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Gone Rural Hand Painted African Baskets At Maud Interiors

Just spotted on Maud Interiors, via Pinterest these one-of-a-kind handwoven African baskets from Gone Rural sporting colourful hand painted splashes of paint in a stylistic nod to abstract expressionism. I have previously featured the work of Swazi-based social enterprise, Gone Rural on the site, and the organisation continues to shake up the industry with their innovative approach to contemporary African basketry. [Main image credit: Gone Rural Hand Painted Baskets – Maud Interiors]

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Global Goods Partners On Design, Sustainability And Making A Difference

Global Goods Partners is a inspirational non-profit social enterprise that was set up by women to help women. Launched in 2005 by Catherine Lieber Shimony and Joan Shifrin, and headquartered in New York, Global Goods Partners works to provide women in some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities with the means to earn a sustainable income by providing a platform to promote and sell collaborative collections of their handmade products. The products are sold through the organisation’s website. Atelier Fifty-Five caught up with co-founder Joan Shifrin to find out more about sustainable design and the life-changing work Global Goods Partners is doing. […]

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Stylishly Stitched Bowls African Home Decor Accessories

[Image credit: Stitched Bowls – Quazi Design] Quazi Design’s African home decor accessories combines cutting edge craft with design driven aesthetics. The company, based in Swaziland is a social enterprise built on the principles of social, economic, and ecological sustainability, and was started in 2009, by Doron a designer from the UK; and Flotsam, a local Swazi magazine distributor. Quazi Design creates personal and interior African home decor accessories from recycling locally sourced 100% waste magazines, layering or rolling up the pages to give the designs a 3D effect, and once a year showcases their innovative paper fashion.

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Graphic Africa Celebrating Contemporary African Design

Heralded as being the first exhibition of its kind in London, September 14th saw the opening of Graphic Africa a thought-provoking showcase and insight into the emergence of innovative diverse contemporary African design aesthetics and all round creativity currently sweeping across the Continent. Highlighting that contemporary African design is offering something different and fresh to the international design market, the exhibition has generated something of a media buzz, and the impact of the exhibition not only for visitors but the designers themselves has been good to see.  [Image credit: Dokter and Misses Kassena Server taken by Tapiwa]

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Interior Decor Accessories Handcrafted African Candles

In the mountainous countryside of the Kingdom of Swaziland a disused cowshed in a former dairy was turned into a candlemaking workshop that has become a local tourist attraction as visitors from all over the world stop by to see the production process, and array of unique handcrafted African candles. Whether round or triangular, animal or fruit; carved or hand painted Swazi Candles are created and finished by hand meaning no two will be the same. [Image credits: Swazi Candles]

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Madwa Hand Woven Artisan African Home Decor Accessories

Inspired by craft and tradition, Madwa is an ethical craft project that works with small groups of master weavers in Madagascar and Swaziland to produce contemporary ranges of woven artisan African home decor accessories and textiles. Based in South Africa, Madwa harnesses the unique weaving skills of the different cultural groups and regions it works with, and is about the preservation of a unique craft heritage, assisting the weavers with product development and gaining access to international markets. [Image credits: Madwa]

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Swaziland Ngwenya Glass Contemporary Interior Accessories

Ngwenya means ‘crocodile’ and encircled by mountains nestles the tiny kingdom of Swaziland, where one of the mountains is said to resemble a basking crocodile; at the summit of this mountain is an ancient iron ore mine that dates back 43 000 years and at the foot you will find the Ngwenya Village, home to the Ngwenya Glass Blowers. I mentioned Ngwenya Glass in the recent post I did on the ‘Piece’ jewellery exhibition and although they created some of the beads that were used, Ngwenya Glass’ scope is much wider. Ngwenya Glass is a factory cum studio producing some rather striking, […]

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Lanvin Dolls Made In Swaziland In Collaboration With Dessine L’Espoir 

