At Indego Africa, we are endlessly inspired by the bright colors, beautiful landscapes, and whimsical designs of Africa. We teamed up with Framebridge, our favorite custom framing company, to bring pieces of our travels to you and your home!
Our Creative Director, Deirdre King, chatted with the founders of Framebridge about the collection, her inspiration, and Indego Africa’s long-term partnerships with artisans in Rwanda & Ghana. See excerpts from the interview below and shop the collection here!
How did you start working with Framebridge?
We first launched our embroidered art a couple of years ago and handled the framing ourselves. It was expensive, complicated and required an expertise we just didn’t have. After a few months we decided we could only sell in person due to the challenges we were facing, so our pieces were hidden from our growing online customer base. So when we decided it was time to add our beautiful photography to our line and revisit the embroidered art, we knew we needed to launch with a partner who could manage the framing side of things. Naturally we thought of Framebridge, which provides a top-notch service with accessible pricing and a great aesthetic and voice. We reached out and were thrilled they were interested in partnering—it seemed like a match made in heaven!
What sort of framed art will you sell in your print shop?
Our Brand Manager, Brittany Barb, is also our staff photographer and she is supremely talented (just take a look at her work on our Instagram and website). During her annual trips to our partner countries she captures beautiful imagery of landscapes, artisans, nature, culture and day-to-day snapshots of life. These photos are not only gorgeous, but they give a glimpse into the inherent beauty of both Ghana and Rwanda, as well as that of the beautiful people who live there.
We will also be selling specialty art pieces, hand-embroidered by women at one of our partner groups in Rwanda, Ibaba. These pieces are delicately embroidered on Belgian linen and, when framed and mounted, truly showcase the intricate handiwork of these remarkable women. We are launching with a whimsical, sequined flamingo piece—who can say no to that?
Any favorite pieces?
I’m obsessed with them all. I moved a few months ago and basically decorated my whole space based on where I could hang these pieces. If I had to choose, I would pick one of the Ghana landscapes. I have our Sea Tones piece hanging in my son’s nursery. It has a cool beach vibe and gives new life to his hand-me-down furniture from his sister!
Martha Napier is the lead illustrator behind the fashionable, sparkly, and whimsical illustration brand, Marnani. She is also the artist behind the gorgeous watercolor illustrations that come with our PSxIndegoAfrica patch sets! We chatted with her to find out more about her creative process, what she’s inspired by, and why she supports Indego Africa. Here’s what she had to say:
How did you get involved with the PSxIndegoAfrica project?
Actually, this was completely a chance of fate. I have always been a fan of P.S. I Made This (I’m an avid crafter myself, and obviously love to work with my hands), and recently had the pleasure of connecting with Erica. She was really the brainchild in asking me to come on board with the collaboration with Indego Africa. Needless to say, an instant love-affair was born. I was so pleased to be introduced to the Indego team and it's mission. I also just adore the patches (I’m still coming to grips with the concept that they’re handmade), and what they represent.
Word on the street is that you used to work in the fashion business, at one point serving as Senior Designer in womenswear at Michael Kors. What inspired you to pursue your love of illustration full-time?
Ah, well I love fashion, and I always will. I guess the best answer for this is, to me, illustration, art, fashion—they are all so related. I don’t necessarily feel like I am no longer a designer, though I am obviously not designing clothes anymore (not to say this isn’t in the plans for the future!). Right now, what I love about illustration, is I feel like it’s the link between fashion and art. It’s a commercial form of art, and I’m able to paint for a living. I truly could not be more grateful. My experience at Michael Kors was amazing, and a fantastic education. I had the pleasure of working with the top people in the fashion industry, and to be a part of a brand that just continues to grow its global presence. Ultimately though, I really missed working with my hands, and getting them dirty painting and creating—it was time to launch my own illustration business, Marnani Design! Working for myself has allowed me to pursue the clients I used to dream of working with—the possibilities are endless—now, I just need more hours in the day!
So you’re a fashion-lover, designer, and illustrator. How would you describe your personal style and how does that influence your artwork?
Whimsical, Colorful, Sparkly and TEXTURED. My personal style totally influences my work and visa versa. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t put anything out there for my brand, Marnani, if I don’t like it. That’s the beauty in working for yourself! I think so many designers feel the need to dress in all black, or fit into a mold (chic, minimalist, etc), but I’m just me. In today’s over-saturated market, I think the more you can stand out, be authentic, and even be “colorful”—literally, and in spirit, the stronger your point of view will be.
We absolutely love how fun, whimsical, and electrifyingly colorful your illustrations are. Walk us through your creative process.
