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Female artisans carry on family tradition

Craftswomen in Lebanon are eager to carry on family traditions, although they lack government support.

In the workshop of the Barchini family, science and art collide. Dana Barchini, 26, and her father Joseph Barchini, 80, both potters and sculptors, work alongside each other, whether it be in the family workspace or testing clay in the Bekaa Valley to be used for their pieces. Joseph, educated in France at the Ecole des Metiers d'art, returned to Lebanon after also receiving his doctorate at the Sorbonne, where he studied the technical aspects of the ceramics the potters created in his native country, as well as their socio-economic situation. He returned to Lebanon to use his knowledge to improve the potters’ situation and to help modernize their work process. Joseph opened his first workshop in 1965 in his parents’ home in Beirut, but when the civil war began, he had to move north. Now he spends nearly every day in his second workshop he built in Ain Saade in 1980, a village eight miles north of Beirut, testing different aspects of the pottery craft and creating new glazes through chemical reactions.

“I'm working by myself and learning the whole process. Now I know how to make my own clay. I go to the mountains, I make the clay, I love the process. Because he is a technician, he is teaching me this whole process, but at the same time, I have my own crazy ideas. I’m doing both,” Dana told Al-Monitor, sitting next to her father.

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