The Comptoir des Talents unearths professional artisans who make utilitarian or decorative objects, produced in small quantities utilising an authentic know-how.
I select these artisans on the basis of objective criteria and, as far as possible, I meet them in their workplace.
Mountain guide and environmental educator, Emilie Rouillon was naturally attracted by basketry and wicker. In 2007, she decided to take up craftsmanship and trained at the ENOV (National School of Wickerwork and Basketry). In 2009, Émilie creates the Atelier Archelle in the north of Ardèche.
Émilie started with a production of classic basketry. Today, she expresses her artistic talent with wicker, a natural material which allow her to create with a wide range of possibilities.
Transmission of know-how:
One week per month, Émilie teaches wickerweaving and shares her technical knowledge with trainees. She works closely wih her wicker suppliers in France and knows exactly where her raw material comes from.
The future of the wickerweaving:
“My profession is being renewed. The work of the craftsman has its own place in today’s world. Moreover, wicker is a natural, renewable and sustainable material that allows the creation of awesone items. I therefore promise him a positive future”.
“Our work is linked to the one of the farmers and the soil. We are at the end of the chain with a healthy and sustainable product. The work of the basket maker offers a vision of a more respectful society that pay a special attention to the human being and his environment. Each object conveys these values and builds the future“. Emilie Rouillon, Atelier Archelle
The Aparici family has been involved in the production of items made from vegetable fibres for three generations. Their objects are made with different materials (wicker, alba, rope) which require different tools and preparation. Some need to be wet, others not. Some have to be shaped in a mould, others are made directly by hand.
What motivates you in this craft?
We are proud to continue a traditional craft, even though in these times of globalisation, foreign competition is rough. However, our trade is destined to disappear because our profession is undervalued. Here in Spain, the sacrifice of this type of work is not rewarded. We will never be able to sell at the same price as handicrafts made in asian countries where the standard of living is lower and where products are infinitely cheaper.
“We work in a short circuit with unprocessed and environmentally friendly raw materials. We have no polluting machines and have produced videos to transmit our know-how via YouTube. We would like to be more socially committed, but we work hard to keep ourselves afloat, which leaves us little strength to commit ourselves on other fronts“. José Aparici, grandson of Juan
Kostas shapes olive wood with his team in Crete. It is a hard job that requires a lot of patience. The olive tree is a demanding and complex wood. The exploitable boards are rare because they are often encrusted with pebbles that have infiltrated the trunks over the years and in bad weather.
Olivier, the tree of life! For centuries, it has been the trademark of Greece. As a rule, the olive branch was given as first prize to the winners of the Olympic Games in ancient times. In Crete, there are 35 million olive trees, or about 60 trees per inhabitant. It is an essential resource for the country.
“I work with my team of 5 artisans on the olive tree. This wood is noble and very durable as a material because of its high density (92%). The objects made of olive wood come from places on the tree that are being pruned and therefore the tree remains alive and healthy. The products made are unique because they are all handmade. When you have an olive wood object, it’s for life!” Kostas Kokkoris
Studio Donegal Woollen Mill is based in Kilcar, Co Donegal, where a tradition of hand weaving and woollen textiles has been in existence, dating back to the late 1700’s and earlier, prior to the Industrial Revolution. Textiles provided an important income for rural dwellers in the cottage industry.
By the late 1970s Connemara fabrics realised that something special had been lost with the demise of the hand weaving and so Studio Donegal was born.
Kevin Donaghy was engaged to manage and develop the newly created Studio Donegal. It started in the old Round Tower mill buildings, which were almost derelict. The beginnings were humble, with the retired foreman hand weaver Michael Cannon returning to work on development with Kevin. Soon they were gaining interest with new products and Michael was training several young weavers.
Positive social impact:
Since 1979 Kevin and his wife Wendy are determined to preserve the tradition of hand weaving in Kilcar. Kevin explains : ” Masters weavers have passed their skills on to a younger generation. It is our aim to keep the craft alive for generations to come. All products labelled Studio Donegal are 100% genuinely hand woven and made in Ireland. We will continue to strive to maintain the indigenous craft of hand in South West Donegal. We are passionate about hand making and Irish made!”
Sabine Meyer founded Side by Side in 2002 with the idea of creating qualitative work for people with disabilities.
All persons who manufacture Side by Side objects are disabled. They work in adapted workshops all over Germany. 60% of the proceeds from the sale of Side by Side products are devoted to the salary of workers, 40% goes to the purchase of materials: wood, glass, metal.
In the workshops, the teams work in small groups of 12 people led by a workshop leader who passes on their know-how. Side by Side emphasizes training by example which allows workers to learn a lot.
Most of the items are manufactured in wood with a FSC or a PEFC Certificate. Some woods come from very local suppliers from Bavaria, other from European forests.
Positive social impact:
“The main societal impact of Side by Side is to offer high quality products that allow people with disabilities to find their place in society. People buy our products because they love them, find them useful and beautiful, and not for charitable purposes. For me, that’s the inclusion!¨ Sabine Meyer
Graphic designers, Tiago and Rita founded the Carapau brand in 2015. This 100% Portuguese decoration brand offers high quality products focused on sustainable design, color and the use of traditional materials.
The animals, representative of a threatened species, are designed by Tiago and Rita and made in Oporto with materials made in Portugal: burel (resistant wool used for mountain shepherds’ clothing), linen, vegetable inks … Each creation is accompanied an identification sheet which gives the name of the animal, the state of conservation of the species and the materials used.
“We are at the heart of a crisis in the conservation of animal species that affects the entire planet. The more we learn about it, the more we are inspired by the role we can play. We believe that social entrepreneurship can help change the world.” Rita and Tiago
For each Carapau animal sold, Tiago and Rita donate 3% of the proceeds to three wildlife protection NGOs (Afrikan Park, Oceana, World Land Trust).
The MOWGS brand was founded in 2015 by Michal Simpson, an Asian enthusiast and ex-professional in the fashion industry. When Michal meets with braiders and their families, they make very basic baskets during the rainy season in reed and recycled plastic. Michal decides to help them preserve their traditional know-how and get a better price for their work.
The collaboration between Michal and the braiders is based on trust. They are thus paid before the start of work, at a level higher than the market price. These additional revenues allow them to improve their living conditions.
Positive social impact:
MOWGS is certified by BAFTS (British Association Fair Trade). “Currently, I work with 4 remote villages and support the schooling of 180 children. This story is as important as the baskets as it demonstrates the importance of preserving know-how in countries of origin, education and support to local communities.” Michal Simpson
Are you a professional craftsman? Do you have genuine know-how? Do you create durable objects from natural or recycled materials? Are you driven by a strong societal commitment and want to promote your work at the heart of a local business in Brussels?
© Comptoir des Talents - 2021