Basket weaving, cestiera in Italian, is one of the oldest forms of craftsmanship in the world. Creating containers to collect and carry fruits, berries or small tools has greatly assisted man in times gone by. Today basketry is an advanced and complex art, rediscovered and loved by all forms of people. One of the most prolific and capable spokespersons is Tabara N'Diaye of La Basketry who, with pride, continues the art of Senegalese weaving.
Tabara lives in London, breathes in its energy and gathers in all that it has to offer. Nevertheless, she also remains true to her origins, magnificent Senegal. With its baobabs, its red earth, its passion for craftsmanship and its people dressed in vivid colours. Tabara therefore represents a perfect bridge between Europe and Africa.
For us she has constructed a tutorial for beginners in which she teaches the art of weaving for the creation of a basket. For this project she has chosen the Stromboli tape, however, any yarn could actually be used to wrap the structural part that forms the basket, it all depends on the final effect you wish to create.
And now let's get to know Tabara better with the interview I had the pleasure of conducting with her.
What does the art of basketry represent for you?
It’s a craft I fell in love with, and it’s a craft that has allowed me to express myself and develop my creativity. As someone who has grown up with technology in such a fast-paced world, it has allowed me to connect with my hands, disconnect from the world and embrace the meditative and therapeutic effects of crafting, which I think a lot of the younger generations are not fully aware of. I feel that it’s an art that is not as celebrated as it should be, it’s one of the oldest crafts in the world. You can find basket-weaving in so many other crafts like weaving, ceramics, it should really be more celebrated!
Do you remember where and when you created your first basket?
I had very high ambitions when weaving my first basket. I think I wanted to weave a bowl or a plant pot, without realising that it would take hours and hours. My first basket-weaving project was actually a coaster made with dried grasses and a red plastic string. It’s wobbly so I wouldn’t put a drink on it, but I still have it in my studio as it's a lovely reminder of where I started and how ‘practice makes perfect’. For me, it’s really been about embracing the process and the craft, more so than the final result.
Are there any messages hidden behind the colors or geometric patterns of a basket?
I don’t think there are. I am personally driven to color, I love incorporating colors into my work and one of my mottos has always been ‘bringing color into your home and injecting personality’. I think my love of color is definitely linked to Senegal, where my family is originally from, and all the colors that surround everyday life there - the markets, the clothes, the busy roads, the buildings, etc. And I also live in London in the UK, which is one of the greyest cities in the world, right?!
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
My biggest inspiration was and still is, the wonderful group of basket-weavers I have been collaborating with over the past 5 years. In Senegal, basket-weaving is a craft passed down from generation to generation between women in rural villages, and it is so beautiful.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
It’s very exciting to be running a small business that is constantly evolving. When I started La Basketry, we launched with a capsule collection of 6-8 basket bowls. Our product range has significantly grown since then, and I am very humbled to work with more artisans and continue to champion handmade and craftsmanship. I’ve always seen La Basketry as a "homeware" brand but these days, we’re getting more and more requests to do more fashion-led products, so we’re actively working on developing bags and accessories for women. I’m looking forward to continuing to grow and evolve with La Basketry and see where the brand takes us!
What are your views on the value of craftsmanship today and the possible dangers to it in the future?
We live in a digital world where mass-produced items are king and everything is moving very fast. I think more and more people are embracing a slower lifestyle. There’s something really beautiful in reconnecting with the earth – through items that are handmade and through what you choose to put into your body, soul, and home.
Is it more important to have natural talent or be hard-working?
This is a tough question. Most of us are not born with a talent, I personally wasn’t. Technical skills are something that can be taught and learned. You want to fully immerse yourself into that world, so I would say hard-working. But, if you are naturally gifted - good on you! - I still think you’ll want to continue to develop your skills and learn, though.
What makes you sincerely happy?
This is a bit cliché, but I am my happiest doing what I love, surrounded by people I love.
If you liked read this interview and want to know another artist, we suggest you to read about Tammy Kanat and her textile rainbows.