A Tapestry Experiment
“Wedding in the Village” by
Basima Mohamed. Currently
In 1951 Egyptian architect Ramses Wissa Wassef founded an art studio based on an unusal concept. He believed that all people were born with artistic abilities and the only way to ensure the development of these abilities was to nurture and encourage them during childhood.
He began in the 1940s by teaching children in Cairo, Egypt to weave tapestries. After the children learned to weave they then produced tapestries following three rules created by Wassef to encourage creativity: No preliminary sketches or cartoons could be used, no external aesthetic influences, and adults could not critically interfere with the work of the children.
The results were so successful Wassef founded the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre in Harrania, Egypt. The children at the studio wove amazing tapestries, completely from their imagination. The resulting tapestries were—and still are—incredible. Bright colors and beautiful imagery leap out from the tapestries. Today, tapestries from the Art Centre can be found in museums and art galleries around the world.
Wassef also believed that it was important for the weavers to be able to be paid fairly for their work, so each weaver is paid for each piece they weave. The amount varies depending on the size, time taken, quality, and complexity of the piece. Most importantly, weavers are paid regardless of whether a piece has sold or is still for sale.
Over sixty years later the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre is still in the small town of Harrania. Several of the original child weavers are still at the school producing woven works of art as are a second generation of weavers, trained by Wassef’s daughter Suzanne.
Unfortunately the Art Centre is currently in danger. Since the Egyptian revolution sales have been low and the Centre is in jeopardy of closing. If you would like to help support this amazing organization, and some truly talented fiber artists you can do so by purchasing artworks by the Centre’s weavers here or here. You can also purchase an exhibition catalog of the weavers work by emailing Barbara Heller at firstname.lastname@example.org.