With two beautiful new sisal rug designs fresh in for 2020, we thought it was about time that we introduced you to the supremely talented and hardworking man behind every single rug and runner that we sell at The Basket Room. His story is so important to hear and know that we shot a short film about him and his most extraordinary craft on a recent trip to Kenya. Enjoy!
KICHANA: New for S/S 20 Rugs from £55
Bernard Nyerere Kimuli is one of the last loom weavers in Kenya, a farmer first and foremost who supplements his agricultural income with weaving. Bernard produces every single rug sold by The Basket Room himself. Given that our basket collections are crafted by networks of co-operatives made up of anything from 50 to 500 weavers, this is an incredibly unique partnership.
Bernard Nyerere Kimuli
Add to this the fact that loom weaving is a declining craft in Kenya - the training required is lengthy; it's complex, time-consuming and physically very demanding work - and here we have a very special story. Weavers like Bernard are few and far between, and his rugs are pieces of an extremely rare and precious craft.
PANA: New for S/S 20 Rugs from £55
Weaving rugs and mats has enabled Bernard to send his four children to school. Like the majority of the weavers we partner with in Kenya and across Africa, farming lies at the heart of Bernard’s family income. During the dry seasons when crops fail and livestock suffers, Bernard’s meticulous work gives him the opportunity to earn a flexible, supplementary and fair wage to help support himself and his family.
Hand loom work is technical and time-consuming
Bernard weaves each mat and runner from indigenous sisal grass, and the larger ones take four days to complete. The leaves of this robust plant are traditionally used for producing rope and twine, and its tough fibres are split, rolled and dyed by hand before being worked through the loom to create a fine, tight and flat weave that feels comfortable underfoot.
Co-founders Camilla (L) and Holly with Bernard outside his workshop
In buying one of these exquisite rugs or runners for your home, you're helping us support Bernard in supporting his family, but you're also helping us protect the precious legacy of loom weaving for generations to come. Bernard currently has just one apprentice, but with continued orders from us we hope that he will be able to train more and more young people to keep this craft alive and prospering.
Another way to support this work, if you'd like, is to share this article on your social channels and help us spread this important story more widely. You'll find share buttons below. Thank you!
Shop the collection here.