting commercial handwoven production has a sizeable membership. This organization represents only the weavers who take advantage of group purchase of weaving threads and group marketing practices. The president of the association is Haj Tahar Hajoui who has a small workshop not far from Fez's famous tanneries.