It was on Instagram (duh!) where I first came across the beautiful objects found on @Labasketry. Like! Like! Like! And before I could book my own basket weaving workshop, lockdown hit. So I thought I should at least first get to know its founder Tabara N'Diaye in anticipation of the time I'll get my fingers all jammed up.

First off - how did La Basketry come about, what made you decide to launch it? Were you and your sister both working other jobs (and if so, what were you doing back then?)
I’m originally from Senegal although I was born and raised in Paris, France. Growing up, my brother, my sister and I would spend our summers in Senegal and as I was a very crafty little girl, I was always very attracted to all the artists we would come across - working with wood, painting, weaving, sculpting.   

The region of Thies where my Senegalese family is based is well-known for basket-weaving and I just remember bringing some back every summer.  I moved to London in my early twenties and worked as an Event Manager for 10 years - Mamy, my sister, is still in Paris and works in the social industry - I reached a point where I felt like I wanted to do more, I was travelling a lot and although I loved my job and putting on fantastic events, I felt like I wanted to do something else, something more personal.

La Basketry was born as we were both at a turning point in our personal and professional lives - we connected with a group of female basket-weavers while we were on holiday and left feeling like we could do something to help them, share what they were doing on a bigger scale… At the time, there were a few online shops selling Senegalese baskets but we felt like we came from a different angle as this is part of our heritage and a beautiful way to reconnect with our roots so we launched La Basketry in 2017 as an online shop.

Our first collection only had 6 items but was stocked at some lovely independent stores and the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Creating a platform to share Senegalese craftsmanship with the world and ensuring regular employment for the artisans we worked with was and still is our greatest achievement.

As you learnt yourself how to make these beautiful baskets, what skill did you really hone in, that you learnt that you needed to refine?
As the business grew and evolved, Mamy decided to take a step down. So as I spent more time in Senegal, I began to learn how to weave baskets, enrolled in courses and played around with different techniques and materials to understand how we could develop our offering. 

The most important skill is definitely patience - taking on a new craft like basket-making requires a lot of practice and kindness towards yourself, as your first few makes are not going to be perfect! But most importantly, I loved - and I still love- how this has allowed me to reconnect with my hands, to be away from my phone, to create something, to be more mindful. 

I love this quote: ‘Technology makes us impatient and impatience is the opposite to mindfulness’

Your in-person workshops - were customers asking you to show them how to weave and so you decided to launch these - how large are they usually and where do they take place ?
Not exactly - As I started to share my newfound passion on social media, I was approached by an editor at Quadrille Publishing who was interested in working with me on a book about basket-making. ‘Baskets’, my first book was published last May and it’s really about making basketry fun and accessible with projects to make coasters, basket bags, a lampshade using a variety of materials.

I started the workshops to coincide with the launch of the book but as I love them - I’ve just kept hosting them.   I usually do 1-2 workshops a month for 8-10 people and working with various venues in London - shops, creative spaces. 

As the book has just been released in various languages (German, Italian, French, Spanish and Czech), I’m in the process of planning workshops and events in all these different markets - I’m really excited!

We see you are about to launch online workshops at the end of this month - what will that entail exactly?
The beauty of the book is that it has allowed me to reach people in some many different countries - I sell a lot of books to Australia for example - so online workshops will bring makers from everywhere together for workshops led by me.  I’m still working on the content but this is coming together nicely…

And as people are still staying safe at home, I’m also very excited to be launching Basket Kits at the end of the month that will include my book, all the materials to make a basket of your choice and a video tutorial!

What's the best selling item online? 
The bowls! It’s an easy buy and a quick way to add colour to your home or a perfect gift. We started the business with bowls and I don’t think we’ll ever stop selling them.

Those fans are amazing - do you work with your craftspeople on the colour schemes and product choices? 
Yes I do! I have always had a clear idea of what I like and what I don’t like - I love colour and I’m always keen to play around with different colour palettes - there’s also specific colours that work well for us. We’ve had to put on hold the next collection of fans due to Covid-19 but fingers crossed we’ll be able to launch it at some point this summer. 

What is your essential basket?
My essential basket is a basket bag - any basket bag really! I make my own ones now and I love how the trend has been embraced by the fashion industry in the past few years.

Shop La Basketry HERE

Tags: La Basketry