Chances are if you have a piece of pottery from Morocco it’s signed “Safi” on the back. Safi is not a person’s name, it’s the name of a coastal city where the bulk of Morocco’s pottery is made. In fact this is one of the only things Safi is known for, but what a reputation to have! When my mom was visiting we decided to go to Safi and see the process. From Marrakech it was a day trip and while the roads in some places were not so great it was well worth the trip.
Why Safi for pottery? The clay that is used is found in the area near Safi (and also near Rabat) and so for generations it’s been the seat of the trade. I was shocked to learn just how many steps and how much work goes into creating each piece of pottery. Yes, they are nearly ALL made individually and by hand. From the extraction of the clay from the ground, to preparing it, molding it, drying it, shaping it, painting it and firing it – all by hand.
This man is a master potter, although I don’t know for certain, like many Moroccan artisans this is not something he’s picked up later in life. He’s likely been involved in the trade for his entire life. Watching him work was amazing. I have thrown pottery before and it is NOT easy.
There are two ways of firing pottery. This picture is in a gas powered kiln. The heat is more even allowing for less breakage and waste. But each piece still is separated and put in by hand.
These domes are the traditional wood fired kilns and while incredibly interesting (and still in use!) they’re not very reliable. Pottery breaks much easier because the temperatures are difficult to regulate. But, some potters who can’t afford to use the gas ovens still use these for their work.
The best news? Safi is not hot on the tourist visit map. It’s a sleepy seaside town where life goes on in much the way it has for decades. The people we met were welcoming and kind – one even offered to share his lunch with me, and gave us a personal tour of the workshops.
That’s Moroccan hospitality!
Friday 28th of October 2022
Funny how I stumbled on this post! A day ago I found the cutest little porcelain babouche in a second hand shop in my area (Stockholm, Sweden) and at the bottom it's signed Safi. I was wondering if it was a name or a place in Morocco. Well, now I know!! Thanks Amanda for this informative post! And all the other interesting posts you share, your blog is awesome!
Friday 28th of October 2022
Love this! Thank you for sharing the story!!
Saturday 12th of March 2022
Hello! I’m really looking for a whole week workshop. I’m a very beginner but I’m really interested in improving my knowledge in an intensive week of studying and working with clay. Do you offer this kind of workshop?
Sunday 13th of March 2022
No I'm afraid I don't provide any workshops, this post is only sharing about this place.
Thursday 22nd of April 2021
Hello! Thank you for posting about Safi; I was wondering if you know whether the ateliers had either a website or an email? I'm looking to organise a wholesale purchase on my next trip over for export.
Thursday 29th of April 2021
I'm honestly unsure. Things may have changed now given the current state of the world but previously few sellers were online directly.
Sunday 9th of February 2020
Hi! Can u send me the link of the tour you took from Marrakesh?
Thursday 13th of February 2020
So sorry this wasn't a tour we booked - we drove ourselves.
Sunday 12th of January 2020
I love the ceramic ware and have bought safi in Essaouria. Are the prices better in Safi? I will be in essaouria in Feb 1 to purchase more ceramics . Where can I buy wholesale ? Most Moroccans will not give you this information
Monday 13th of January 2020
I think in Safi you can find larger quantities and probably get it cheaper as it's where the pottery is coming from. I'm afraid I'm not sure where in Essaouira to buy wholesale - there is an area in Marrakech for this and I'm sure in Safi it would be easy to arrange.