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Our Process

BASKETWARE & MATS

All products are completely made by hand from start to finish. Although we strive for uniformity and consistency within our product lines, it is important for the consumer to understand that each product is unique. We make an allowance for a centimetre or two here and there as these are handmade. We work incredibly closely with all our craftswomen going back to bare basics, in order to deal with the challenges of language barriers and continue to build strong relationships, and build trust. Often designs have been drawn in the sand to ensure we are all in understanding. With little or no education these women’s lives have focussed on bearing children and maintaining their homestead and crops. The traditional skill handed down the by their grandparents have enabled them, with our help, to generate an income.

View The Products
Rush Mat Production
Ilala Palms by River
Ilala Palm Handmade Products
Ilala Palm

Ilala palm (Hyphaene Coriacea) leaves are used for the making the majority of products that make up the Collaborative Craft Projects core range. The Ilala palms are indigenous to Zimbabwe and grow in dry sandy areas away from rivers. They are non-invasive, plentiful and readily available. The dried leaves are naturally cream in colour, however, to achieve the various design patterns seen on our basketware we use traditional methods of dying this leaf to create the desired colour palette.

Collaborative Craft Twine DyeThe ladies boil up a basic strong brew from a selection of bark, roots and organic matter. They separate the palm fronds and steep them in this liquid overnight to create the various shades seen across our range, particularly our collaborative craft twine.

These traditional skills, handed down historically from their grandparents paired with our contemporary designs help to achieve the final product and provide variety and added dimension to the range. The Ndebele people are traditionally farmers and would use their baskets in their villages to collect and store grain.

The Ilala palms grow freely in the Binga area where they are harvested. We provide transport and all the resources necessary to ensure supply and delivery of this vital raw material to our craft workshops in the communal areas. This ensures the wheels keep turning on production and the all-important deadlines are met.

Ibhuma

Ibhuma reeds (Typha Capensis), otherwise locally known as ‘bulrush’ are the largest component of our rush mats.

Ibhuma is native to Zimbabwe, prolific, and are often found in dams and waterways where they grow in the shallow water. The Ibhuma is cut directly from its source by our women and transported by us back to their communal lands during the dry season and stockpiled during the dry season when access to these areas is relatively easy. Once here it is then dried until it has lost its green colour. This process takes two to three weeks.

The reeds are then plaited and rolled into large balls ready for mat weaving. The women use their toes to secure each length, and the long process begins of twisting and plaiting the rushes into the desired lengths. Whilst the elders are peacefully performing this ritual, usually on the ‘stoep’ of their village kraal, the younger members of the group are sent into the bush to harvest the sisal used to bind the mats. Another stage in the manufacturing process is the stripping of the sisal plant. Once the fleshy outer layer of the leaf is stripped from the plant, a natural string is exposed, white in colour, resembling the mane of a horse. This is coiled into reams and set aside for the dying and twisting process to begin. The elders instruct their the young in this long and intricate process.

They twist and roll the raw sisal on their bare legs until it meshes together to form a long thread. Huge metal darning needles are used to thread the thick sisal twine and this is used to pierce through the reed strips and bind the mat into the desired dimensions. All mats are made to specified dimensions. Most of the women are illiterate and although tape measures are distributed regularly these are often disregarded in favour of lengths of string or lines in the sand!

We offer a bespoke service, and custom makes mats for our clients in the hospitality industry and can make to any size required. Please, however, note, that due to the handmade nature of our mats, there can be a 3-5cm variance in size, making them ‘perfectly imperfect’ and is part of the appeal to our clients.

The only imported content used in the production process of our rush matting is 100% natural jute and a selection of cotton ribbing in a variety of colours which we import from India.  This provides us with a neat binding solution, and can be tied into your interior scheme. No synthetic materials are used in the production of our products.

Ibhuma Reeds Collaborative Craft Projects
Rush Mat Ibhuma Production
Ibhuma Ball of String
Sisal String Collaborative Craft Projects
Agave Products Handmade Zimbabwe
Sisal
Agave sisalana

Sisal, which is a species of Agave, is traditionally used to make rope or twine and is the binding element which is essential to our rush matting production. The fibres are extracted from the leaves through a process called decortication. Sisal is used because of its durability, stretching ability, and porous nature- making it easy for dyes to be absorbed.

The dyes used are all natural and come from various trees which are native to Zimbabwe. Black dye is made by using leaves from the Umdwada tree which can be found in woodland areas. Uchane leaves are used to produce a yellow dye. Isinga roots and Umhlahlampethu leaves are used to produce different shades of brown. Deciduous shrubs or small tree and other organic matter are used to create a delightful, rainbow of authentic African earth tones.

Natural cane sourced in the Bohera district. It is made pliable by soaking in water, woven and sealed with a clear varnish to protect it and give if a matte finish.  Women use it to weave  the traditional buhera baskets in various sizes which are often sold as statement pieces for interior designers and create instant ‘wow’ factor in any space. The cane is difficult to work with and we engage male and female artisans in this process. The men specialising in our side tables and mirror frames and the women specialising in the traditional baskets.