Artisanne: basket beauty!

I’ve never come across anyone who doesn’t like a basket. Fact.

But when I came across Artisanne I found a newer, more profound love for those woven beauties! And to top it off, they are sustainable and ethically produced!

Founded by two sisters, Elizabeth and Emma, Artisanne was born while discovering and growing to love the work of local artisans while living in and visiting Senegal over the last six years.

At first, they visited local markets in the capital, Dakar, to buy baskets for their own homes, where they used them to store laundry, toys and household clutter. Stylish and unique, they found that they also made great presents for friends and family.

It was the popularity of the baskets by friends and family that made the two sisters look into bringing these baskets, the work of incredibly talented Senegalese women, to the UK.

I asked Elizabeth a few questions to know more about the background of her stunning business:

Tell me about Artisanne… how & when did the brand start and how has it evolved?

It was started by myself Elizabeth, based in London and my sister Emma who lived in Senegal for
6 years, after we fell in love with the baskets.
I began by bringing baskets home as presents every time I visited Emma. People loved
them so we were inspired to find ways to bring the work of these talented weavers to
European homes.

What is your background?

Raised in Chiswick, West London, I started my career as a Modern Languages teacher! Two years later, I moved into advertising where I then worked for 13 years before subsequently starting a small brand consultancy with a colleague before eventually founding Artisanne. My sister Emma is a child protection specialist and has worked for several organisations including War Child, Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers and Child Frontiers. Alongside supporting me with Artisanne, she currently works as a consultant on a wide range of initiatives, including research and evaluation, and policy development processes. She has lived and worked in Africa for the last 13 years, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Senegal and Kenya, where she is currently based.

How often do you visit the artisan makers?
Up to four times a year! It is exciting, but hard work and a different trip each time. Our children have come with us and we have lovely relationship with the women who work for us. They love to see the photos we show them of their baskets in your homes!

Tell me what makes Artisanne sustainable and ethical?
Our ethos and attention to the fair trade practices, specifically the importance of our relationships, working directly with the weavers, allowing no middle man to do the in-between allows us to understand and act on issues that arise for our weavers. The baskets, although beautiful and elegant are built for use and should last a lifetime, treated with care. We adhere to the traditional techniques that are passed down over generations from mother to daughter, which means we only weave round or oval baskets. Our baskets are individually handmade, each one unique, a handwoven handmade artisan piece made from the local sustainable grasses grown in Senegal and the Gambia and bound with long strips of plastic twine traditionally used is in making prayer mats. Some of the larger take over a week to weave.We are aiming to have all our baskets made from 100% recycled plastics in 2018!

Where do you see Artisanne going in the next year?
Having begun with only 3 weavers to now have 75 working for Artisanne we hope to share our baskets with a larger audience, beyond the UK and mainland Europe. As well as expanding on our work in Senegal in mentoring our weavers in their training as some of them now take on more managerial roles. It is exciting to see this develop!

Do you have any new product launches soon?

We are excited to launch new colors and designs on our Round Storage Toy Basket and our bestselling Alibaba this year as well as introducing two playful takes our designs the Small Alibaba and the Baby Baba, but we are very excited about launching exclusively to our website this winter is our bestselling Alibaba in an Extra Large!

Elizabeth very generously gave me a wonderful basket which was thoroughly tried and tested by my nearly two year old ALL WEEKEND!! It suddenly became his favourite toy ever and I can say that for being trampled on, jumped on, eaten on and even a pretend nap on, it looks like it’s just been taken out of its packaging!



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