Lanvin, acknowledged as the longest running couture fashion house, recently launched its first ever girls wear collection, called ‘Lanvin Petite’ and to mark the occasion has commissioned a set of four very chic soft dolls. Designed by Elber Albaz, Lanvin’s celebrated Creative Director, the beautifully hand-embroidered and hand stitched limited edition dolls were produced by a community of women in Swaziland and will be on sale from November. Lanvin, a fashion house with a rich heritage teamed up with charity Dessine L’Espoir (also known as Designing Hope) to create the pretty little Lanvin dolls which are dressed in miniature versions of the new ‘Lanvin […]

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Coral Stephens Swaziland Hand Woven Interior Textiles

In Northern Swaziland lies an area called Piggs Peak home to Coral Stephens; a close-knit community weaving high-quality luxurious hand woven interior textiles for home and personal use. Founded in 1949 by Coral Stephens the company produces carpets, rugs, blankets, curtains, shawls and fabrics woven from hand spun mohair and silk; cotton, raffia and wool. Plain or textured designs are skillfully showcased through complimentary hand dyed contemporary colour palettes like; ecru, fawn, brown, duck egg blue, olive and ruby.

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Gone Rural Swaziland Redefining African Basket Design

Picking up from where I left off on my exploration into the different types of basket making found across the continent; I find myself quite taken by these glass bowls edged with a woven basket band. Created by Swaziland-based, Gone Rural who are redefining African basket design I came across them on the US-based Amaridian Gallery, and they give a fresh updated look to the traditional woven basket. The way the basket weaving techniques have been combined with recycled glass has produced some beautiful, unique looking bowls. [image credit: Gone Rural – Amaridian Gallery] A socially responsible business set up by the late Jenny Thorne […]

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Exquisitely Handmade African Christmas Decorations

[Image credits: Tintsaba] Getting ready to trim the tree? Christmas is a time for giving, receiving and sharing so why not let your tree embody that sentiment with meaningful ornaments. Bypass the convenience of picking up mass-produced baubles from your highstreet store, instead find out what local artists, designers or community organisations have to offer, and it goes without saying your local church, school and community fairs are sources for uncovering some unique gems. With so much to chose from I have zoomed the spotlight on organisations like  Tintsaba whose wonderfully simple yet stylish African Christmas decorations brought a smile to my face.

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  • Eight years ago I started a blog as a place to document the interesting things I was discovering with regards to the design and creativity emerging from Africa. From the moment I created my first blog post little did I know where the journey would take me. Fast-forward to present day I have not only been privileged to witness the development of an industry, but to also have an active role in creating awareness about it.

On this journey, I have seen Africa’s design industry grow from a handful of names from a handful countries to a continent wide-reach. Some names that were just starting out have become internationally respected leaders in their field, whilst behind them, a new generation of names are coming up and claiming their place in the industry.

To say that it is an exciting time for African design and creativity would be a gross understatement! We are in a time of rapid advancement and unbridled creative expression, that is setting the foundations and standards for future generations to build on. And like many other emerging industries in Africa, creativity is opening up opportunities to those who are willing to seize them. And seizing them designers are!

And as Atelier Fifty Five begins a new chapter it is an opportunity for me to renew my commitment to supporting the development of the African design industry and helping those I work with and write about, and work with to fulfill their potential for creating world-class brands. 
I invite you to visit our website to discover more. [Link in bio]

Tapiwa, Founder Atelier Fifty Five
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  • Colourful basketry, soulful sculpture and an elegant candle make a nice placeholder we think, as we prepare to usher in a new chapter of the Atelier Fifty Five journey. [📷 credit: @atelierfiftyfive]
  • Gifted hands. A glimpse behind the scenes of Kaross a South African based embroidery initiative, whose artisans transform furnishings into works of art. [📷 credit: Kaross]
  • Tools of the trade, a hand carved printing block stamp by textile designer @juliekouamo whose evocative designs tell the stories of cultures past and present. Julie's textiles feature richly layered patterns, textures and printed pictures that come together to create vibrant collages. [📷 credit: @tapiwamatsinde]
  • Fishermen's boats, a familiar sight along the Senegalese coast line. [📷 credit: @tapiwamatsinde]

Instagram @ atelierfiftyfive