Tunisia is the northernmost country in Africa, nestled just across the Mediterranean Sea from Italy. With a warm climate and a long and gentle coastline, Tunisia, for over 2000 years, has witnessed the passage of Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Turks, Italians, Spanish and French and others. They came as fugitives and adventurers, to conquer and claim, as warriors and missionaries, traders and farmers, each leaving behind a part of their culture. Tunisia now has a modern, Western-oriented outlook.
As a close neighbor to Europe, their main trading partners are France, Italy and other EU nations. Since independence from France in 1956, Tunisia has been dedicated to educating its people and workforce, which has led many European companies to invest in Tunisia for their manufacturing facilities. Modern Tunisia also plays a pivotal role in helping bridge the gap between the Muslim world and the Europe and the West. Tunisia’s emphasis on moderation and tolerance is one reason why 6 million Europeans vacation there each year.
At their ceramics studio in Tunisia, Le Souk Ceramique artists paint each and every piece entirely free hand without the use of decals, tracing, stencils or any type of machinery for painting. They use a team approach, so no one piece is painted from start to finish by just one person. First, they paint the design outlines, such as the black fish outlines for Aqua Fish or the blue lines for Tabarka and then each piece is passed to a different person for each color or artistic element. So for Aqua Fish, the first person paints the black lines, then the second person does the green fill in, the third does the cobalt blue fill in, the fourth does the pistachio, the fifth sky blue, the sixth does the tiny black dots and then the seventh person does the blue edge work as the finishing touch for color. Finally, the eighth person dunks the piece into the glaze.
Because of the team approach and because each artist paints their part free-hand, no two pieces will ever be identical, nor do they want them to be. Furthermore, they mix each batch of color by hand, so color intensity can vary over time. Each time someone dips their paintbrush in water and then into the glaze color, the color density will be slightly affected. They utilize only food safe paints and glazes that comply with US FDA regulations for lead and cadmium, European REACH regulations, as well as the even more stringent California Prop 65 standards.
By purchasing their ceramics, you are supporting their small artist based studios in Nebeul. Their working conditions are excellent adhering to fair trade principles Bottega Solidale which is part of AGICES in Italy. AGICES is a member of WFTO, the World Fair Trade Organization and so their process uses all the WFTO protocols and criteria. Bottega Solidale is one of the oldest proponents of Fair Trade. Le Souk Ceramique pays into the Tunisian social security and medical care programs for each artist. Their salary scale provides a decent, livable wage for every employee and helps keep alive a spirit of hand-crafted products in an increasingly machine-made world.
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