Our featured makers this month are the many craftspeople - mainly women but also some men - working in weaving cooperatives throughout Africa, producing a range of beautiful baskets for The Basket Room.
Founded by Camilla Sutton and Holly McMullen (right), The Basket Room works directly with weaving cooperatives in rural Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The main goal has always been to provide a market place for the talented weavers - to provide them not only with a sustainable income but also the recognition they deserve for their skill.
Many of the weavers are subsistence farmers and the basket work provides essential additional income during dry spells and subsequent crop failures.
Holly and Camilla explore Africa in search of the remarkable communities of weavers who create beautifully fine baskets using age old techniques passed down through generations.
It's fascinating to learn about the different methods of preparing the raw materials for each basket - the amount of work involved is quite remarkable.
Sisal grass is hand stripped using wooden tools and bare feet, then hand rolled before being hand dyed with natural dyes in large vats.
Milulu grass is a reed found naturally in swamps and riverbeds but is also grown for basket making. The leaves are cut, split, dyed with natural dyes and dried before the weaving begins.
Each basket is worked by one weaver - meticulously woven over a number of days in many cases.
We have been stocking these baskets here at No.56 for several seasons and are always delighted by the fineness and quality of the weave - we love the natural earthy tones of the Kenyan sisal baskets and the grassy smell of the milulu grass baskets from Tanzania...
Further information on the weavers and The Basket Room's ethos can be found here...
Photographs ( except first and last ) supplied by The Basket Room.