Founded by former diplomat Amal Oudrhiri, AYOU works with artisan women in the mountains near Azilal, Morocco to create the world renowned signature product of this country: wool rugs. Each weaver receives a stable wage from AYOU, and works on her own pace to create her dream rug.
"This is where we're different from the other rug makers," said Amal. "Moroccan rugs are popular and much sought after in the world. Many companies gather weavers, give them certain popular patterns, and ask them to make rugs strictly following those designs that have been proved to sell well in Europe and America."
"What we do here, (is that) we pay our artisans a monthly wage, and let them develop their own rugs using their own skills and creativity. In fact, that's how the real traditional Moroccan rugs are made - each rug is designed as the artisan - usually a woman - starts to weave on the loom. There's no draft. No deadline. Everything is in the weaver's mind, and it all happens spontaneously."
And therefore, each AYOU rug is absolutely unique. Just like one cannot step into the same river twice.
To Amal, AYOU is foremost an endeavor to sustain the way of life in the remote mountainous villages in Morocco, while making sure both the environment and the people are treated with dignity and fairness in the process. They shear wool from the sheep raised by the weavers' families and neighbors. They use natural dyes extracted from vegetables. And by employing some new technologies - digital photography, social media, etc., the stunning creativity of these rural artisans is truly shining through.
"I used to represent my country, and now, well, I'm still representing my country".
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Photos: Courtesy of AYOU.