Ombre Claire was born in the north of Niger, in the hidden courtyards of Agadez still called the door of the desert. Behind the terracotta walls, small mud houses, sometimes straw tents, live families of blacksmiths with ancestral know-how.
The craftsmen read the sketches, a front view, a side view, a top view for each hand-drawn jewel, then appropriate and interpret them.
Each craftsman has his way of doing, of reading, of interpreting, his hand that shapes... One is good at silver engraving, the other at metal cutting, another prefers to make the pieces using the mold technique. in lost wax.
The work is distributed in one of the small courtyards, in the middle of children playing ball, a few goats that are milked in the morning.
Someone makes the green tea, we open the sketchbook.
One of them will buy the precious metal, recycled solid silver, a solid, shiny magma that is melted in a large brazier.
We exchange glasses of tea, some go to pray, others take time to play with the little ones, to tell the story of the baptism party last weekend in a village in the bush.
Everyone leaves with their design of jewelry and their piece of metal.
This is when the work begins, in the small workshops. We light the fire, fan it with a large goatskin bellows, the coals glow, the metal merges, we pour it into an iron gutter and then plunge it into the water. That's a big cloud of vapor!
We refill a glass of bitter tea, while the silver cools.
Once solid, the craftsmen strike the metal with the hammers on small anvils planted in the ground. A truck inner tube surrounds each of the anvils so the silver chunks don't get lost in the sand.
The metal is stamped, filed, cut, burnished, flattened, it is given the shape of the drawing, the rings are adjusted on the triboulet, then it is engraved with small chisels, the Tuareg motifs come to cover it. They are like illuminations in the sand, charms in the matter of the desert.
We lift a fold of indigo turban, we drink another glass of tea, we welcome someone in the jewelry workshop. The greetings start again, we brush our hands asking for the new "algher rhas" "peace only". Everything is calm, gentle, almost silent.
Someone comes with sandpaper and abrades the jewels, polishes them and suddenly they shine... they become treasures...
The jewels are then placed on a piece of cloth next to the one who watches over the fire.
The jewels take the time to observe the Sahara sky, to listen to the wind and the sheep, the children playing and the muezzin in the distance.
The hands remake the Tuareg chèche, take up the jewels, continue the illuminations. We send a WhatsApp message to find out if it's good, if it's what "Oude" wants... I answer on the other end: "the dangling earring a little more rounded, a little heavier the signet ring, a little more curved the openwork bracelet...", the hands tirelessly redo.
The night passes, the rooster crows again, and we begin again.
Axelle called from Paris, the plane for Niamey leaves in two days for Paris, we must not miss it because we need the prototypes for a photo shoot in Etretat in a few days...
"Etretat, where is that?" It is by the sea and there are cliffs. OK, let's start over quickly then…”
In the craftsmen's workshop, the youngest comes with a basin of hot water filled with blue detergent, the one that is also used for laundry. He immerses the jewels in the water.
His dry hands take on a brilliant light for a moment. The jewels are washed of traces of coal, wax, brightening paste, they come out luminous.
Axelle reminded, it is time for the precious jewels to leave for Niamey.
Moussa comes to get them to wrap them in little pieces of paper, put them in a box of sugar or tea. Anyone have a slightly larger cardboard box? The box of sugar will fit well.
The plane with the jewels leaves and the sun continues to turn on the small ocher town. The craftsmen continue to strike the metal, the rooster continues to crow at dawn, the hands engrave the jewels, the tea boils, the muezzin makes his call and the know-how is passed on casually in this continuous movement.