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May 09, 2022
Originally posted April 2020. Written by Leona Chapman, Bee Friedmann and Amy Fleuriot-Reade
Here at Artisans & Adventurers, sustainable and ethical design is at the core of what we do. As a sustainable business, we always try our best to be as transparent as possible, especially concerning our supply chain. We work with small-scale artisans and craft groups who have limited access to international markets. Getting to know all of our artisans personally and spending a long time forging friendships and working relationships together. The nature of the global supply chain means our decisions as designers and consumers affect people all around the world, so we strive to create products which bring as much joy to their creator as they do to our end customer. We wanted to take this time to explain how Artisans & Adventurers products come to be, from the design process, meeting our artisans, to the final product you see in our stores and online.
Our products are mostly designed in-house and put into production, with a few being sourced directly from the artisans. The goods designed in-house are a collaboration between our co-founders, Amy who uses her wonderful artistic skills and Bee, who draws on her nose for finding beautiful products in the middle of nowhere, using her sense of adventure to take herself there. Our exclusive treasures like Ghanian Laundry baskets, Kantha Quilts, Indigo Rugs and Rwandan Fruit bowls begin their journey with Bee identifying a group we can work directly with, they then take on a life of their own in the fabulously creative mind of Amy.
Amy works closely with each of our skilled artisans when producing original designs, keeping our artisans at the heart of what we do. When designing, here in the UK, we keep our key values in mind to ensure our end products will be something we are proud of. One of our key values is community, we believe collaboration is the key to a more connected future. We know that every person deserves a good quality of life and that this is possible if we share resources wisely. So, whilst designing our products Amy keeps the idea of community in mind, thinking about the artisans we already work with and what future ranges she could design for our existing groups that would positively impact their community.
Working closely with our textiles factory in Jaipur Amy has expanded our range of prints to cover Kantha Quilts, Pillow Cases, Eye Masks and Accessories. Her next challenge is to develop samples in our Margate studio for our sister brand Hiro + Wolf that the same workshops in India can make using their incredible printing and stitching skills.
Thinking about the sustainability of our products during the design phase is paramount. We work towards a zero waste philosophy, meaning we are always conscious of the materials we are using and how we and our partners can reduce waste during the production of our designs. One area this has been particularly successful is our Indian jewellery collections where we use recycled silver. We've also been working in recycled brass and aluminium with husband and wife team Anton and Benta for the past 6 years. £36,000,000 worth of aluminium is thrown away each year and if all cans in the UK were recycled, we would need 14 million fewer dustbins. Facts like this are always at the forefront of our mind, so that we can make sure our end products are as sustainable as possible.
How exactly do we find all of our amazing artisans around the world? That’s where our Head of Adventure and co-founder Bee comes in! Bee has spent years travelling the world, in search of the best artisans and oversees the process of crafting our goods through from production to store arrival. Whilst on her travels, she soaks up the local culture, crafts and meets a whole host of fantastic makers for us to potentially collaborate with. Fed by her desire to uplift peoples lives and create sustainable futures for rural and urban craft people, Bee will choose a country to visit having done many hours of research and forged links with people on the ground beforehand. They will in turn introduce her to groups and continue working with her during the production process.
As air travel becomes more and more detrimental to the planet’s wellbeing, it is not ideal to travel every few months to check production and quality, so Bee chooses contacts who she feels have the interests of the artisans at heart. She builds solid working relationships so that we can continue communications back in the UK.
A few years ago, she ventured up to meet the weavers in Bolgatanga, the heart of weaving in Ghana. It's not easy to reach being just under the Burkina Faso border. We had previously been working with this group of weavers through a local contact and she went there witness their skills first hand. During the trip Bee travelled around the local area, visited people in their homes and got to know their way of life. By chance on this particular visit Bee made a new friend, Gordon Frimpong, an expert on Ashanti Culture. Gordon introduced her to a group of brass casters who now make our wonderful wall hooks. We started with a few of their designs and slowly introduced our own. Essentially products begins with a meeting of minds, here at Artisans & Adventurers and the groups we work with.
Once we have established a good relationship with our artisans, we work collaboratively to create our products. We always ensure that the products we sell are fairly traded. For our smaller producers becoming Fair Trade certified can be costly therefore we will always work to the 10 principles of Fair Trade. This includes checking there is no child labour and that working conditions meet our high social and environmental standards. In addition we always pay 50% of the order in advance and the following 50% on completion. We like to establish long term relationships rather than changing producers to drive down prices, this ensures that everyone gets a fair deal.
We have worked with some of our artisans for a very long time, like our weaving groups in Kenya where we employ a lovely local man on the ground, Paul, on a retainer basis to help us with the packing and sending of basket orders. There is never a dull moment when working with these talented groups of female basket weavers! Every single one of the baskets we sell in store is hand-picked from the fantastic array of colourful baskets that these women make by our Head of Adventure, Bee. When she visits she buys so many baskets we have to hire a room in one of the meeting houses to store them all in.
We send the baskets over in staggered shipments, injecting a large amount of money into community businesses who store them, providing additional income. This also means that we get a steady supply of new baskets by sea which is far more environmentally friendly than transporting them by air freight. The sale of our baskets, as with most of our goods, encourages traditional basket weaving to continue being handed down from generation to generation, keeping century old skills alive.
This area of rural Kenya is rife with poaching and charcoal burning - both a lucrative form of income in an area where jobs are very scarce. Creating alternative revenue streams such as basket weaving helps conservation by decreasing the need for these harmful practices. One of the reasons we love working with our small-scale artisans is seeing the positive effects buying ethically has on the communities, as well as the smiles our colourful baskets put on the faces of our customers.
A quote we often live by is "Demand quality, in the products that you buy and in the lives of the people who made them" Orsola De Castro. We hope that this quality is clear to our customers when purchasing our products and that you can see the love poured into everything we make, from start to finish.
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