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Baskets, Women, Feminism: Interview with Artisanne by Where and Wear

Artisanne Handmade handwoven Senegalese Alibaba basketWhere and Where, the gorgeous lifestyle, family and interiors website has posted their interview with us! Covering how we became to be in  Senegal, starting a small business, the weaving techniques and skills involved in making our Alibaba baskets and the direct relationship we have with our talented weavers. Read it here


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Doing business under the Magic Tree

I love my trips to Senegal. I come back humbled, exhilarated and exhausted in equal measure, and having always learnt something new from the wonderful weavers with whom we work.

On the last day of my visit to one village, I was invited to ‘do business’ under the Magic Tree.  This, I was informed, would bring good luck to us all.  The Magic Tree is sacrosanct in this village as it has been there for as long as anyone can remember. Two trees have become wrapped around each other.  One completely bare yet healthy entwines itself around the larger leafy tree, yet both survive, grow and flourish…. as would our relationship and business together if we sat under the tree to work. This we duly did for the next 2 hours, discussing designs and colourways for our new range.

 ‘InShaAllah’ as the weavers would say that the magic tree continues to work its magic.


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Why Artisanne?

We are often asked why we called our business Artisanne. Could we not spell?  Was it another language?
Like many new businesses in search of name, we brainstormed all sorts of ‘themes’ and options. We produced a long list that was very quickly narrowed down: many names were taken, some were too complicated (one was a mixture of Wolof and French), others too contrived. We joked we would settle for “Betty’s Baskets’ but it did not reflect our aspirations for the brand. 
As is so often the case, the name came out of the blue, over a quick conversation with my sister. What do we want to be about?
‘The women, the weaving skills, the baskets, Senegal.'

‘Artisane’ is the French word for a female artisan. As Senegal is a French speaking country and all the weavers are women, this seemed to sum it up.  We added an extra 'n' as a nod to our late mother’s name, Ann. Et voilà, Artisanne was born.


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The basket baby

Greetings are very important in Senegal. On meeting someone, one is expected to ask how the person is, how their family is and how the children are… even if you don’t know them. We take the time to do this every time we visit our villages but when we arrive at one village, there is always an additional question. The weavers clutch their breasts and ask after the ‘basket baby.’ Emma found our first village with her 4-month baby daughter in tow. She proceeded to visit the village every two weeks, always with babe in arms. The Senegalese love children and adored the fact that Emma took her daughter on a six hour round trip to rural Senegal to discuss sizes, colours and shapes of Alibaba baskets.



‘Basket baby’ is about to turn 3 and no longer lives in Senegal but on my last visit, I gesture her height and waddle round imitating her, to peels of laughter – they can’t believe she can be that big. To our weavers, she will forever be the blond basket baby.


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Bailgate Independent Article on Artisanne Weavers

The Artisan Marker, which opened at number 86 Bailgate in November, offers, handmade functional goods from local, British and international artists including its very popular traditionally-made hand-woven baskets from Senegal.  Whilst the Artisan Maker only stocks fairly-traded international good, the Senegalese baskets have an extra colourful story all of their own.

Sisters Elizabeth and Emma supply the baskets to the shop; Elizabeth is based in London and Emma in Senegal, allowing her to directly work and negotiate with 'the ladies' as they have become fondly referred to by the team behind the Artisan Maker.  The undeniably talented and dedicated Senegalese ladies weave with meticulous attention to detail from their homes in villages near Thies in Senegal.  The skills are shared and passed down through the generations.  Emma works directly with them, and ensures they are paid a fair and, just as importantly secure income and they are paid directly which gives them control over their own income.

The baskets are beautiful; if you pop into the Artisan Marker, the team will point out which of the baskets are made by the 'ladies' (one other fair-trade supplier is also used).  They include the popular Ali Baba laundry or storage basket and a striped flat lidded basket in blue or pink plus the shop is now also carrying smaller lidless baskets for wastepaper, kindling etc; large oversized trays for fruit, newspapers, bread etc. and lovely table mats.  Some oval baskets are expected soon as well as coasters.

The Artisan Maker is full of useful and practical items for everyday living and has been very well received by county dwellers and visitors alike.  As well as baskets you can expect to find pottery, glassware, rugs, throws, cast iron, bakeware, etc., all made by hand and traditional methods.  The accent is on quality and practical use, but also focuses on the skill and story of its maker.  Whilst The Artisan Maker isn't a gift shop as such, it's possible that people seeking to give somebody something practical will find what they need as well as plenty for their own home.


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