First of all, Thank you!—My goal is to always make colorful, charming, and whimsical work that put simply, just makes people happy. I want to create joy with my work. Living in a city like New York, the air is just so rich with inspiration. I know it sounds like a cliche, but it's also the undeniable truth. New York has it all--I find myself walking everywhere, more recently, I ride my bike. As I ride, and as I walk, I am constantly an active, observant sponge. I soak up colors, textures, sights, smells---anything and everything, to eventually put them to the paper with watercolors (I try to bring paints with me, at the least, I always have a sketch book). Whether I am working on a client project, or personal work, I usually try to educate myself on the subject by gathering “visual ephemera,” and then I usually sketch a few times before working on the final piece. My iPhone probably has one too many pictures on it (I’m always snapping “visual notes). Recently, I have challenged myself to only sketch with paint (no pencil first), as this really unleashes my personal style, and results in a fresher, more authentic end result. I have been illustrating “live” much more at corporate and private events, which also encourages this, as I am forced to capture the subject in a matter of fleeting seconds. Oh, and Instagram! My creative process always involves instagram!
We are inspired by the vibrant colors, patterns, and landscapes of Rwanda. What inspires you?
Color, color, and more color! Truly-- anything unique, or just happens to catch my eye. I think this has a lot to do with an emotional response—I seek art, products, clothing, which tell a story, and which I can connect to. In today’s mass-produced and over-consumed world, the precious nature of the handcrafted good is so special. That’s what I think is so great about Indego Africa—you empower women across the world in Rwanda by showing them their skillsets are valued, and even desired. The fact that many of these women have these skillsets, which are rare today, and almost a dying art---their work is inspiring to me as an artist! I am so glad their skills are being celebrated in a significant way.
Personalize & customize – these are two of the main tenets of the DIY lifestyle that P.S. I made this… is innovatively spreading around the world. So, what would you do with PSxIndegoAfrica’s collection of hand-embroidered patches?
It’s funny you should ask-- Erica actually asked me this exact question when we first met in her studio to discuss the project. I love the ideas that the P.S I Made This team put together—but if I had to come up with one on my own, I would love to take two and make earrings! I am all about things not matching. One day, I would love to start a line of shoes that don’t match—so why not start with earrings that don’t? I think I’d probably start with the teal bananas and the rainbow elephant. Who wouldn’t want those as fun earrings?
You, like many of our artisan partners, started your own business. What do you think it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?
Oh gosh, what a tough one. There is so much that goes into running a successful business, and honestly, I am still figuring out a lot of these things myself! However, I would say what I think what sets people apart is just good old-fashioned hard work. Living in New York, I have met so many wonderfully inspiring people, all with great ideas. However, ideas are nothing, without some real sweat and persistence. You many not figure it out right away, but I truly believe if you keep going, stay the path, and surround yourself with good mentors, and positive thinkers, you can have a successful business.
At Indego Africa, we are all about empowering women. What in your life has empowered you to become the person you are today?
My best friends and I always remind each other of what was told to us on our college commencement day -- we have won the “lottery of life.” This is so true in so many various ways. While like anyone else, I have faced my share of adversity in my life, I have also been amazingly blessed. I have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends -- and now a husband -- whom all believe in me and cheer me on. I truly don’t know where I would be without their support and energy. I also come from a long line of strong and successful women. It was just in my blood to grow up, utilize my talents, be thankful and humble, and always challenge oneself to strive to measure up to your potential.
Why do you support Indego Africa?
As I mentioned before, I am so thankful to have been introduced to Indego Africa by the PSIMT team. I can say I will definitely be an avid supporter moving forward. I think working on the PSxIndegoAfrica project definitely inspired me to connect with other artisans, and appreciate handmade goods. I also firmly believe in the importance in supporting female artisans and entrepreneurs. In a way, I rely on this myself. If I didn’t have an audience, clients, or customers, I would not be in business.As an artist, I also think what separates Indego Africa, is their ability to curate these truly stunning pieces -- they are works of art, in my opinion. There isn’t a single piece that I wouldn’t absolutely adore in my home or closet. Usually a procrastinating shopper, I am thrilled it’s July, and I already know where I’m doing my holiday shopping this year! The best part -- I will be pleased to tell the recipients about the women who made them.
We are thrilled to announce the launch of our much-anticipated collaboration with P.S.- I made this… - the innovative lifestyle brand founded by Erica Domesek whose mission is to inspire and empower people around the globe to cultivate their inner-creativity and embrace the ever-growing do-it-yourself (DIY) way of life.
Today the fruits of this crazy-cool & creative partnership can be found for sale on our website: a vibrant, fun, and vividly colored collection of hand-embroidered patches! These iron-on DIY dreams come in sets of two and include inspiration from P.S.- I made this… on how to transform the patches into wearable embellishments on backpacks, sweatshirts, pouches, and more.
