It’s the rich stories woven into our baskets that make them so special – where they’ve been and where they’ve travelled from; whose tactile hands they’ve been crafted by and whose creative minds helped breathe them into being. This year we collaborated with two artists to bring our colourful collection of embroidered motif baskets to life: lllustrator Jacqueline Colley who designed the baskets’ playful motifs from her studio in the UK, and artist Nduta Karikuri, who hand embroidered each and every basket from her studio in Nairobi.
Member of the weaving cooperative in Kenya
The designs that grace the surfaces of these nifty baskets were created to the joyful sounds of reggae music cranked up loud, inspired by rummaging at English car boot sales and gazing at Kenyan trees - and fuelled by many cups of tea and coffee. The two women behind the playful and striking designs on these woven baskets both look to exercise to charge up their creative juices, and find creative outlets in singing, stand-up comedy, and in other artwork such as portraiture, crochet and screen printing. Here’s what happened when Alice from The Basket Room caught up with Nduta and Jacqueline over email recently.
Nduta – this is Jacqueline, who listened to our initial design ideas and transformed them into such stylish and charismatic motifs. Jacqueline, meet Nduta. She took your gorgeous illustrations and translated them to the baskets with her magical hand-stitching. We’d love to get to know a bit more about what you both do and how you work, so first of all: how did you get into your particular craft?
Nduta: From my Grandmother, mostly, and my parents. I was artsy growing up and later studied Fine Art in Kenyatta University. I majored in Painting with minors in Graphic Design and Sculpture.
Jacqueline: I studied Graphic Design at Chelsea Art College and then spent six years working in Textile Print Design for High Street fashion brands before leaving to become a freelance illustrator
Alice: Is this your main occupation or do you do anything else as well?
Nduta: I paint portraits primarily and dabble extensively; crotchet, drawing, mosaic furniture, sculpture, photography, singing and stand-up.
Jacqueline: It’s my main occupation but it includes doing lots of different things. For example, I also do things like screen printing and designing products that I then sell in my online shop, as well as working on illustration commissions for clients
Alice: Have you collaborated with other artists before on any projects?
Nduta: Yes. Mostly as part of portraiture showcases.
Jacqueline: I love to collaborate, especially when it means you can see your work interpreted into a new medium such as embroidery. I’m currently working on a collaboration with a wood laser cut jewellery company; Materia Rica
Jacqueline's illustrations featured on a woven throw
Alice: Where do you carry out your work? What sort of room / space / environment?
Nduta: I currently work from home, but it's cramped. I was previously based at the GoDown Art centre in Nairobi, which closed in December for a rebuild.
Jacqueline: I’m lucky to be able to work from home, especially since we converted the spare room into my studio, giving me lots of space to draw and take photographs of my work - plus store my hoard of books, paper, ephemera and plants!
Alice: Do you work alone or around other people?
Nduta: Mostly alone.
Jacqueline: I used to work in big offices and now I work alone. I’m really introverted so it suits me well and means I have more energy for socialising deliberately!
Alice: Where or who do you turn to for artistic inspiration or practical help in your work?
Nduta: Reggae, colour, observing people, trees. Dad gives me pointers too.
Jacqueline: When my partner comes home from work I often ask for his thoughts and advice; I trust his opinion the most! For inspiration I head to a museum or a car-boot or antiques fair. Nothing better than rifling through old books, papers and magazines!
Alice: What helps you work better?
Nduta: Reggae and good vibes!
Jacqueline: Coffee and a podcast is perfect. I also love listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks read by Stephen Fry. So soothing!
Alice: Describe briefly your daily routine on a work day
Nduta: I don't have much of a regular one at the moment. When I had studio space I'd get to the studio at around 10 am, blast reggae, work on a portrait (or embroider/crotchet/prepare stretchers and canvas/draw), have lunch, continue working till five, do a bit of boxing, have tea, wind down, head to the house, and crotchet some more.
Jacqueline: I love to do a gym class in the morning as it energises me. I’ll generally spend too much time checking my emails and to-do list and finding ways to avoid tasks I don’t like! I might pop to the post office to post some online orders and have a chat with the staff. On a good day I’ll fit in some drawing and ignore the admin..!
Portrait by Nduta
Alice: What is the most challenging thing about your craft?
Nduta: Staying hopeful and optimistic. Establishing my niche. Life and its curve balls.
Jacqueline: For me it’s taken a really long time to develop my style and accumulate enough clients that want to commission me in my style. As an illustrator you have to really embrace self-promotion and getting your work out there in order for people to see it and some will - fingers crossed - like it and support you.
Alice: What do you love most about your craft?
Nduta: There's a bit of me in everything I create. I try to pass along and find good vibes in my art while singing along to reggae songs out loud.
Jacqueline: Getting to create my own path, I’ve gone from a job where what I was drawing was dictated by trends that could be quite repetitive to being able to draw what I’m inspired by and create the patterns and products that I want to see in the world!
Alice: What would you like to say to one another?
Nduta: The watermelon is awesome. People just smiled when they saw it - everyone. Being able to actualize your designs on the baskets has been great. Best wishes in all you do. Be good.
Jacqueline: You’re so talented! I’ve loved seeing how you interpreted my illustrations into your stitches! It’s better than I could have imagined! Also, embroidery is hard on the hands, so I hope they’ve had bit of a rest since. I’m excited to see what you embroider next…
Alice: It’s a pleasure to introduce you both, and we want to thank you both for your hard work on this project, and for sharing your creative gifts - and your stories - with us all.
Shop our Embroidered Motif Basket collection here.