Crafting Peace with Boumi
Through a mutual understanding of crafts, Crafting Peace aims to enlarge compassion in the world: stitch by stitch, bead by bead, colour by colour.
Dutch designers travelled to Kabul, Afghanistan to work together with local craftspeople on a series of designs for the Crafting Peace Label project.
Aiming to create worldwide compassion by co-creating products with people from less-fortunate areas of the world (such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Cambodia, Nigeria and Colombia), Crafting Peace Label is an initiative of social co-design studio Butterfly Works and Studio Duizendschoon. The label is made up of two symbiotic elements; the Crafting Peace Lab which collects experiments, ideas and global talent and joins them in craft, and the resulting Crafting Peace Products which will be sold commercially, generating money to further develop the Lab.
Currently, Dutch designers Hester Ezra and Jolanda Luymes from Butterfly Works are in Kabul, working together with local producer Boumi and its employees on a series of handmade cushions. This is the first collection by the brand and will comprise a series of cushions in the shape of a bird - a commonly recognized symbol for peace. "It all started a year ago when Jola Hesselberth of Studio Duizendschoon came to visit the Butterfly Works studio," explains Anouke Jansen of Crafting Peace Label. "She brought a number of puppets; one of them was a beautiful bird which we adopted as a graceful icon of peace."
The craftsmen and women that make up Boumi were asked to share words describing their current state of mind, an words such as 'Happy', 'Peaceful' and 'Anxious' were used as a source of inspiration for the product design. "Even though they're trapped in conflict, the Afghan people are strikingly similar to those living outside conflicted areas. For who isn't hopeful, astonished or grateful at some point of their lives?" After collecting the words, an Amsterdam-based, Afghan calligrapher converted them into an elegant calligraphy. This was used as a base for the design, and developed further ar the Butterfly Works design studio. The designs were then taken to Kabul were they are currently being completed at Boumi; together with Ezra and Luymes, the local craftspeople are choosing the right embroidery patterns, bead colours and yarn.
"We specifically chose Afghanistan because it is a very fragile country, there are many people trapped in conflict and employment numbers are low. By working together with local inhabitants on such projects, we're creating a market for trade and jobs. In addition, it helps raise peoples self-esteem," says Jansen. But Afghanistan also provided the team with some yet untapped beauty: "We really want to share the rich textile culture, amazing embroidery and - especially - the stories of the warm-hearted Afghan people."
The collection is certainly turning out to be something special with cushions made out of high-quality cotton, elaborate embroidery and colourful beads, all of which were sourced locally in and around Kabul. This did pose some difficulties though as flooding, tricky shipping laws and bureaucracy slowed down the process. "We needed to adjust some colours, as the fabric we ordered didn't arrive in time due to flooding. Also, we might not be able to export the cushions with filling because customs don't have the right scanning equipment."
Jansen continues: "Ezra and Luymes were at a local market dressed in traditional Afghan costume when a group of women complimented them on their clothing. This is exactly how Butterfly works likes to engage with local communities, humble and with equal respect. By showing the world Afghanistan has so much more to offer than you might think at first, we are creating compassion."
The Crafting Peace by Boumi collection will be launched during Maison & Objet in Paris on 21 January, 2011.
A weblog about the trip to Afghanistan can be read here
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