The patch collection was inspired by Erica’s passion for vivid color, bold objects and beautiful animals along with our love for Rwanda’s rich culture and landscape. This summer, Erica had the chance to see Rwanda’s rolling green hills, radiant sunsets, and colorful wildlife for herself when she traveled there to meet our local team and visit our partner cooperatives!
Erica, along with Babs Burchfield of Conscious Commerce (the guide to conscious living she co-founded with Olivia Wilde), spent three jam-packed and fun-filled days in Rwanda. Highlights of the trip included ordering custom-made batik jackets at Cocoki, learning how to weave at AJ, and seeing the PSxIndegoAfrica collection come to life in the hands of the talented artisans of IBABA!
On the last day, Erica taught a class to fourteen of our artisan partners on creativity, branding, and starting your own business. The women were enthralled by P.S.- I made this…’ story and eager to flip through the pages of Erica’s most recent DIY book, P.S.- You’re Invited. There was such spirited dialogue following the class that our Country Director, Rosine, had to cut the conversation short to make sure Erica didn’t miss her flight! Participants left that day feeling inspired by how much they could accomplish with the knowledge, skills, and creativity they already had.
"Witnessing the process of my illustrations come to life stitch by stitch before my eyes in Rwanda by the women was incredible. The time, heart and soul the IBABA artisans dedicated to each patch was the purest form of craftsmanship.
Indego Africa is doing amazing things where they strive to educate and employ the women of the cooperatives. Never has an organization opened my eyes and put a lens on DIY in such a beautiful and inspiring way. It's an honor to be apart of their organization and spread our colorful mission for good!" – Erica Domesek
This feeling of self-empowerment is central to the P.S.-I made this… mission and one of the reasons that we love their work as much at we do. At Indego, we are all about empowering women – through economic opportunities, education, and the handmade process itself. We believe that there is something distinctly special and powerful about seeing a product from start to finish - about putting in passion, artistry, creativity, love, and inspiration, and coming away with a unique item that is self-made and totally awesome.
We hope that our patch collection will inspire you to get down and DIY - transforming everyday items into new, bold, and beautiful pieces. We can't wait to see what you come up with! Grab your favorite patch set here!
On Thursday, June 19th we’re celebrating the art of the stitch – and you’re invited!
As you may have noticed by now, we are obsessed with the beautiful hand-embroidery of IBABA – a cooperative of 28 women artisans in Rutongo, Rwanda.
The women of this area initially learned the art of embroidery in the 1970s from a group of Belgian nuns that, eager to provide young women with a source of income, established an embroidery training center and workshop there. For years, the workshop flourished, at one point employing over 300 women artisans. However, its success came to an abrupt end in 1994 when the Rwandan genocide ravaged life in the region and forced the cooperative to disband.
In 2012, the Rutongo embroidery workshop opened its doors again and we could not be happier that it did. Under the leadership of two passionate and determined French sisters, Véronique and Pascale, the workshop – now known as IBABA – is back and better than ever.
The ladies of IBABA can hand-embroider anything – and we mean ANYTHING. It all starts with a design – be it a flamingo, flower, or feather – which the artisans lightly sketch on Belgian linen secured in an embroidery hoop. Once the threads are chosen, the long & complex process of tightly stitching them together begins. It requires an immense degree of focus, precision, and skill, and the finished products are often so good, they appear to be screen-printed!
We are consistently amazed by the intricate and vibrant work from IBABA – so much so that we chose to put a frame on it! On June 19th we will be celebrating the launch of our framed embroidery collection at the William Holman Gallery in NYC (65 Ludlow St) from 6-9 PM. Come revel in the art of the stitch with us – tickets available here
Sharing with you all the things we love - Staff pick by Brittany Barb – Branding Associate
As a life-long lover of elephants, photography and a good coffee table book, I can’t get enough of Nick Brandt’s incredible collection, Across the Ravaged Land. It is the third in a trilogy of books depicting the disappearing animals of East Africa and its images of elephants are particularly beautiful (and heartbreaking).
Magic Ladders Exhibit at the Barnes Museum
We love people, places and things – here is a person that creates beautiful things that you can see at a place!
Meet Yinka Shonibare – the artist behind the stunning and provocative Magic Laddersexhibit at The Barnes Museum in Philadelphia. Born in Britain but raised in Nigeria, Shonibare subversively examines the relationship between Europe and Africa through the colonial and postcolonial period.
The Magic Ladders exhibit is sponsored by Anthropologie and features Shonibare’s signature life-sized mannequins clothed in colorful Dutch wax fabrics produced in Europe but most closely associated with Africa (similar to those we package our products in!) These dramatic, playful, and irreverent sculptures are both visually spectacular and deeply thought provoking, inviting the viewer to think critically about notions of race, gender, and cultural identity*.
So if you’re in the Philly area, we highly recommend checking out this exhibit. And if you’re not then…ROAD TRIP!