Many of our lovely products have been designed by Freia Groves who has been working at Neema Crafts, Tanzania for nearly two years. Here is more about Freia in her own words.
"I first came to Tanzania as a friend I was working with in South London went to university with Katy, the co-director, and they were looking for people with similar experience to mine to come and help teach at Neema. That was 2013 I think and I've been coming back and forth ever since! My first two visits were only for 3 months in between freelance jobs in London. Then in 2015 Ben and Katy asked if Id like to come for a longer time period and I said yes! So I started in 2015 for what was supposed to be a year and have just extended it for a second year. I think once you get to this place it becomes very infectious especially working within the great community we work in!
A bit about my background. I trained firstly in Tailoring at the London College of Fashion and then went on to study Fashion Design at the University of Northampton. After graduating I worked for a few designers including NIKE and TOPSHOP concessions and also set up my own clothing label with support from the Princes Trust. I also started teaching sewing and pattern cutting classes in various community projects including B2B Sewing project working with refugees in the UK and Ingeenium a project working with vulnerable women. I guess that was where I found my passion of skills sharing and also working within the community. From there I worked as a freelance sewing teacher and my last job in the UK was with Sew Over It, a sewing and pattern cutting workshop business in South London.
I started here at Neema by designing clothing and we did a fashion show with all the staff as models the first time I was here but then I ventured out into product design and now have just finished designing my first set of textile prints for Neema. I think thats what I love most about my job here is that it is very versatile and flexible, one day I could be designing jewellery or bags and then the next day I'm up in carpentry designing coasters or in the screen printing container working on new prints.
One of the other things I really like about working here is that I learn just as much from the artisans here as they learn from me. Its definitely more of a partnership of designs rather than just me. Behind the designs there usually is alot of long days working alongside the staff here and Katy who is very good at having the brand image in mind, to come up with the best possible product. I feel very lucky to work here at Neema. It is a really incredible project showcasing some of the most talented artisans, I feel, in Tanzania.