I am proud to be the U.S. representative of two groups of West African artisans I began working with over 20 years ago. One, located in the Volta Region of Ghana, is a family run business producing "Ewe" Kente cloth. The other is a union of craft cooperatives located in Korhogo, in northern Cote d'Ivoire.
On a study program abroad in the `60's I first became aware of ethnic art and it made such a profound impression on me, that it eventually led me to break off my academic career and to do an apprenticeship myself - first in clay and later in fiber. After teaching and doing research on indigenous techniques in fiber and clay in Chile where I was then living, I returned to my native Washington DC, where I discovered the aesthetic power and complexity of West African textiles. I had the opportunity to work with a traditional Kente cloth weaver, a guest artist at the Museum of African Art. A friendship grew that triggered a new direction in my life and work. This Kente weaver was so proud of his heritage and although trained to become a teacher, chose to continue his family's legacy. That same year, I moved to Cote d'Ivoire and it became clear to me that I too wanted to fight for the survival of traditional West African weaving.
My current work as a designer always relates to traditional hand-woven West African strip cloth, plain country cloth, or that decorated with inlaid motifs or hand-painted. My creations grow out of a collective spirit, since they are built upon a foundation that does not "belong" to me but to many -- the earth that grows the fiber, the spinner, the weaver.
I seek to find simple and practical uses for beautiful, hand-woven African cloth to embellish urban interiors. I have created vertical blinds out of strip-cloth. When the blinds are closed the strips unite into a handsome traditional wrapper. African cloth talks and my former life as a language teacher leads me to want to play with the "text" in the textile, so I have created talking textile cards and placemats.
My original goals continue to be present in my designs. I primarily want to give exposure to the vibrant crafts of Africa, by finding an appropriate function for them in our homes and lives and I hope thereby to assist in sustaining the culture and livelihoods of the artisans.