Last year we got to know Camille Bertrand, or Brodeuse Voyageuse (The Nomad Stitcher). This young woman had in mind to work with a group of Chinese embroiderers (Miao) and another group of women in Morocco, to then sell the products in France, targeting small series, even Haute Couture. Through her, we discovered the Miao embroiderers (Miao embroidery, China). Stranded in Morocco by the pandemic, Camille told us about her last year, rich in encounters and experiences.
All photos are by Camille Bertrand and protected by Copyright. Thank you.
Next episode : The Nomad Stitcher – third encounter
In 2018 she discovered Moroccan embroidery (and even gave a course at the École de Salé (see our article about this school here). In Morocco, the public space is masculine and women stay at home. To have a meeting place, they create cooperatives, places out of sight where they can chat while practicing crafts.
Camille discovered several of these cooperatives where embroidery is practiced, and was surprised at the diversity of techniques compared to France, even though both countries are so close geographically. The cooperative closest to Marrakech was self-sufficient and Camille couldn’t find how to work there. After several attempts, it iwas in the south-east of Morocco, near Zagora at the end of the Drâa Valley, that she met with a family of 5 brothers. They had created a cooperative (Amezron) in which a room was reserved for women and it was there that Camille discovered real traditional techniques in a respectful atmosphere. The men don’t interfere in the business: “It’s the women who set their prices! “ But they are happy to help with translations.
The Amezrou cooperative
These women are often young and practice techniques received from previous generations. But colonization has made it lose its meaning: colors and patterns are no longer linked to a place, a state of life, with rare exceptions, such as this fibula worn single until marriage and double afterwards.
The group wanted to learn new things, new techniques and to try them on the fabrics brought by Camille. Mass tourism has created great damage with the idea that Moroccan crafts should be cheap. The stitchers would use the cheapest fabrics (since they have to pay for them), most often synthetic. Camille was keen to use natural materials and proposed them to the women. The idea was to increase the income of the embroiderers by offering high quality in the end. The patterns are simple but authentic and historical. Camille is adapting them to the taste of the day while respecting their origin.
First, she asked for samples to present to French and European designers. She then found a tailor in Marrakech who made purses with natural fabrics from China (see our article cited above) and embroidered by Moroccan women. The quality leather comes from France. When they saw the results, the embroiderers are very pleased. All these first purses were sold around Christmas. Their work really has a meaning, it is valued and values them in return. Camille is convinced that over time, these embroiderers can find a source of creation within themselves.
Embroidered purses, Amezrou
Samples on silk and cotton
The young woman had planned to spend a few weeks in Morocco and then come back to France. But she understood that she really needed to live in this country. She has lived in the village of Demnate since September 2019 where friends are allowing her to have a workshop and a garden to improve her skills in the cultivation and use of dye plants.
Safflower is used to make yellows first, and reds afterwards. It is this specific red that was used to make French military clothing at the beginning of the 20th century.
Planting cosmos – the Cosmos allows you to give shades ranging from yellow to orange depending on the quality of the plant, the dyeing time and the dyed fiber.
While walking on a street, Camille discovered a cotton plant that is very resistant to drought. She collected its seeds and planted them in her garden. Perhaps one day it will be possible to produce enough cotton locally to create the necessary embroidery threads.
Confinement requires a sedentary life. When I called Camille at the end of April 2020, she should have been on a plane for France before going to China. In Morocco, she cannot leave her little corner, and therefore is taking time to watch her plants grow, to experiment with the natural dye (beware: the fig burns the skin !!!) and to imagine another economic model with which she could travel less but invest more: “We have to adjust – we have to start with what we have at hand, not the other way around.”
Embroideries for a purse
The content of this site is free and is not damaged by un-welcomed publicity. I do this work with love and passion but it requires a lot of time. I would like to continue to offer a wider market to our artists, to show how embroidery is a wonderful art. But I do need a little bit of help. If you feel like it, you can participate with a little donation to help me continue. I will be so grateful! Thank you! Claire