The Heirloom Project at The Met Store
A passion for artisans, their craft and preserving this crucial cultural heritage has always driven El Fenn co-owner, Madeline Weinrib. And after working with them for twenty years on her celebrated eponymous textiles label, Madeline knew these friends and colleagues would be hard hit by the Covid pandemic. ‘I knew there would be unimaginable financial hardship during the lockdowns,’ says Madeline. ‘In many places worldwide, craftspeople depend on a steady flow of visitors and buyers for income. I feared many would be driven to look for other ways to support their families and their skills would be lost.’
Prior to Covid, some 2.3 million people were employed in Morocco’s craft sector – a fifth of the total workforce. But many were driven to near destitution by the pandemic. Determined to do something, Madeline started work from her home in New York. Now the project conceived and executed during the lockdowns has launched at New York’s Metropolitan Museum.
The Heirloom Project celebrates the tenth anniversary of the Met’s reimagined Islamic Wing and uses works from the Met’s collections to inspire pieces created by craftsmen and women in India, Egypt, Turkey, Afghanistan, Lebanon – and of course Morocco. Madeline worked with them to design homeware and accessories that celebrate – and elevate – the skills of artisans worldwide.
In Morocco, Madeline partnered with ceramicist Beatriz Belfrage and Pin Affleck of Made in Tangier, as well as the all-female team at Marrakech social enterprise Al Nour, to create ceramics, textiles and intricately hand-embroidered linens that are now on sale at the Met Store.
‘I’ve always believed that artisanal skills need to be more highly prized,’ says Madeline. ‘We talk alot about art and sculpture but the highly skilled work of producing works like ceramics, textiles and tiling is less celebrated. These are ancient skills that need to be really valued. It’s vital they’re preserved for future generations.’
MADELINE’S TOP PICKS
Pomegranate ice bucket
This elegant ice bucket evokes two Egyptian bottles (ca. 1295–1070 B.C.) in The Met collection – one probably held sweet pomegranate juice for drinking, while the other may have held sour juice reserved for medicinal purposes.
Blooming poppies plate
Good Earth was established in 1996 by studio potter Anita Lal to revive the languishing practices of kumbhars, or village ceramicists, in her native India. The platter’s floral motif is from a late 17th-century floorspread fragment, attributed to India. Shop the collection here.
Bespoke hammam towel
Inspired by a dazzling architectural tile from Uzbekistan, this bespoke hammam towel was produced by Made in Tangier, whose founder Pin Affleck honors the design traditions of her beloved home.
Spiral neck blown glass decanter
This modern interpretation of a nineteenth-century globular spiral neck blown glass bottle from The Met collection was produced by Lebanese brand Orient 499 whose artisans—from woodworkers to embroiderers, glassmakers to couturiers— create home decor, clothing, and accessories.
:: Pieces from The Heirloom Project are available exclusively in The Met Store or online.