Specialising in bespoke basketry and unique natural flooring solutions, Jane Taylor works in tandem with Zimbabwe’s top designers to help realize their vision and create exceptional lifestyle products. Jane has over two decades of product design and production experience and a strong passion for authentic interior design. Her natural aesthetic has allowed her to create CCP’s signature collections and work on many regional installations in the hospitality sector. Collaborative Craft Projects was born out of Jane’s desire to bring the community into her craft, and CCP now offers both product development and training programs for implementation in communities. Collaborative Craft Projects works closely with Artisan Communities throughout Zimbabwe & regionally to design, develop, and make handmade homeware that is beautiful and functional.
ConsiderBeyond: What inspired you to begin Collaborative Craft Projects and how did you come up with the idea?
Jane Taylor: At 21, after a chance encounter in London, I was offered the opportunity to leave England to live and work on a game reserve in Zimbabwe. I instantly fell in love with Africa and its people, and it was there that I met my husband, with whom I've now shared 34 years. During this time, we've spent over a decade working remotely on our 150,000-acre Game Concession.
Before long, I integrated with nearby communities, designing and commissioning authentic crafts and homewares for our lodge. Over the years, I built trust, learning about their craft and culture while forging relationships with the women makers and creatives. Eventually, I converted this pure passion project into a formal business.
Since then, we’ve built a small but solid brand with the unwavering help of our team. It took time, tenacity, and hard work to reach the CCP we are today. What began as 2 tiny communities has now evolved into 25 communities across Zimbabwe and the region. While I don't claim to be Zimbabwean, I am proud to call Zimbabwe my home. Through CCP, we have created a kind of sisterhood that goes beyond any traditional framework.
ConsiderBeyond: Can you share a story that illustrates the positive impact that Collaborative Craft Projects has had on an individual artisan or a community?
Jane Taylor: We recently collaborated with UK-based Pooky Lighting to produce a unique range of woven pendants. Selina, the Master Artisan of the group, was behind the order and trained her community in designing and producing over 500 units for this custom order.
Selina shared five significant associated with an order like this. Firstly, it gave women economic authority, as they managed to cover school fees and buy household items for their families. Secondly, the magnitude of the order improved group morale, bolstering confidence and self-belief. Thirdly, the positive outcomes experienced by the women attracted non-weavers to join the group, increasing outside interest and participation. Additionally, men within the community have begun actively contributing by collecting raw materials, recognizing the work's importance to both their families and the community at large, building collaboration. Lastly, the project built time management skills for creating high-quality products for large orders.
Additionally, CCP conducted workshops to facilitate the order's fulfillment. For instance, they acquired new skills, such as lampshade-making, enhancing their capacity to produce future projects. Additionally, the workshops provided psychosocial support, allowing women to openly discuss daily challenges and roles within their families. Lastly, the training strengthened teamwork and collaboration, emphasizing the importance of working together for their success.
ConsiderBeyond: What are some of the unique challenges faced by artisans in Zimbabwe (or Africa) that people might not be aware of?
Jane Taylor: The challenges faced by anyone living in Africa are vast and can only be fully understood by those who are on the ground. The key to what we do at CCP is to help women in these communities overcome challenges and feel empowered by learning to run sustainable small businesses and in turn, gain financial independence.
ConsiderBeyond: How do you balance traditional crafting techniques with introducing innovative designs and products to appeal to modern consumers and buyers?
Jane Taylor: Our core beliefs and values are deeply rooted in the fundamental responsibility to preserve the traditional skills and natural heritage of Zimbabwean culture and craft. When working with the groups, it is of utmost importance that we do not negate the cultural provenance of the product. Therefore, we prioritize fully immersing ourselves in the craft communities we partner with, establishing strong relationships that flourish through respect, trust, and transparency.
We have also initiated appropriate channels of dialogue and support to imagine and introduce new designs and products. Regular in-person workshops provide artisans with opportunities to learn new skills and techniques, understand modern consumer trends, and create a space in which to 'break the mold.' This approach enables artisans to honor historical traditions while encouraging new, modern ideas. The merging of these two concepts generates mutually beneficial outcomes that align with the international market and, hopefully, secure the future of the craft community.
ConsiderBeyond: How do you envision the future of artisanal crafts, and what legacy do you hope Collaborative Craft Projects will leave with the communities it works with?
Jane Taylor: From my perspective, I ultimately see the artisanal craft sector coming full circle. We are seeing a positive trend among consumers trying to become more conscious, moving away from the instant gratification and fast purchasing model, and prioritizing a slower approach – essentially, buying less and choosing more conscientiously.
Hopefully, this will lead to an increase in interest and respect for sustainably made artisanal crafts through the slow craft movement. CCP is firmly anchored in prioritizing People, Place, and Planet with a strong sense of 'Purpose.'
In terms of 'legacy,' our aim is to instill a valuable and enduring sense of independence in the women we partner with, empowering them to sustain themselves through the crafts they produce. We will continue to showcase handmade crafts to a global audience, focusing on education and the promotion of sustainable, fair trade practices that respect the community's culture and resources.
Collaborative Craft Projects, Pooky Lightings