Models @astar.jpegs (L) and @kioksianto with UPINDE tote and JUA bucket Bag

One week on from launching our new luxe summer bag collection and we have been blown away by the response to these beautiful bags. So much so that UPINDE, that fabulous rainbow tote, has just sold out! What is so wonderful about this is that we can now look into placing a second order with the weavers, brazier and leatherworkers to produce another small batch of this popular design. Stay tuned!

We've made a short film showing some of the work that went into each bag in this collection,  after the weaving - see below and read on to learn more...

Last week we talked about the concepts behind The Utopia Collection - hope, unity and celebration - so this week it feels like time to tell some of the story behind the bags’ production. Basket weaving is naturally the craft that we talk about most at The Basket Room, but leatherwork is another traditional craft we champion, as well as brass work and embroidery. 

 Every hole on every leather strap is hand punched


We have introduced you to the leatherworkers we partner with before; led by the inspirational Isabell. These leatherworkers are the last artisans to finish all our woven bags before they are counted, checked for quality control and packed into the container bound for our HQ in Chipping Norton, UK. It is here that our small leather tabs are cut, embossed with our logo and stitched into our baskets, and where all leather straps and trims are made, cut and attached to our bags.

Details, details... WINGU Mono Checkerboard Stripe Crossbody Bag £75

...And those brass buckles, beads, dog clips and D-rings? Every single piece of hardware was created by master brazier Ruben Omollo in Nairobi, from melting down pieces of scrap brass into individual moulds: discarded window latches, brass bells, nuts, bolts and chains.

Sustainable brass work, formed from melted down scrap metal

This method is known as the lost wax bronze casting technique. Humans have been casting bronze for almost 6000 years, and while the tools used have changed, the fundamentals of the process remain essentially the same.

Anna, Camilla and Isabell show off the bag prototypes in Nairobi

This process is referred to as 'lost-wax' because the original model, typically made from wax, is melted down in the process of creating a mould to pour metal into. For our bag brassware, the moulds were formed from a mixture of molasses and sand.

The molasses and sand mould in two halves.

Ruben would create a ‘source model’ of each piece of bag brassware, encase it in the mould and then break the mould in two to free the source model – leaving a cavity in the exact shape of the piece he would then be producing multiple copies of for the bags.

D-rings in construction. The pole on the end (formed when the molten brass was piped into the mould) will be filed away.

The brazier then fixes the two pieces of the mould back together and leaves a small hole to pour the molten metal into, before piping the liquid brass into the heart of the mould and firing the mould over a high heat. Finally, the mould is broken open and each new piece of brassware is filed to precision on a mechanical wheel.


Handcrafted D-rings in beautiful, recycled brass 

Confused by all the buckles and beads? Let us talk you through the brassware on one of the bags in the collection. The JUA rainbow bucket bag features recycled brass dog clips (for detaching the braided leather hand strap),  D-rings (which the dog clips clip onto) and decorative brass beadwork. Its removable shoulder strap (not pictured) also boasts a handmade recycled brass buckle. 

JUA Rainbow Check Bucket Bag, £125, is a work of artisanal craft 

Let us not forget to mention embroidery, too. Every pair of inquisitive eyes on every MOTO tote and HEWA bucket bag was hand stitched by the talented Naironi-based artist Nduta Karikuri, with whom we have worked with for several years now. She is the sole artist who embroidered our first collections of embroidered motif baskets, and the Anthropologie collab face baskets which we now sell online. 

MOTO Eyes Tote, £79, with adjustable, handcrafted leather shoulder straps  and all recycled brassware as seen with @girlwithbellsandwhistles

We are extremely proud that these bags unite so many artisans across Kenya, and uphold three (and in the case of the embroidered bags, four) traditional crafts: basket weaving, leather work, brass work, and embroidery. We are utterly in love with them, and we really hope that you love them too - and the rich story behind their production. 

Shop The Utopia Collection now – they’re selling fast!

June 10, 2022

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