SHAKE THE DUST was set up by London-based entrepreneur Kathy Shenoy to create opportunities for collaboration between emerging UK design talent and artisan producers in developing countries, specifically Swaziland. I came across her marvellous fairtrade wares during Clerkenwell Design Week, in fact it was my favourite find and not just because of the riot of colour. The brand is founded on the belief that good design, ethical production and profitability are not mutually exclusive. I BELIEVE and so asked Kathy to answer some questions for more of an insight into the great she is creating with SHAKE THE DUST.
It’s brilliant to be able to bring you a brand that is not only good for the world we live in but beautiful on the eye as well. Make sure you head down to see these pieces in the flesh as part of PopUp Britain until the 3rd July and pick up some colour POP for the home.
Tell us a little ABOUT your background.
I studied textiles at Winchester School of Art but went on to work for a number of galleries and museums in London coordinating exhibitions and arts events. I’ve always has a passion for design and handmade craft. My father is from Southern India and our upbringing has been a very eclectic and rich mixture of cultures and influences. Having been exposed to the concept of poverty in places like India at an early age I think I’ve always had a desire to work in a way that can support people who need it most but have never, until recently, found a way to indulge my love of design in that way. Looking back it seems obvious, but I think the concept behind Shake the Dust is much richer as a result of the journey I’ve been on
How did you come to discover producers based in Southern Africa? What led you to start SHAKE THE DUST?
A wonderful and random opportunity came out of the blue through a good friend who introduced me to Philippa Thorne from Gone Rural, a Fair Trade artisan-led business in The Kingdom of Swaziland (Southern Africa). Philippa, originally from the UK had studied at Central Saint Martins but moved out to live and work in Swaziland 10 years ago and taken over her mother-in-laws growing business, which now employs over 750 rural artisans all over the country. Philippa offered me a 6 month contract to product design for her, so I quit my job and moved to Africa a month later!
Gone Rural’s socially responsible business model is one I’m extremely proud to partner with, they taught me a huge amount how a business can become profitable for everyone involved, but can also be a pioneer for craft and design. My 3 years spent working with an incredible array of artisans, designers, businesses and charities has inspired the philosophy behind my business and what I’m doing now is a natural extension of that experience, fusing my love of design and connecting and empowering talented people.
Favorite COLOUR or combination of colours? Favorite ITEM from your current collection? Best SELLER?
If you’ve seen our latest Fluoro Collection with Gone Rural and the Tehuti jewellery collection with Quazi you’ll know I’m not afraid of mixing colours! Favourite item currently is a particularly stunning set of 3 baskets which are about to launch called the ‘Lifeline Collection’- natural grass with a bright neon piping in pink, green and yellow! Best sellers this season are the Fluoro Vases and Quazi recycled magazine ‘Pebble’ rings.
Make your fruit fancy by sitting them in these stitched and upcycled beauties by Quazi .
You have an hour to spare on the internet, what sites and blogs will you be SURFING?
I get obsessed and carried away checking out interesting new businesses/projects on Twitter and Pinterest. I also love reading blogs like Katie Treggiden’s Confessions of a Design Geek.
FOOD from the Gods?
My dad is the best South Indian chef I’ll ever meet (he’s actually a doctor but I always thought he should open a restaurant). No need to eat out when Dr Shenoy’s cooking!
Dream TRAVEL destination?
I really want to go to Japan and pretty much the rest of Asia!
We love to visit The Particular cafe on New Cross Road for one of their mega brunch bowls, accompanied by a Sunday paper and probably an episode or 2 of Mad Men, Season 6!
Top LONDON spot?
Shoreditch House has got one of the coolest views in town, but the best thing about London is the markets – Spitalfields, Borough, Columbia Road and Broadway Markets are a few of my favourites. I concur.
New ways with weave… I can’t wait to get my hands upon one (possibly two!) of these amazing Fluoro vases by Gone Rural for SHAKE THE DUST. Their uplifting and graphic combinations of colour and pattern will bring some WOW into your interiors and also make your home more human with their variations on traditional weaving. Craft gets cool.
The sustainably harvested and eco dyed lutindzi grass in stages of production.
My favourite pieces from your COLLECTION are all the basketry pieces especially the Fluoro vases from GONE RURAL. Tell us more about this incredible COOPERATIVE of women in Swaziland.
More than simply fairtrade, Gone Rural’s artisans are self-employed entrepreneurs and receive, on average, half the wholesale price of every product they produce. Profits are reinvested into development programmes that cover health, water, sanitation and education and Gone Rural also has an Artisan Board, which directs the company’s future – empowering the women to take the lead in building themselves a better future.
Many of Gone Rural’s products are eco-friendly and all are handmade. The company’s signature material is the lutindzi grass indigenous to the Swazi mountains. This is sustainably harvested above the root to ensure regrowth, coloured with eco dyes and mixed with other indigenous grasses and recycled materials to produce breathtaking products which preserve the past, understand the present and pioneer the future.
You’ve had a great year already launching at Habitat’s Platform Gallery and showcasing the new collection at Clerkenwell Design Week, where I discovered your wonderful ETHICAL brand.What’s next for SHAKE THE DUST?
We have a pop-up shop opening this week from 20th June until 3rd July on the King’s Road with PopUp Britain. It’s a great opportunity for people to come and get to know a great selection of indie brands in person! We also have plans for a long-term pop-up opening at the end of the Summer. Follow Kathy and SHAKE THE DUST on Twitter to keep in touch with her wonder.