From 2000 to 2001, Jean-François Vaillant lived in Syria, forging numerous relationships with local artisans. Facing a return to his native France, Vaillant pondered the question of how he could keep these valuable friendships alive but also help artisans and their families. The answer: creating Salaheddin, a Fair Trade company based in Western Brittany, France. Launched in 2004, Salaheddin is an importer of Syrian handicrafts created by artisans from Damascus, Aleppo, and other Syrian cities. Items the company imports include a wide variety mouth-blown glass products from glassware to ornate lamps but also soap, felt rugs as well as assorted copper and wooden home décor items.
With the creation of Salaheddin, the artisans were able to expand their market reach, but it also gave them a new perspective and appreciation of the work they created. This expansion was not only essential but vital to keep the tradition alive in creating handmade objects as well as earning an income so that they could provide for their families.
Salaheddin’s process is simple: instituting a safe work haven for the artisans, but also helping them start a new life in France. With the civil war in Syria, Vaillant has helped approximately 25 artisan families to keep producing items. Their most popular products are the mouth-blown glass lamps and tableware. The pieces are created by one of the oldest glass producing families outside of Damascus. Much of the glass used is recycled and purchased in Europe. The artisans create their own designs with some modifications provided by Vaillant or requests made by buyers.
A big seller among customers is Salaheddin’s olive-oil based soap. The art of making soap comes from Aleppo, which is traditionally made from olive oil and the oil from laurel berries. Because of the current conditions in Syria, the soap-making facilities have been moved to the Turkish-Syrian border where many of the artisans have resettled.
Jean-François Vaillant and his team of artisans will be in New York City from January 31st to February 3, 2016, to exhibit Salaheddin’s new collection of glassware at NY NOW’s Artisan Resource at the Jacob K. Javits Conference Center.
For more information about Salaheddin, please visit www.salaheddin.net.