If you have fawned over the bold geometric pattern and captivating texture of our Our Biddew Noir framed textile, you’re not alone. It was one of the first pieces in the St. Frank collection and it remains our most iconic and beloved in the line. We’ve seen how its modern aesthetic can effortlessly transform any room, but the story behind the textile is just as artful. Today we’re taking you behind the scenes of our Biddew textile from Senegal.
French artist and designer Johanna Bramble found her way to Senegal after learning about their rich history in textile craft. She now leads a weaving workshop in northern Senegal. Her designs combine a modern perspective while maintaining the traditional motifs and materials of the weaving craft that is native to the country. Bramble leads a team of male weavers (the craft is traditionally done by men), who expertly bring the designs to life, one thread at a time. The looms require two people – one lead weaver and one aprenti (who assists the first weaver). Rhythm is an integral aspect of the creation process, with coordination between the two weavers essential to the the creation of the intricate patterns, almost like a dance.
The skilled weavers, who are from communities in southern Senegal, make a sustainable wage with their craft, and are able to better the lives of their families, sending their children to higher quality schools.
Woven textiles, or serru rabal in the Wolof language, are the most cared for objects in a Senegalese home. These textiles, loaded with symbolic meaning, are presented at specific moments in life, from birth to death. To this day, the serru rabal are viewed as a shield against evil. The Biddew contemporary pattern (an exclusive collaboration between Johanna Bramble and St. Frank) displays the hexagon – a symbol of wisdom, life, and health (also an important theme in Islamic, Christian, and Judaic history). Bramble designed both the positive and negative versions of this symbol to reinforce the idea of unity and complementarity, much like the concept of yin-yang in Eastern thought.
As with all of our products, the Biddew collection is a museum-worthy piece of art that helps support artisans and the preservation of traditional crafts in developing countries. We traveled to Senegal this fall to meet with Johanna and develop our iconic piece in several new colors. Below are some photos from that trip and you can browse the collection here.