Since 1993, Iraq Al-Amir Women’s Cooperative has empowered skilled craftswomen in Jordan. The artisans are mostly single women from rural communities, many of whom have worked with the cooperative since its beginnings. However, in recent years, many young women whose families chose not to fund their higher education have also been recruited. Some of the women in the co-op hold a high school degree, but the majority have had limited access to formal educational opportunities. The income earned through this work is essential to supporting their livelihoods, especially considering the current decrease in farmland that has left many community members in poverty.
Craftswomen create beautiful ceramics using different colored clays, glazes, and plasters. To create a ceramic tray, the women practice a slip-casting technique. They first take clay and turn it into slip, which is a liquid mixture of clay and water with a consistency similar to heavy cream. The slip is then poured into molds and left to sit for 12 to 24 hours based on the temperature and the weather. The excess slip is poured out and the remaining clay is left to dry. Once the molds are firmer, the pieces are removed, refined, and prepped for firing in the oven. After a three-day period, the pieces are sandpapered, glazed by hand with a certified lead-free glaze, and set back in the kiln for a final three days.
The talented artisan women achieve economic independence through this dignified work; more than half of them provide financial support to their families. Otherwise, many of them would remain secluded at home and rely on their fathers and brothers. They now have the ability to take on leadership roles and make decisions for the betterment of their communities. Iraq Al-Amir Women’s Cooperative consists of four workshops: ceramics, papermaking, soap, and weaving. It is the oldest independent women’s cooperative in Jordan and a proud member of the Jordanian Cooperatives Association.