Almost two years ago (time flies), illustrator Anette Moi was part of Volume Three. Since last time Anette has continued expanding her portfolio, in December she opened a pop up store in Stavanger and recently she partnered with Kilonga, a social enterprise based in Madagascar and Norway. We spoke with Karianne Skjæveland, owner and manager of Kilonga, to learn more about their collaboration.
Hi Karianne. What is Kilonga?
Kilonga is a social enterprise that sells fair traded, elaborate embroidered clothing and accessories handmade in Madagascar. The profit is invested in a local private school for 560 children who come from poor families. I believe trade can and should replace aid in as many places as possible, with the goal of being able to cover substantial parts of the operational costs through sales instead of fundraising in the future.
Could you tell us about what Kilonga produces?
We started embroidering the Norwegian traditional folk-costume, the Bunad, exactly one year ago. It is the base of our business and because demand is high and I am the first fair-trade player in Bunad production in Norway, I am able to charge Norwegian prices for the embroidery work. With that money, I can pay my artisans nice wages, a 100% increase compared to local industry standards, and still have a substantial profit which is invested in the school. I've just returned from 3 months in Madagascar which was spent recruiting new women for training, holding workshops in new embroidery techniques for new Bunad parts, overseeing the completion of a bigger business-to-business order, and working on prototypes for an entirely new product line with Anette Moi.
How did your collaboration with Anette Moi and her artworks come about?
Ever since I first saw Anette's art years ago, I thought it would translate beautifully into Malagasy embroidery. The traditional embroidery technique is actually quite similar to how Anette works with a digital brush on her clean, colourful illustrations; the quality and density of the stitches is very fine, completely filling every part of the picture, using a single thread (!) of moulinè yarn on a cotton canvas.
I am so happy that Anette is with me on this project. I think she finds it cool to know that women her age, in a place far away, are able to have a steady job and provide for their families because of her art. We started by making some prototypes to see what people thought about the embroidered expression. The pieces were sold for 10 times the Malagasy market value in Norway and Europe, and there is still demand for more.
I hope I can inspire other artists to collaborate with us in creating beautiful things with a purpose, like fusions of love, illustration and embroidery. The Malagasy embroiderers are amazing artisans, and I really hope we'll be able to offer them a good and steady job by collaborating with artists who have already created a market for their work.