Presenting an exclusive collaboration with young Moroccan designer and craftsperson Bouchra Boudoua, The Conran Shop’s sunny new ceramics collection exudes pure joy. To celebrate the launch, we got in touch with Boudoua at her Casablanca studio to discuss all things craft and culture.
1. Hello Bouchra! Firstly, please tell us a little about yourself and your business.
I am a ceramic artist and designer working between Casablanca and Marrakech. I graduated from Central St. Martins College of Art and Design with a BA in Spatial Design, but have since turned to ceramics. I collaborate with local potters to create both functional and decorative pottery.
2. What informs your design aesthetic?
My aesthetic is very graphic and aims to tell stories of roots and heritage. I am continuously inspired by ancient Moroccan craft and the daily graphic information I encounter while living in Morocco. It could be an architectural detail, a pattern on an old rug, or the wall paintings found in certain rural areas of the country. I extract and transform all this information that has now sort of become my own personal language, which I translate onto ceramics.
3. Are there any designers that have inspired you along the way?
Maryam Riazi, Paola Navone, and architects Studio KO to name a few. All three for their relationship with craft and for the natural and earthy aesthetic of their work.
4. You have partnered with some incredible brands and businesses over the last few years; do any projects stand out as particular favourites of yours?
I was lucky enough to partner with some great brands and businesses over the years, and I have loved working with all of them. Collaborations are opportunities for growth and knowledge, so it has been really great to work with brands who share similar values around craft and design. I loved all of them, but I would say I have a little preference for the Mamounia project. Designing plates and bowls for the rooms of the hotel was a great challenge because the space already contains so much craft by some of Morocco's most talented craftsmen. This meant that I had to think about creating pieces that would coexist with the entire environment and history of the space whilst keeping my own aesthetic. I really enjoyed that challenge, as I'm mostly used to working from a blank page. It was also a great honour for me to have my work side by side with some of the most exquisite craftsmanship of Marrakech.
5. You studied Spatial Design at Central Saint Martins before launching your business. What experiences whilst living in London most inspired you?
The city in itself was a great source of inspiration. The eclecticism and openness of London gave me a sense of freedom like no other. Studying in the Southampton Row building in Holborn was also very inspiring; the historic building inhabited by such avant-garde and modern creative energy was something I really cherished. In my work today I aim to find a similar balance between history/heritage and modernity.
6. The Conran Shop is delighted to offer your products; which is your favourite, and why?
I don't have a favourite product; I really tried to look at these pieces as a whole collection. Every piece informs the other. I like them coexisting with their added natural materials such as rattan and raffia, very much like a little family.
7. Many of your works are created in partnership with local potters and artisans, in the hopes of preserving these ancient crafts - something that we also champion at The Conran Shop. How did this relationship come about, and how has it informed the product outcome?
My passion for Moroccan crafts started sometime in my childhood. I've always had great admiration for people who work with their hands and make objects using techniques passed on to them from their ancestors. Craft is such an inherent part of our culture as Moroccans that I couldn't see myself designing objects in any other way but to work with craftsmen. Unfortunately, many crafts, including pottery making, are endangered today because of the effects of urbanisation and globalisation. Younger generations are not as interested in learning their parents' crafts and prefer moving to urban environments to find jobs. Through my work, I aim to continuously respect the traditional savoir-faire of the craft but also raise awareness about the value and importance of preserving these ancient crafts. Through conversations about traditional techniques and ancient shapes, my initial idea for a pot can be completely transformed, and that's a part of the process I really enjoy.
8. How important is sustainability to your practice?
Sustainability is a very important part of my practice. When I first started pottery in Morocco, I realised many small pottery workshops did not have the necessary tools or right raw materials to create safe and sustainable products. That was a turning point in my journey because that's when I decided to open my studio. Having my own studio space allowed me to have more control over the sustainability aspect of my work. We try to recycle as much clay as possible but are very strict on using only non-toxic, lead-free glazes, making all our ceramics food safe. I think as a ceramicist, sustainability is of great importance. Pottery is made of clay, and clay is naturally sourced from the earth- it’s important for me to respect mother nature by using its resources to create objects that continue to live in harmony without causing any harm.
9. What advice might you offer to those wishing to explore a similar path to which you have taken?
My advice is to stay true to yourself, always seek authenticity, be very resilient, and last but not least, if you have chosen the path of ceramics: have a lot of patience.
10. Lastly, what do you hope the future might hold for you and your business?
I hope to continue exploring pottery and to perhaps expand the range of pottery products we offer. Lately, I've been thinking about larger pieces...