Handmade with Love - Collaborative Craft Projects

September 09, 2021

Handmade with Love - Collaborative Craft Projects

Welcome to the 'Handmade with Love' Series!

From the very beginning, we have always seen ourselves as humbled storytellers. Kanju pieces are rich with history, tradition, talent, cultural nuance, and unique beauty, and they are deeply rooted in the character of the places from where they come and the long journeys that they make across the globe. It has always been deeply important to us to share the full story of each piece with our clients, and the stories of the incredible men and women behind them. 

....and therefore voila!!! Welcome to the first in our new series, Handmade with Love, which will spotlight various suppliers, artisans, and others we work with in Africa to share more about the challenges they face, what inspires them, and how it is they do what they do ‑‑ in their own words!

For our first piece, we thought it would be fascinating to introduce you to one of our largest basket suppliers, located in Zimbabwe. After discussing recent global shipping woes via our shipping broker Daniel a couple of weeks back, we wanted to share more about the logistics challenges our on-ground suppliers and baskets go through long before they ever get to the point of export.... and so without further ado....  

  #JointheJourney with us to Zimbabwe! 



Collaborative Craft Projects 

Collaborative Craft Projects works closely with Artisan Communities throughout Zimbabwe & regionally to design, develop and make handmade homeware and furniture that is beautiful and functional. Through their product they tell a story of tradition and heritage to a local and global market.

Q: What is your background and how did (your company) come about? 

A: With a long history working with local artisans developing products for Safari Camps and Hospitality, and a passion for beautiful handmade things, CCP was born out of a desire to empower women and bridge the gap between rural and retail. Over the years, CCP has grown and evolved into a fully fledged export business with a broad wholesale catalogue and a vast artisan resource. 

Q:​​​ What is your company vibe / aesthetic? 

A: We have a natural and of course, handmade aesthetic. We gravitate toward simple clean lines with an organic finish which translates throughout our product range, as well as our brand look and feel. 

Our ​​​​​​​vibe in 3 short words would have to be... "Less is more" and bringing this quality into our designs. We feel it is so important to showcase the beauty of a handmade woven product, and maintain a level of integrity to the artisans for their handwoven products as well as the origins of the materials used. 

 

Q: What trends are you seeing starting to manifest in African Design over the course of the next year? 

A: Trends we are seeing in our space are less color, pared back and simple designs, natural sustainable fibers and products that are emotively calming.

We’re seeing an austerity mindset transpire with the pandemic which is leading a trend toward more functional homeware items. Purchases are far more considered and the story and journey of the product is far more important than ever. People want to know more about the products they are buying from the origin of the raw material to the person that made it. We’ve seen an increased demand for bespoke products as the competition to stand out has never been so fierce. 

Q: What is the average distance and time that it takes baskets to get to you once they are woven?

A: An average doesn’t exist in Africa. “African Time” is an anomaly we have to remind ourselves to surrender to every now and then. 

Logistics of getting baskets from the field to our HQ in Harare is a huge part of our small business which we are constantly navigating and negotiating. Sometimes our artisan partners will travel 3-4 days to deliver their products and they have used all available modes of transport possible. Foot, Bus, Taxi, Donkey cart or if lucky enough a hitched a ride with a truck driver. Other times the products get put on a bus and arrive at 4am on Sunday morning the following week. In an ideal world an overnight journey using our logistics partner is our preferred mode of transport but their routes are set and they don’t have transport routes into the remote areas in which our groups are based. In short, we are always prepared to “make a plan.” 

Q:​​​ What is your company vibe / aesthetic? 

A: We have a natural and of course, handmade aesthetic. We gravitate toward simple clean lines with an organic finish which translates throughout our product range, as well as our brand look and feel. 

Our ​​​​​​​vibe in 3 short words would have to be... "Less is more" and bringing this quality into our designs. We feel it is so important to showcase the beauty of a handmade woven product, and maintain a level of integrity to the artisans for their handwoven products as well as the origins of the materials used. 

 

Q: Do you collect the baskets yourselves or work with 3rd party couriers or middle men? 

A: This is hugely dependent on the basket order. We use a 3rd party courier or handler for some items, but most of our products are transported from ‘off the beaten track,’ remote locations. But as they say… “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” 

Q: Is it dangerous? How do you keep the baskets and goods safe along the way? 

A: It can be. The dangers involved are that our roads are not hugely safe for travel. Huge trucks and the quality of our roads are poor. Recently we struggled to get a delivery of baskets from The Binga Brights group because there had been a lion in the area and the women were unable to gather safely to collect the order. We had to engage the services of a PAC unit in the area to raise the alarm and deal with this situation to prevent further endangering the lives of the weavers and their children.

For the most part, we are fortunate that Zimbabwe is a safe country, it’s very people friendly, and we never feel that our baskets are vulnerable to theft while they are in transit from the field to HQ.  

Q: How has COVID affected your business? 

A: Where do we begin!! The pandemic hit and overnight people cancelled orders, so we felt it instantly. The pandemic really has had a huge impact on us, on all fronts. 

Government restrictions on movement made it extremely difficult in the beginning to transport goods to Harare (the capital city and HQ). We required travel permits to go from one province to another, and artisans were unable to deliver products or to collect and harvest their materials. 

The curfews which we still have, have meant that production time has almost halved in the community centers, this has impacted our lead-time enormously and led to women working from home, often unsupervised by the coordinator and more room for error in the production process.

Fortunately being a small operation we have the flexibility to “pivot”, and we have been able to spend more time than ever in the field, developing new products, we launched our Wholesale Export Catalogue in 2020, we have also developed a whole new catalogue specifically for Hospitality and Interior Design clients and we will be launching a new website in 2021. Things we always struggled to find the time to do. 

Q: Has COVID affected your lead times in regards to fulfilment? Can you explain what suppliers go through to collect products?

A: YES HUGELY. The regulations and restrictions put on movement in the country put us under pressure to fulfil orders in our regular time-frames, we imposed a two week COVID contingency to deal with this but even this has been stretched to capacity. We are fortunate our customers have been understanding, but it’s not sustainable to continue like this, we hope to see us reverting to “normal” in 2022.

Q: Can you explain the freight and shipping issues that you've had since COVID started and did you already deal with any of these issues prior to COVID?

A: Our baskets take almost every mode of travel from the time they leave the village locations to getting to the end customer. Just to get to us, bus, taxi, truck, on foot and that’s just to get to Harare. From Harare we hand over to our reliable shipping agents who handle the exports via truck, ship or airplane. The shipping, exports and shortage of containers is totally out of our hands, we have no control over the global crisis, and are at the mercy of the shippers. It’s been difficult for us and our customers. With the cost of shipping having increased it’s difficult to remain an attractive option to our customers.

Q: What are some of the best adventurers and anecdotes you've found yourself in this whole process?

A: We have travelled many a dusty road in the middle of nowhere only to be met by a cheerful collection of singing and dancing women always excited to meet with us. Field trips and ‘onboarding’ new artisan partners is always a highlight for us in our day-to-day, and the amazing women we have the privilege of working with makes all the challenges and struggles we have mentioned above, small in comparison to the joy we have in working alongside such amazing artisans.

Every day in the field wherever we are is an adventure for us!  

Your Favorites are On Their Way!

We are getting ready to unpack a healthy restock of some of your favorites! Those unique, beloved Garlic Gourd Baskets from Zimbabwe and Binga Patterned Flat Baskets are scheduled to arrive in just a few days!
Snatch them up quickly -- they don't stick around for long! 
  
  

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