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Colorful Boucherouite Rugs Pieced From Moroccan Hand-Me-Downs
Moroccan Rug | Photo by Dan Saelinger
Photo by Dan Saelinger

When a scarcity of wool in 1960s Morocco left women bereft of weaving material, they reached for unwanted Red Cross clothing donations from Great Britain and used the hand-me-downs to create contemporary tribal rugs, called boucherouites. "I often see recognizable fabrics from my grandmother's house clothes," says Susan Gomersall, a U.K. native who now sells the tapestries from the walls of Kea, her Brooklyn, New York, gallery. To acquire each boucherouite—Moroccan-Arabic for "torn clothing"—rug brokers forage the Moroccan countryside for authentic pieces from the 1960s, like this inverted chevron, an interpretation of a traditional tribal protective pattern. "The villagers know and trust the brokers," Gomersall says. "Everyone gets a bit of the pie." As the boucherouite trend is still growing, prices remain low. (This piece costs $2,800, as compared to Iranian Persian rugs that can fetch $25,000.) Soon, Gomersall predicts that Moroccans will start weaving specifically for export. Until then, each rug serves as a relic of a Moroccan household, "made on the whim of the maker."

A version of this article appeared in the November 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.