Most frequently asked questions (FAQ’s):
1. Where are you located? Our two studios are in Nabeul, Tunisia on the Mediterranean coast about an hour south of Tunis and just north of the coastal resort town of Hammamet. Le Souk Ceramique started in 1997 and Le Souk Olivique, our olive wood studio dates from 2014. We are an American-Tunisian company with headquarters in the US (offices and US warehouse are in Clinton, Washington State, near Seattle).
2. What is different about Le Souk Olivique? At Le Souk Olivique, we are taking quality of workmanship in olive wood to a whole new level. Most studios sand each piece down by three or four grit levels of sandpaper. We use eight increasingly fine levels of sandpaper grit, resulting in a silky smooth surface. We also air-age our raw wood, sometimes for over a year. You can soak the raw wood in saltwater to speed up the process but it degrades the quality in the long run. There are also several varieties of olive trees, some of which have a much more beautiful grain than others, and we buy only the good kind. Finally, the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture certifies for cutting only trees that have reduced fruiting yields, and we buy only raw wood that is certified.
3. What are working conditions like in Tunisia and specifically at LSC and LSO? We have uploaded videos of our studios on You Tube, Facebook and on this website. As evidenced by these videos, our studios are well-lit, well-ventilated and clean. Our starting salaries are always well above minimum wage and significantly above industry standards in Tunisia. Tenured employees all get a true living wage. We pay fully into the national health care system and Tunisian social security. For July and August in the full summer heat, our employees leave at 2pm for the day, though July and August salaries are paid in full. Males and females work side by side. As of summer 2016, LSC has 58 employees and LSO has 8.
4. Are Le Souk Olivique items foodsafe? We finish olive wood pieces with pharmaceutical-grade mineral oil, the kind that people ingest to help with digestive problems, so it is obviously fully food-safe. Additionally, we add culinary beeswax to the mineral oil for color and texture.
5. How come each item looks different, even if it’s the same shape? Olive wood grain is highly variable and something we cannot change at all, but that’s also part of the beauty. Since we hand-carve each piece, there will be variations as well in exact cut.
6. Do you do private shapes? Yes, we do and we have very reasonable minimum quantity requirements. If you are interested in a private design, please send us the specs to review and we can discuss whether it’s something we can make.
7. How many shapes do you make? We currently make over 80 in Olive Wood and will be adding in a few more new shapes to our repertoire coming soon.
8. How do you make the shapes? We outsource the dangerous rough cut to true experts on band saws. For now, this step is too dangerous for us. After the rough cut is done, we do some less risky fine cutting and then we shape with a variety of tools and sanders as you see on our videos. We do not have automated machinery such as a CNC machine. Every piece is hand-cut, hand-carved, hand-shaped, hand-sanded and hand-finished.
9. Are your items safe for the dishwasher, microwave, oven and freezer? Care instructions?
- Always hand wash wood, not just olive wood. Do not put in dishwasher.
- Not for use in cooking in microwave, oven or stovetop, nor for freezer use.
- Periodically rub with food-grade mineral oil to preserve grain and appearance.
- Olive wood utensils are ideally suited for use on our Cookable Tagines.
10. Who are your typical retailer partners? The individual, independent store-owner, in the middle-upper niche of the marketplace, is our most frequent partner. This includes kitchen and gourmet stores, upscale home décor businesses, coffee shops, wineries, and finer gift shops. We do on occasion supply selected large retailers, but you will not find Le Souk Ceramique items in big-box retailers or discount/off price outlets.
11. Do you sell directly to the public? No, we don’t. Our business is to make ceramics/olive wood, and to supply and support our fine retailer partners. Additionally, our olive wood and ceramics are available online through various websites and in some retail catalogs and on occasion through flash sales. If none of the above options are viable for your situation, please contact us directly. Our Clinton, Washington, USA warehouse has neither a showroom nor a retail shop. Our studio in Nabeul is likewise generally closed to the public, though we can accommodate a visit if you happen to be traveling through Nabeul.
12. Do you do wedding registries? If there is no retailer near you, we are happy to help you set up a registry on your wedding website. Kindly call us for information at 360-579-1227.
13. How do you ship and do you drop-ship? From Tunisia, we load up a 40-foot ocean container with our ceramics and olive wood, destined for our US warehouse. It takes two months for the container to go from Nabeul to Clinton. For Europe, we ship by pallet via a trucking company that crosses into Europe by ferry. For the most part we ship with UPS in the US/Canada. We do not charge any kind of packing or handling fee and bill only the amount we pay for shipping (i.e. we do not use shipping as a profit center). On some occasions like trade show specials or seasonal sales specials we will cap freight charges or even offer free freight (rarely!). If the order is large enough, usually around US $1500 or so, we would ship by pallet if your store can accommodate receiving such a shipment. As for drop shipping, yes, it is a service we offer on a very limited basis. Please contact us directly for more details.
14. How do you contact retailers for updates and information? We do not ever send out broadcast emails or spam. With your permission, we will email you about new designs, sales or seasonal offerings, upcoming trade shows and the like, but this will always be a personal email, not a broadcast. We do not rent, loan or sell any customer information whatsoever. No exceptions.