From local raw materials to finished products – see the handmade process at work.
Our signature sweetgrass baskets are handwoven with heart by artisans in Rwanda. Practicing a time-honored Rwandan weaving technique, the artisans use a needle and thread to wrap hand-dyed strands of sisal (the inside fibers of an agave plant) around bunches of sweetgrass to create tightly coiled, durable baskets in an impressive range of patterns and colors. Depending on the size and shape, each basket can take one weaver anywhere from 2-7 days to make!
We partner with artisans in Rwanda who create handwoven products using natural banana, maize and palm leaves. The artisans source leaves from local farmers, or pick them themselves, and then place them under the sun to dry until they take on varying shades of brown, tan, and white (they also sometimes dye them by hand!) When the leaves are ready, the artisans twist, braid, or weave them with a needle and thread to create beautifully handmade floor baskets, bags, hats, and more.
RWANDA | GHANA
Our delicately detailed hand-beaded products are crafted with love by the artisans of All African Craft, Abaharanira Amajyambere, and Bravers cooperatives in Rwanda, as well as by artisans in Ghana who do complex bead work on dolls and other wooden objects. Our partners in Rwanda hand-stitch beads onto vases, baskets, and more using a needle and thread, and in Ghana, the artisans string beads which they adhere to the wood using a mud mixture. The process spans several days (and sometimes weeks!) and involves incredible skill, precision, and patience to get right.
RWANDA | GHANA
We partner with artisans in Ghana who practice the traditional techniques of batik dyeing and block printing, using wax to create designs and patterns on fabric. The artisans either paint the wax on (batik dyeing) or use a wooden block to stamp it onto the fabric (block printing). They cover the fabric in dye, often mixing and matching colors. The wax resists the dye, creating beautifully patterned textiles.
Bolga basket weaving is a quintessential Ghanaian craft hailing from the country’s northern Bolgatanga region, where artisans use local elephant grass to create handwoven bolga baskets. To start, the artisans soak the grass in water and then twist the strands together in small bunches to make them more durable. At this point, the artisans either hand-dye the grass or start weaving, beginning at the base of the basket and working their way up to the rim. The baskets are then topped with a handle, which we often accent with sustainable cow leather.
Tucked away amidst shady banana trees, in the heart of the Krofrom village, lies Krofrom Brass—the artisan workshop behind our handcrafted recycled brass collection.
The artisans of Krofrom Brass are experts in the ancient art of lost-wax casting: a technique which involves using beeswax as a model to create metal objects. The artisans coat the beeswax in palm fiber and clay (leaving an opening at the bottom) and place it over a fire so that the beeswax will melt and seep out—leaving behind an empty cast in the shape of the item they wish to make.
The artisans then pour in melted recycled brass, wait for it cool and harden, and, finally, crack open the mold. The end results? Beautifully detailed golden shapes that are eco-friendly too!
Our hand-embroidered products are made by the beyond-talented artisans of the Ibaba Cooperative in Rutongo, Rwanda. The women of Rutongo first learned the art of hand-embroidery from Belgian nuns in the 1970s and built a flourishing workshop. But when the genocide erupted in 1994, the group was forced to disband.
Today, the ladies of IBABA are busy stitching their beautiful, lifelike hand-embroidery onto clothing, home decor pieces, stuffed animals, and more.
At the base of Rwanda’s majestic Virunga Mountains, nestled among lofty trees and serene expanses of green, is the Handspun Hope farm—a True Vineyard Ministries initiative to help women in Musanze, Rwanda lift themselves out of poverty by spinning local sheep’s wool into high-quality, 100 percent organic merino yarn.
The farm has over 150 sheep that are cared for night and day by a devoted shepherd. Once every eight months, he shears the sheep’s wool (a process that doesn’t hurt the sheep in any way!) and brings it to the Handspun Hope artisan cooperative where women turn it into yarn. See our “Organic Wool Kitting” block for what comes next…
At the Handspun Hope cooperative in Musanze, Rwanda, women spin local sheep’s wool into 100% organic merino yarn (see “Handspun Hope Farm” for more info on how this material is made.) The artisans first clean and untangle the wool and then feed each strand into a spinning wheel, making one ply of yarn at a time.
Once the yarn is ready, the women dye it by hand, often using local plant, flower, and vegetable material—like eucalyptus leaves, local flora, avocado and onion skins—that they often pick on their way to work in the morning. The final result is soft, high-quality merino yarn that is naturally-made, beautifully-dyed, 100 percent organic and eco-friendly from start to finish.
Ankole cows, known for their long majestic horns, are central to many of the rich cultures and histories of East Africa. Today, however, their horns are a discarded resource, often left to accumulate in landfills.
We partner with artisans who upcycle cowhorn and shape it into handcrafted jewelry, ornaments, and decor items. Each piece is unique, with natural color and pattern variations specific to the horns they’re made from, and 100% sustainably sourced.
RWANDA | GHANA
The apparel industry is the second largest polluter in the world, second only to oil. It’s responsible for 10% of the world’s total carbon output and 20% of its fresh water pollution. We’re trying to change that.
We partner with artisan groups that use traditional sewing machines and hand-stitching to make our apparel and textile-based product collections. Our partners work with locally-sourced fabrics, including handmade Indego Africa batik and mudcloth, which have a low carbon footprint and require relatively little water to make. Plus, we encourage our partners to make the most of each and every textile by using and repurposing scrap fabrics in our designs.
Hand-dyed in Mali | Sourced in Ghana
Mudcloth, or bògòlanfini in Mali’s Bambara language, is a traditional Malian and West African textile made out of fermented mud. The process begins with narrow strips of cloth which are dyed in baths of leaves or bark and left in the sun to dry. Once they’re dry, the cloths are painted with the fermented mud and sewn together to create intricate patterns and symbols, all with different stories, myths, and meanings behind them.
Woodcarving is a time-honored craft in Ghana with rich cultural significance. Historically, the Ashanti Kings’ sacred wooden stools, as well as symbolic warrior masks and other ornaments, were all handmade by Ghana’s talented wood carvers.
The Ahwiaa Wood Carvers Association carries on this legacy by continuing the practice of traditional wood-carving today. The carvers source wood from designated areas in a nearby forest, after which the trees are re-planted. The artisans use cedar, tweneboa, mahogany, teak, and pawpaw wood to hand-carve detailed wooden objects—from ritual dolls to masks to stools—that showcase the beauty of the raw materials and are oftern accented with beads, cowrie shells, and brass inlays.
Tin, a natural resource in Rwanda, is a malleable metal that can be used to make unique jewelry and home décor pieces. We partner with an artisan group in Butare, Rwanda that sources recycled, certified lead-free tin and turns it into shapes by melting it down and putting into detailed wooden molds. When the tin dries, the artisans sand and polish each finished product until it has a smooth and shiny finish.
We partner with artisans in Rwanda who make handwoven platters and baskets using raffia: a straw-like fiber that can be stripped from the inside of palm tree leaves. The fibers are found only in a special species of palm tree that grows abundantly across sub-Saharan Africa. The artisans weave the raffia fibers using a needle and thread, creating a range of shapes, designs, and products that look beautiful in natural raffia tones or when hand-dyed.