At BIBICO we believe collaboration is the key to success and we always strive to build strong relationships with our suppliers. This season we are proud to be working with Quazi Design, an accessories brand committed to developing sustainable designs which have a positive impact. Located in Eswatini, Southern Africa, they are changing the perception of waste paper and handcraft.
We caught up with Doron Shaltiel, founder and director of Quazi Design to share her inspiring story and find out how it all began.
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND THE STORY BEHIND QUAZI DESIGNS?
I studied Theatre Design at University, which I loved and still do, though I don’t do much of it these days. My love for travel and other cultures took me to Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, as a design intern for an established craft company. What started as a 6 month placement turned into 9 years! I was so inspired by the combination of design, craft, skills, women’s empowerment, economic opportunities and the local people that I decided to set up Quazi Design. The idea wasn’t mine, but a friend of mine, and we founded the business together as he owned the magazine distribution and was left with tonnes of waste paper every month. Together we set up a project that would have a social impact and with my love for sustainable design it was a perfect match.
WHAT IS THE MEANING BEHIND THE BRAND NAME?
This was just a play on Swazi! The name was there before me.
WHERE DOES YOUR PASSION FOR JEWELLERY AND CRAFTMANSHIP COMES FROM?
I have always loved craftsmanship and love making anything, from baskets, to clothes to furniture. Even food. I believe it’s all connected. I wasn’t trained in jewellery so I make it up as I go along! But I do believe that craft is really important in life and that creativity can bring joy and change. I went to a Waldorf Steiner School where they have a holistic approach to schooling that combines the arts with academic subjects, and I think that gave me a good foundation.
WHAT MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES DO YOU USE TO CREATE YOUR CONTEMPORARY PIECES? , IS THERE A PARTICULAR MATERIAL YOU PREFER WORKING WITH?
The basis of the business is that we only use 100% waste paper and this is given to us directly from the magazine distributors when they have waste. This is a wonderful opportunity but it’s also a challenge to add value to paper. We have pushed the boundaries of this material by using it in unexpected ways. I feel like there is still more to explore in paper techniques. Even though we only have basic tools and the sun’s rays we can push this even more. I have lots of new ideas I’d like to try!
WHAT ASPECT OF YOUR WORK DO YOU ENJOY MOST?
The community aspect of a small studio, the creativity, the social impact and that every day is different.
WHAT IS A USUAL DAY IN THE STUDIO LIKE FOR YOU?
I am currently working remotely from the UK so it’s very different, but at our workshop in Eswatini it would involve checking in with our wholesale orders, making new samples and developing new designs, and doing all the admin that goes with a small business, which sometimes feels never-ending.
WHAT CREATIVE PROCESS DO YOU GO THROUGH WHEN PUTTING TOGETHER NEW COLLECTIONS?
I am really inspired by the raw paper as a material, so that’s my starting point. Maybe a new technique, or a texture, or a shape. Then I design a collection around this. I also look at what sells well and what we are able to achieve in production, and the cost as this also plays a role in the creative process. We will then play around and try new ideas based on this; the process is quite organic.
WHAT DOES FAIR TRADE MEAN TO YOU? WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE?
I feel very strongly that the world is unjust, that quality of life isn’t equal but depends on where you are born. There isn’t an equal footing for us all and there should be. Instead, we treat people poorly by not paying fair wages because we can and we destroy our environment simply for financial gain. For me Fair Trade stands for ethical standards that we should all abide by. Why should I benefit when someone else is not able to? My whole life I have been interested in social projects and working with women who are disadvantaged because it’s my responsibility to share my privilege.
WHAT GAVE YOU THE COURAGE TO START UP YOUR OWN BUSINESS AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE THINKING ABOUT DOING THE SAME?
I was young and had no idea what I was getting into! I am good at jumping in and not being too cautious. I always knew that if it didn’t work it would also be ok. I also realised that I like business if it’s got a social aspect. I like planning and marketing and developing a brand if it’s meaningful and personal. I would say simplicity helps. Don’t offer too much and make sure it’s all curated.
All photographs courtesy of Quazi Design
A curated selection of Quazi Designs necklaces and earrings are for sale at our BIBICO shop in Bath.