By December 2019, it was time to take stock and evaluate how the initial ‘Good for Namibia’ project – ‘Sew Good’ – was shaping up, six months since inception. The two basic challenges were still with us: identifying suitable outlets for the merchandise so that we could start to shift larger volumes of goods (principally bags); and finding willing craftspeople with the skills to undertake the additional manufacturing this would require. These drawbacks began to resolve themselves by mid-January 2020 as people returned from the break (and in Namibia that’s a really loooooong break) and new opportunities to sell products presented themselves. We now have huge amounts of fabric ready to be turned into bags, quilts and other such items and have established great relationships with our four principal supporters, who are so generous with their regular donations; just as importantly, the two main members of the project, Julia and Amory, have begun to take ownership of the everyday decisions and communications necessary to build the brand (apologies for the jargon but it’s kind of appropriate here).
As I always intended to do, I am now able to step back a little from this first project as it becomes self-sufficient and self-supporting, and use the lessons learned (primarily: don’t run before you can walk) to think about initiating new endeavours.
My garage was getting filled up with donations that ‘Sew Good’ couldn’t use – organzas, tulles, embroidered fabric, as well as wallpaper samples and the thick card backing and clear plastic covers from the sample books. With termites, snakes and floodwaters regular visitors to this area once the rains begin in earnest, I was keen to shift at least some of this ‘unwanted-but-we-are-definitely-NOT-throwing-it-away!’ stock out of the danger zone.
Thanks to tour operator Meke Imbili, (@XceptionalTourismServices) I was fortune to learn of the Art Training School over in Havana, Windhoek, where teacher Frans Namibinga (above, with some of his students) works with young people to develop their creativity. Supplies for his children’s projects are in short supply so it was great to swing by with a trunk full of free scraps of fabric and the board from the sample books to hand over, which he said he could definitely use in his classes. Bertha and Lavinia had lots of ideas for using up even the tiniest fabric strips and squares as well! Not being an artistic person myself, I value this type of feedback a great deal…
We also discussed ways that Frans could generate income by using up certain types of supplies in the future to make artworks himself for sale. Even in better economic times, Namibians working in the creative industries struggle to make a living so I will be checking in regularly with him to see what we can develop for ‘Untitled Artistic Project #1’ through his own talents and those of other artists he knows.
I’m also keen on exploring the potential of the very fine decorative fabrics that we have accumulated, to see if they can be used to create luxury items for the home and, perhaps, for events such as matric and weddings. This would entail identifying specialists who could fabricate more elaborate and intricate pieces to a very high standard so it could be that this proves an arduous search. Some of these gorgeous fabrics could almost be hung on the wall as works of art in their own right but they are not hard-wearing enough for everyday use. Watch this space for – Oh, I dunno – ‘Good and Glamorous’?
Some of our fabric donations, though stunning (and doubtless very expensive to purchase before they are discontinued!) are not suitable for bags that will take a lot of wear and tear. I’m on the lookout for people who can use this type of material to create maybe gift items and high-end products for special occasions.
And lastly, through a stroke of luck, at the Christmas market at The Shed last year, I met up with the wonderful and fun Lynn Whittaker, who does the most incredible face/body painting I’ve ever seen (#MagicFacesNamibia) but also – drum roll – makes upcycled soaps from discarded bits of used bars. This is an avenue I’ve been keen to explore with the aim of setting up a low-tech project – ‘Good and Clean’ – that does not require huge amounts of artistic talent from producers, or costly equipment such as a sewing machine. Although she is super busy, Lynn’s offered to help me experiment with making soaps for sale without using toxic or harmful chemicals – very important since producers will be doing this at home.