INSPIRATION

I first came across l'Atelier Ndomo via my great friend in South Africa, Binky Newman.  A big fan of his work, she took one of his designs and interpreted it in basketry for her Design Afrika show at Maison & Objet in September 2016.

I love the graphism of the designs and the fact that Boubacar Doumbia has taken the mud cloth tradition and moved it into today's world of design, even if the traditional designs are still very contemporary, as you can see below.

The mud cloth symbols, and the way in which they are arranged, as well as the colour and shape of the mud cloth reveal a variety of different secrets. Social status, a person's character or occupation, are all things which a piece of mud cloth can present. There are many African proverbs and other items of historical significance which are commonly portrayed in mud cloth as well.

Mud cloth is made from 100% cotton strips handwoven and stitched together to form a larger cloth. Applying patterns to mud cloth is time-consuming. normally taking four days to a week to complete. Firstly the rough cotton cloth is soaked in leaves that have a natural softening agent called tannin. When they apply clay in bands, diamonds, and other geometric shapes, the clay reacts with the tannin and a design is left on the fabric.

Boubacar Doumbia opened his Le Ndomo workshop and conservatory for natural dyeing in Mali in 2004, as a response to the unemployment problem of young people who had not had the chance to study or to attend school.  He created this social enterprise to give these young people training and local knowledge, with the hope that the additional values that come with such discipline, such as responsability, personal commitment and solidarity, would enrich their lives.  14 years later the enterprise is thriving and sending their designs all over the world.  

Generally this type of cloth is too heavy for my designs, but I entered into correspondence with Boubakar and decided to take a chance and order some designs.  

And of course, as you can see below, the fabric was perfect.  I love working with natural fabrics, they are pliable and flexible and so much nicer to wear, and I am so happy with the results of Beverly Smart x Le Ndomo!

Beverly Smart