New to our website this week is a small collection of mid-century, hand knotted wool rugs from Jebel Siroua, in the southern High Atlas region. This is a quiet corner of Morocco, rarely attracting visitors, where the local Berber people live a simple traditional life, grazing their sheep and farming almonds and saffron, for which the region is famous.
It is extremely cold in this part of the mountains, with snow usually covering the summit of Jebel Siroua in the winter (an ancient strato volcano) which can only be reached with ropes by professional climbers. By Easter the snow melts, and Autumn sees the long, time consuming task of harvesting the saffron. Carpets are woven here in the homes of the Berber tribes, and at any time if you visit you can see the weaving of carpets in production and enjoy a cup of saffron tea!
Check out our collection of rugs from this remote region, which are around 70-80 years old, and all completely unique.
We’re loving the trend for modern Berber rugs and kilims here at Marble and Mint. Spring is fast approaching, the light is changing and soon we will probably be thinking about packing away our cosy pile rugs for something lighter for the warmer months. So, in addition to our collection of new Beni Ouarain rugs, we are now introducing some stunning new flat weave kilims. Some designs are already up on our website, with more designs in stock in Marrakech.
Custom sizes are also available to order. These wool kilims are made exclusively for us, using our own designs, in our workshop in the Anti Atlas region of Morocco. Their simple, classic designs and paired down colour palettes make them ideal for a contemporary interior, and a perfect partner for a wooden, stone or tiled floor. A personal favourite is the black and white design (seen here at Maison et Objet in Paris last month) which we know will be popular with anyone in love with monochrome interiors. Please get in touch or give us a call if you would like any more information. Tel. 0044 (0)7746 727536 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
With a wide spectrum of colours available, and the ability to specify your own size and even the design, modern Beni Ouarain rugs are becoming increasingly popular. Using wool from sheep kept at high elevations (thick and soft) Berber women weave these rugs on vertical looms, in exactly the same way as they have been made for centuries. Each rug can take at least one month to complete, and is washed and dried in the sun many times to achieve its characteristic soft and silky texture. The texture improves with each washing.
Our partner, a family business in Marrakech, Bazar du Sud, have their own workshop in the Anti Atlas region, an area of rocky outcrops and small villages, where their workforce arrive every morning to produce, for them exclusively, their own designs and bespoke orders. They travel the long journey into the mountains regularly to check on orders and to transport completed pieces back to Marrakech. If you would like to commission a custom made Beni rug, or would like to see more of our stock in Marrakech, please email us at email@example.com. We will be happy to help.
We’re into the middle of November, and even though Christmas is everywhere already, it’s still a little early for me to be thinking earnestly about the festive season! What is nice though, and never too early to consider, is how to make your home warm and cosy, not just for Christmas, but to see you through the long cold months ahead. A pure wool rug, with a soft deep pile is the perfect addition to any room for the Winter season.
My December issue of Elle Decoration UK recently arrived, and features a beautiful vintage Beni Ouarain rug, which sits perfectly next to the simple Christmas fir trees in this Danish home photographed by Birgitta Wolfgang. This simple Scandinavian style setting is stunning, but with their classic designs and monochrome colours, Beni rugs sit easily with any interior style. We have some beautiful vintage Beni rugs available in our stock in Marrakech, but we also offer as an alternative a collection of modern rugs, woven from the finest quality wool using traditional weaving techniques. Take a look at our sample size sale, a collection of rugs in the perfect size for sitting in front of a sofa, the fire, or underneath a small table. After weaving, these modern rugs are washed and dried up to eight times, and it’s this repeated washing which improves the appearance and texture of the wool, giving it a luxuriously soft silkiness. Perfect for sinking your feet into! Buying a good quality rug like this is an investment, and with the right care it can and should last you a lifetime, not just for Christmas!
Trawling through the internet this morning to find a suitable image to illustrate the difference between ‘black’ and ‘brown’ designs on a Beni Ouarain rug. Unfortunately we don’t know the source of this beautiful photo, but you can clearly see that the classic lattice design on this lovely Beni rug is woven in brown wool. So what is the difference? and how can you know what you are buying? It is often very difficult to tell from photos whether a design is in fact brown or black. If you’re working with a neutral palette, either brown or black will probably work in a room, but we are often asked by clients specifically for a Beni rug with a ‘black’ design.
You can find vintage Beni rugs woven with either brown or black designs, but ‘black’ will often have faded down to a lovely charcoal grey over years of use and washing. However, it is worth noting that contemporary Beni Ouarain rugs woven with undyed wool are invariably woven with a brownish coloured wool, the reason for this is simply that wool from pure black sheep has become increasingly difficult to source. Therefore if you do find a modern Beni rug with a black design, you can probably assume that the wool has been dyed. This doesn’t detract from its beauty in any way of course! If you are looking specifically for a rug with a black design, we will do our best to find one for you, and this often involves getting some really good close up photos of the rug to double check the colour of the design. A custom made rug can, of course, be made in the colour of your choice
Morocco is the country where most Berber people live today. Their origin is not really known and neither is the origin of the name Berber. Recent research suggests that the Berber people once populated the whole of North Africa until Arab immigration drove them out of the Eastern regions. We now describe all tribal and village carpets from Morocco as Berber even though the tribe may now speak Arabic.
Berber carpets generally have a coarse quality. They are creations of rustic folk art by women living with their families in villages or as nomads. They are woven for their own use, as bedding or blankets, or to decorate their homes for special occasions such as a wedding. They are prized possessions but if cash is needed, a carpet is taken to a local souk to be sold.
Whilst weaving, the lower part of the carpet is rolled and disappears from sight, so the weaver must rely on her creativity to continue her work, using tradition but also her imagination. The symbolism of the Berber carpet is the expression of a primitive fertility cult, originating from remote early cultures. There is no other form of artisan art in which this still survives to this day.
A weaver will not generally be aware of the meanings of the symbols she uses, simply saying that her mother or grandmother used the same ones. However, we do know that the main ‘female’ symbols in Berber carpets are the lozenge, the chevron and the X shape. The eight pointed star, known as ‘Solomon’s Star’ also belongs to the feminine fertility symbols. Maternity is the most important aspect of a Berber woman’s life. ‘Male’ symbols are always long and thin, straight lines or sticks next to one another, sometimes forming a fish-bone pattern. The ‘snake’ also plays an important part in male symbolism and is the only animal which appears in Berber carpets with a symbolic meaning. Male motifs usually frame the female motifs and almost always form a border to the rectangular area of a carpet.
Understanding the meaning of symbols gives a Berber carpet a new dimension other than just aesthetic admiration.
Extracts and images from ‘Berber Carpets of Morocco – the Symbols, Origin and Meaning’ by Bruno Barbatti. A recommended read for anyone interested in exploring the history and style of Moroccan carpets.