2017

Moroccan Leather Embroidery

ABURY Foundation

The process of hand embroidery on leather

The different steps of hand embroidery on leather
Hand embroidery is an ancient craftsmanship in Morocco. The artisans use their knowledge which is traded from generation to generation, in order to produce wonderfully embroidered leather products. Traditionally, the berber bags were made that way. Every artisan ornamented his bags with different patterns which could tell a lot about the artisan as well as the owner of the bag. The craftsmanship survived until today even though it was modernized a little bit. Nevertheless, it is all handmade and not everyone can do it. This is how a typical artisan's work place in Medina in Marrakech looks like. Here, the beautiful embroidered leather products come to life.

This is an artisan from Marrakech, Morocco. He is specialised in working with leather and embroidery, an old craftsmanship which is typical for Morocco. It combines ancient knowledge with extraordinary skills.

Before starting to work directly with leather and silk, the artisan draws circles, flourishes and artistic forms that create the pattern which will be embroidered onto the leather later.

To do this, the artisan draws the design on a thick paper, which is usually some leftovers from boxes used as packaging for industrial objects. He has to be very accurate in his drawings.

The artisan uses compass, ruler and a fine pencil to draw the design which is later going to be embroidered onto the leather.

After the pencil drawing is prepared, the artisan covers every line of the fine drawing with glue. For this, he uses a thick paintbrush.

After having drawn the pattern and having covered it with glue, the artisan is prepared for the next step.

Preparing the next step – getting ready all the tools the artisan needs for the crafting: a pencil, paintbrush, hammer, thick thread, glue, tweezer – no machines are involved.

Now, the artisan uses thick yarn to exactly reproduce the lines he was drawing before. This is a difficult task and requires a steady hand and great accuracy.

After placing the yarn in the correct spot, the artisan uses a hammer to clamp it to the carton. This way, the drawing is transformed into an embossed pattern.

This process is repeated various times in order to attach the different layers of lines carefully. Using the pencil helps the artisan to move the sticky yarn to the right place.

These are different patterns and ornaments all used to decorate various embroidered leather products. Originally, they were found on the traditional berber bags. Today they can also be seen on other leather products.

After the template is finished, the artisan starts to prepare the coloured leather onto which the ornament will be embroidered. First, he has to cut it into the right shape.

This is the template which the artisan will use for the next steps.

Then the embossed ornaments are imprinted on the leather. The artisan has to work meticulously in order to bring the template into the right position.

Once he has correctly positioned the template, the artisan uses a hammer to transfer the pattern to the leather. He has to use equal force to transport the pattern evenly onto the leather.

It is very important that the template or the leather are not moved during this process. Otherwise, the ornament's contours become blurred.

But with the right skills and accuracy, the pattern on the leather looks just like the drawing.

After that silk yarn is used. The artisan works with sabra silk, which comes from the agave cactus and is one of the very few vegan silk yarns. Of course, it fits the colour of the leather.

The artisan fixes the leather piece with wooden tweezers placed between his legs. With a thick metal needle and the sabra silk yarn he starts stitching according to the pattern.

This is what the piece looks like during the process of embroidering. The accurate stitches of silk yarn follow the embossed pattern perfectly.

The artisan proudly presents his piece of craftsmanship that took him a full day of skilled and concentrated work.

ABURY Foundation
Credits: Story

Content: Lara Petersen & Nina Pfuderer
Photos: Mohamed Smey

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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