Florie Salnot certainly is a remarkable young woman. After completing her studies in Paris and London, she embarked upon a project that involved creating a production method for making a unique genre of jewellery. She then travelled thousands of miles to a remote region of the Sahara Desert in order to teach this method to a community of refugees.


The designer’s interest in world social issues and her passion for design inspired her to initiate a project to help the Saharawi People of Western Sahara. The Saharawis are former nomadic people who lived in Western Sahara until, in 1975, Morocco annexed their territory. Since then, over half of them have been living in exile in a barren and remote stretch of the Algerian desert. There is virtually no work or resources and the Saharawis are dependent on precarious aid flows (food and other essential aid for survival).  They used to have a craft tradition, but the lack of the resources and few sales opportunities have resulted in a decline of their craft.

Florie created a technique and some specific tools to enable the Sharawi refugees to produce jewellery with the very limited resources which are available in their camps, i.e. plastic bottles and sand.
 
The technique:
Plastic bottles are painted and then cut into thin strips with a cutting tool. Then, a pattern is made by weaving the plastic strip around the nails of a jig and the whole piece is submerged into hot sand. The plastic strip reacts to the heat by shrinking along all the points of contact with the metal nails on the jig to form a permanent shape. This creates the components for the jewellery pieces.
In Florie’s own words “It is a very simple technique which, however, has the power to make the non-precious become precious"

In the spring 2009, Florie introduced the technique to the Saharawi refugees, encouraging them to use it to express themselves by designing jewellery pieces.
"The women conveyed great passion and intensity of engagment  with the creative process. As the workshop lasted only three hours a day, most of them continued working at home and came back to school the day after with new creations. They became steadily more motivated, while the number of pieces of jewellery produced increased and diversified. Indeed, the women inspired each other with their creations and were encouraged by the compliments and the feedback from the visitors (either the Saharawis or foreigners) to the workshop."
Since then the Saharawis have continued to use the technique to create jewellery and managed to earn money with it.

A year later and Florie returned for a collaboration with local artists aimed at designing a jewellery collection using nothing other than the resources directly available in the camps.

During the workshop she left the jewellery the women had produced on a table in the classroom for people to look at. One day they realized that a piece had been stolen.
Florie was really upset, but the women were laughing. They explained that they were happy and surprised to see that their work could appeal so much that it could get stolen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once back home, Florie has kept on working on the project in order to design a fine collection of pieces of jewellery which could sell better internationally and, at the same time, would be easy to produce. She is currently looking for retailers to sell them in Europe and launch the production with the Saharawis.

The project was enabled thanks to the help and sponsorship of Sandblast, an arts and human rights charity which wants to empower the Saharawis, to tell their own story, promote their own culture and earn a living through the arts.


About the designer
After designer Florie Salnot had studied arts & anthropology at The Sorbonne and cabinet making at the Ecole Boulle, Paris, she graduated from the MA Design Products course at the Royal College of Arts, London in summer 2010.

 

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