What a year it has been! Whilst 2020 has been an utter whirlwind with many obvious low points, we wanted to take this time to reflect on how lucky we have been this year and celebrate the strength of our small business. 2020 has been another incredible year for Artisans & Adventurers and we couldn't have done it without our loyal customers so thank you! We also would like to send out a huge thanks to all of our incredibly talented and hardworking artisans whom we would be lost without. Join us as we sit down and chat with Artisans & Adventurers Founders, Bee Friedmann and Amy Fleuriot-Reade to talk all things 2020 and what to look forward to moving into the New Year...
Topista weaving one of our lidded crocodile baskets released this year
What was your favourite product release this year?
Amy: Frustratingly a lot of our major new collections like the textiles got put on hold after this years production trip had to be cancelled. However lot of our smaller groups in Africa really stepped up and used technology to their great advantage so we were still able to develop new products in soapstone, beads, baskets and rugs. Our new soapstone group in Kenya has been amazing, they are so fast to respond via WhatsApp and it’s been a pleasure to develop new products with them in this way. I was also really excited to finally see our recycled glass bead jewellery collection come to life after a couple of years in development, thanks to the wonderful Irene who has been working with us for over 6 years now and is our woman on the ground in Kenya.
Bee: I loved our new crocodile baskets from Topista, who we are working with in Uganda. Ruth who coordinates our weaving over there saw a picture that was taken of our Mamba Rug (designed by Amy and made by Julius in Kenya). She showed this to Topista who immediately interpreted it on series of one off lidded baskets that are such beautiful artistic creations and I love them!
What achievement are you proudest of this year?
What was the biggest challenge for the brand in 2020?
Bee: As covid took hold around the world it also had a pretty devastating affect on our shipping. In India and Africa this came to a standstill. In remote areas of Uganda, Rwanda and Zimbabwe we use local post offices these all closed down. The cargo department in the airport also closed down as there were no passenger flights leaving and this is how air cargo travels. The only options were the big courier companies like DHL and Fedex and these organisations hike their prices as they held the market captive so we had to delay all of our shipments from Africa. From India we also had a problem as from there we only use DHL and Fedex but the costs almost doubled per kilo making our shipping way higher than ever before. We decided to swallow the costs to keep business moving for our artisans and not pass on any price increases to our customers. Luckily, they have now come down again and we hope they stay that way as the world learns to cope with the pandemic.
What was the most unexpected thing (other than covid!) to come out of this year for Artisans & Adventurers?
Bee: The most unexpected thing to out of this year is how we could adapt our business from walk in bricks and mortar to a web based business and I am so proud that we managed to adapt so well. It gave us the opportunity to reassess what we wanted and how we saw our lives and out of this came the difficult decision to close our London shop and concentrate on our Margate shop and the web. This also meant we spent less time travelling up to London and more time concentrating on our quality of life next to the seaside.
Amy and Bee on the rooftop of our partner workshop in Jaipur during their second trip to India in 2018.
Where are you most excited to travel to when possible?
Amy: I can’t wait to go back to India - hopefully at the end of next year. Bee will (hopefully!) be going in March so I’ll be able to travel vicariously through her in the meantime. I’m also really missing France. It’s so close to us in Margate so a really easy get away I like to do at least once or twice a year by train or bicycle. I had my trip to Paris cancelled in September which I’d booked as a surprise for my husband to celebrate our first wedding anniversary so I’m hoping we’ll be able to finally get there in the New Year.
Bee: I cannot wait for my feet to land back in Kenya - it is a country I have many dear friends in and I have missed them so much. This year has taught me that although we have suffered badly with the pandemic we are so luck to have a health system and government support. We have been in touch constantly with our friends in Kenya and supporting them through this has been paramount.
I just cannot wait to see them again and also to be in the middle of singing weavers and their beautiful baskets. I also had a trip to Gabon planed. Not for sourcing but for a personal reason as this is where my dad worked in the 60's and I was finally going to visit the hospital he worked in which is now a museum. I hope to be able to do this trip either in 2021 or 2022 as it is a life long ambition!
How would you like to see the brand grow next year?
Bee: I would like to see our website grow as much as possible and for the Interiors magazines to begin featuring our beautiful products and crafters more as I feel that the world needs to recognise the value and the beauty that these products have. They are for life and not just for a season or a decorative whim. I would love to finally also be able to visit Zimbabwe where we have some special friends and also have been speaking to new craft groups to develop new products. I would love Artisans & Adventurers to become a more sought after brand so we can both pursue what makes us so happy - Amy with her beautiful designs and me with my love of finding new products and meeting new crafters.
Co-founder and Head of Design, Amy, working on pieces for her exhibition, ‘The Travel Diaries’ earlier this year
What is your main inspiration going into 2021?
Amy: We have a bird theme coming up for Spring across our textiles and jewellery which was actually pushed back from this year so I’m really excited to see that finally take flight! Aside that our main inspiration is going to be our artisans and making sure that we are designing something that plays to every groups strengths so that we can keep them trading through the pandemic.
Any new products you can give us a hint about?
Amy: For the Autumn we have a new take on the traditional toille coming in and Bee has also been working on sourcing some exciting new woven Lightshades which I am looking forward to putting our own spin on!
What are you most excited for next year?
Amy: I think just to get moving again, to visit some art galleries and be inspired by new sights and sounds. It’s what our business is really all about so it’s been a tough year for both of us in terms of inspiration.
I would like to say a huge thank you to Amy and Bee for taking their time to chat to me today! Also, a massive congratulations to you both for navigating this incredibly challenging year with such grace and care for our artisans, our team and for each other. Artisans & Adventurers really has grown from strength to strength this year and I hope you are both proud of what you have managed to achieve. Here's to 2021!