Tuesday, March 8, 2011


A while ago I came into contact with an elderly woman who was born in the Transkei which was one of the former homelands in South-Africa under the Apartheid Regime. I met her at a traffic-light corner in my town selling her hand-made reed and grass brooms. The brooms were beautiful but she had another item which caught my attention.

She had a bracelet woven of reed grass - woven with a grass-species originating from the area around Coffee-Bay at the Wild-Coast were she usually lived. Africa is a continent with a long tradition in basket and mat weaving. And many other items have been created by Africans from this amazing material with a durability that is simply astounding. 
I asked her : " Why did she have only one ? "
And she replied : " Only old women in the place where I live wear it . Not many are sold in town. " 

The bracelet she had with her did not look like the ones in the picture but these are the occasions I am looking for. This is what gets me all excited. These are the processes I want to get engaged with with my business.
To find and discover crafts and crafts techniques and the people who are still able to do them is a permanent quest of mine. 

To realize my personal vision concerning design means for me to marry old valued techniques with new modern design and to be as creative as possible in this process from a view-point of materials used and re-used well as the functionality and the symbolic meaning of a product in our time.

Since then I have started to work with her and our collaboration is an on-going process. 
I asked her if she could do some of my very simple designs and she has created amazing bracelets with great skill and precision. The wonderful thing about them is that a cycle has been fully closed. 
A century old technique has been used to create a modern design item that is completely organic, non-treated and natural. And its is compatible with the aspirations of  " Modern Design " in our world as well. 
Additionally a person who can be considered as a representative of a marginalized group is able to earn income and receives recognition.

I have uploaded big photos so that you can see the incredible detail and the different styles of weaving. 

During the time I have worked in the International Development Sector for non-government-organizations and other projects I learned that to create and design an item that sells it has to be absolutely desirable to at least a group of people, a target market or a niche. The item or product must incorporate characteristics that make it desirable to give it a long life cycle.The person must want your item and not feel tempted to buy it because of you who has made it. Then you are a good designer.
People do buy out of charity because they feel compassionate about a certain group or organization. But they buy only once and then what was bought sinks into a drawer.

Not only has this been an amazing creative process for my but I did AGAIN learn at lot.
During traditional Xhosa weddings certain gifts were given to the bride representing parts of her future life. The broom is one of them. I will write more about this interesting topic in another post because it is a whole tale that can be taught. 

We thought after our designs have been received so well that these organic bracelets would make beautiful and surprising small gifts for the female guests of weddings in Europe, America and elsewhere as well. 
Instead of giving a chocolate truffle that is consumed immediately or something that can not be used after the wedding the bracelets make for a fashionable accessory and remind your guests a long time of this special moment. 
We have started marketing them as such and have equipped several weddings with them last year.

It is worth thinking about this if you are getting married or if you have a friend who is getting married and is looking for creative ideas to make her wedding special. 
Chocolat Negro gives great wholesale discounts. And a woman in Africa who is a fantastic crafter will be empowered financially by weaving your wedding gifts for you.

If you are interested you can contact me on Chocolat Negro:

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