Crasset and Herkner Partner With Zimbabwean Basket Artisans

A unique collaboration saw designers Matali Crasset and Sebastian Herkner partner with Zimbabwean basket weavers.

Courtesy Matali Crasset

To the touch and to the eye, woven baskets can seem rudimentary. Making them, however, requires great skill and artistry, from the gathering and preparation of the fibers to the weaving itself. A European cultural consortium in partnership with the National Gallery of Zimbabwe has been bringing designers to the country to collaborate with local basket makers. While conducting workshops with 17 weavers from the Bulawayo region, Matali Crasset and Sebastian Herkner both saw opportunities to integrate the techniques with their own design sensibilities.

Crasset took inspiration from the iconic Bulawayo gourd basket, using it as the basis for functional yet decorative objects and forms. Working with the weavers of Bulawayo Home Industries—a social organization that assists local women in finding work by helping them learn a specific craft—she designed a series of bags, mirror stands, vases, and Matopos sculptural bowls or trays, woven from locally sourced natural fibers like ilala and sisal.

Meanwhile, Herkner joined forces with the Binga Craft Centre to combine the weavers’ basket-making knowledge with his own creative language. The resulting collaboration incorporated elements like pottery and colored fibers from rice bags. The products, which were showcased and sold this year at Ambiente as part of the Basket Case II exhibition, highlighted socially sustainable design, giving the weavers an opportunity to make a living from their handiwork.

Crasset’s designs were influenced by the gourde basket, which is unique to the Bulawayo weaving style.

Courtesy Matali Crasset

Like Crasset, German designer Sebastian Herkner developed a series of basket design with their Zimbabwean partners.

Courtesy Sebastian Herkner

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