Friday, October 18, 2013

The Fabled Tea-pots of Fez

Jess Stephens with her tea-pot sculpture at Riad Laaroussa

The ordinary, humble tea-pot is not normally an object you would associate with art. However, local artist Jess Stephens has turned 70 of them into a light fitting with a difference, writes Suzanna Clarke

"All the tea-pots are sourced from souks and junk markets," says Jess. "It's about social ritual - they've all got a history. Goodness knows how many cups of tea they have poured. There's a certain charm to the older ones."

The unusual sculpture, titled Community Service II was commissioned as a light-fitting by the owners of the boutique Fez hotel, Riad Laaroussa, Fred Sola and Cathy Bellafronto. It now graces the lounge room of the hotel.

"We get the most surprised reaction from our Moroccan visitors," says Cathy. "They tell us it's the first time they've seen something used like that that has been so much part of their lives. It really engages them, and often they crack up. And they all want to take photos."

Originally from Wales, Jess has been based in Sefrou near Fez for the past six years. She was trained in Fine Art at Kingston University in London and spent eight years in Barcelona. While there she studied for an MA through Winchester University.

As well as her fondness for using found objects in her work, Jess also creates drawings, bespoke jewellery and paintings. Community Service II is the second in a series of sculptures using found objects, and it's a new area for her to explore. "Actually," she says, "this is the first time I've attempted to do a sculpture".

The sculpture was made using a frame, with the tea-pots bolted onto it. Jess says that while assembling the materials, she became known as the "tea-pot lady", and local merchants would seek her out to let her know when they had found another one for her. "I also found a bag of glass droplets (from a chandelier), and I knew exactly where those were going to go."

The original tea-pot sculpture, Community Service I, was commissioned by Vanessa and Vincent Bonnin, who run the hotel and restaurant Dar Roumana, and hangs in their house.

Jess's original tea-pot sculpture, Community Service I

Jess finds living in Morocco an everyday inspiration. "There are so many things people can play with in the medinas' of Morocco," she says.

Her latest artworks are part of a series called Buckets of Dreams and are stylish lamps using old, handmade hammam buckets.

Jess accepts commissions for her artworks, and also runs artisan tours, where tourists can meet the makers of various handicrafts. For further information CLICK HERE. 

Community Service II, hanging in Riad Laaroussa

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