In September 2014, Anou and the British Council launched the first iteration of its collaboration called Common Thread. The objective of the Common Thread programme was to create an equal exchange of ideas and experiences between artisan leaders from the Anou community and UK-based designers. Anou is a unique artisan-led e-commerce site, which brings together cooperatives and artisan communities across Morocco to create equal access to the free market.
During the first year of this programme, Moroccan artisans hosted UK designer Sabrina Kraus-Lopez, who led an introductory design workshop with 6 artisan leaders from the Anou community. The workshop focused on inspiring new design through the artisans’ personal stories and cultural heritage. The ideas and designs produced were used by Sabrina and the artisans to create the Common Thread Collection of rugs, which was displayed at designjunction at the London Design Festival. Anou’s artisan leaders travelled to London to visit numerous galleries, museums, designer studios and other events as part of the London Design Festival. The experience exposed artisans to the idea that design has value, transforming how the artisans perceive design in their own work.
In 2015, 3 UK-based residents and 3 Moroccan residents were selected through an open call to work on collaborative projects with Anou artisans across weaving, leather, jewellery, woodwork, ceramics and metalwork. In cross-disciplinary pairs, the residents shared ideas and processes and produced final pieces, which were showcased in an exhibition and publication in Rabat.
Today design has become an integral part of the Anou's work. The artisans have established a designer-in-residence studio and are working on projects to encourage the integration of design into their working process, looking at how it can add value to their communities.