As we can't all travel constantly (I wish we could!) I wanted to share my trips & those of creative friends' to help you feel the essence of a place, to help you plan wonderful wanders of your own and to shed light on what it's like to travel as a creative. Join us at our communal table, as we sit down with creative Melissa Norris and lose our creative minds over the photographs she captured on her trip.
Mel and I go a long way back - 9 years in fact! She's been creating incredible content, ceramics, dyed linens, handmade paper, digital work and capturing stunning photography throughout the time that I've known her. She embodies the spirit of craftsmanship and design in everything she does - from the way she sets a table to the way she dresses and thinks. Her work and its evolution continues to inspire me; particularly the way her creative practices have informed and crossed over into one another. Mel recently travelled to Morocco, and we sat down to discuss all things Marrakech & Morocco.
01| The concept of travelling to Morocco, having never travelled there, thrills me. It's been sold to me as a rich, highly ornate & exotic experience - but like all things, I wonder whether it is in fact like that or just a fantasy sold by what I've read and seen. Did your experience in Morocco line up with your expectations of it?
I didn’t have too much of an idea of what to expect, but for some reason the country has always held a curiosity for me. A good friend had been there with an Architecture study group and I think it was her that sparked my initial interest. Morocco is definitely a rich and exotic experience. It is a sensory overload - the colours, smells and sounds are all so intense and something I don’t think you can be prepared for.
02 | I'm incredibly drawn to your ability to capture my imagination through photography - in fact some of your photographs give me a sense of nostalgia and longing even though I was never there. What do you seek to capture behind the lens when you travel?
I like capturing the details and fabric of wherever I am visiting. The daily life, the light, the people, the inherent things that give a place its character.
03 | Travel is such an enriching cultural and creative experience. What do you find continues to fuel your creativity after your trip there? Or shape it?
I probably become most inspired by witnessing another way of life. Anytime I travel I get fascinated by the way other cultures live and the contrast (or similarities) that it might hold with life back in Australia. I love new experiences, and find that everything from the way the air smells differently, the way the light falls, the landscape and the small moments of daily life are what make new places so captivating.
04 | Did visiting Morocco change the way your creative practice runs? The way you think? The way you live?
I loved the simplicity of life in Morocco and learnt a lot from the hospitality and warmth of the people. There is a real sense of community and craftsmanship that remains which I think has been lost in a lot of modern cultures. Many old traditions still seem to be alive and thriving which was such a pleasure to witness. I would love to spend more time outside of the city and see the rural way of life as I have heard there is so much beauty in the landscape and also the traditional berber people.
05 | I'm so creatively driven by textures, visuals & aesthetics, that accommodation becomes a really key part of my trip planning. I like to find off-the-instagram-map accommodation (because I'm not looking to experience something I've already seen) and eateries that appeal to my design sensibilities. When you're planning trips, what are the key elements you must have that are non-negotiable for you?
I similarly like to find places a bit off the beaten track. I love to have recommendations from people who have lived or visited the place I am travelling to. Lately I have been trying to follow my nose a bit more when travelling somewhere new. With how easily accessible information and other people’s travels are to us, I think it’s easy to get stuck on always trying to ‘find’ places. I find the most rewarding experiences come when I trust my instinct and let my travels unfold in a more instinctive way. In keeping with this, my favourite way to travel is by foot. I would walk a million miles if I could! I love all the moments and glimpses into daily life you discover when you can explore somewhere by walking.
06 | I know as creatives, because our senses are heightened by the thrill of new experiences and new visuals, we can find that a holiday soon feels more like a sourcing / working trip. What do you do to ensure that your holiday is equal parts restorative and relaxing as enlightening and inspiring?
I’d probably say I am still trying to find that balance, but at the same time, I think I am fortunate that sourcing things and ‘working’ fuels me creatively so I don’t try to limit it too much! Also, having a young daughter definitely helps to keep you in the moment and bring some balance to any travel nowadays!
06 | What are your top three tips for accommodation in Marrakech? Suburbs to stay in? Suburbs to explore?
We stayed in the old Medina which was definitely an experience I would recommend if you’d like to experience the ‘old’ city of Marrakech. There are an abundance of beautiful, hidden Riad’s that will become your Oasis whilst exploring the city. We used airbnb whilst we were there, although if I was heading back I’d love to check out @berberlodge_ or @riadberbere
08 | Where would you recommend shopping - are there local artisans and experiences you would recommend?
There is an abundance of local artisans in Marrakech. Finding them can be the trick! Doing some research before you go and getting in touch with some local guides should help you find authentic craftsmen (there’s a lot of tourist knockoffs nowadays). We got lucky and found a small shop down a tiny backstreet that had the traditional Moroccan rugs and wedding blankets that I was seeking - due to the nature of the Medina, I can’t imagine I’d be able to find it again! A day (or three) spent wandering the Souks should definitely be in your itinerary.
09 | What advice would you give to others thinking of travelling to Marrakech? How easy is the city to navigate?
Because of the intensity of the city it can all be a bit overwhelming at first, and it definitely took a few days for us to find our groove and confidence within the city walls. I do think that travelling with someone helps a lot as a female in Marrakech!
10 | What was the overall feeling you had from Morocco? Did you get overwhelmed by a colour palette? Did you get immersed in a mood or feeling while you were there?
I love the ritual of life in Marrakech. The call to prayer is played on speakerphone and played across the whole city. It is a really enchanting moment that often made us stop in our tracks and appreciate being in a culture so different from our own. I loved seeing how the city adapted to the desert climate. Restaurants, cafes and homes are all tucked down thin alleyways and through tiny doors. Upon stepping off the dusty streets of the Medina you are often met with an enchanting and welcoming oasis. Most Riads (and a lot of restaurants) have a small pool or water feature inside them which allows a nice break from the heat and intensity of the day outside!
11 | What is your number one piece of advice for anyone planning on travelling to Morocco?
Get a guide! They will help you with finding many gems that you may not have known existed and it’s nice to have someone directing you around the maze of the Old Medina. Also an understanding or knowledge of a few words in Arabic or French is super helpful!
All images are the property & copyright of Melissa Norris. You can discover more about Melissa Norris and her beautifully curated store by following @vaughanbaker