The Dharma Door’s founder Shannon Sheedy has designed all of the brand’s products since 2004. Working closely with our NGO partners, she has developed products well suited to homes in Australia, Europe and beyond.
A devotee of natural fibres, texture and good design, Shannon learnt early on to work with natural materials that can be easily sourced. Rather than reinventing the wheel, she has also always opted to use techniques already being practiced by the talented female artisans who craft The Dharma Door's products throughout remote, rural communities of Bangladesh.
Describing The Dharma Door’s new wall hangings as ‘a textural fusion of tribal and tropical, with a fun nod to the 1970’s,’ the Tala and Amua are no exception to this clever rule, and represent an exciting new step for the artisan communities who are behind some of our most loved products.
The inspiration for the hangings came about on a recent trip to Bangladesh. Can you elaborate on how this process transpired while you were visiting artisan groups earlier this year?
The inspiration was really born before we travelled. I knew that I wanted the women who make our macrame items to start expanding and developing their skills beyond macrame, so I began researching materials and techniques prior to our trip.
When we were visiting the artisans in their villages I saw the materials and techniques used to make Tala and Amua being used in their everyday life - from woven matting for floors to strips of palm leaves for fencing and roofing. I knew immediately that it would be a relatively easy transition for the artisans to create our new wall hangings in much the same way, so I brought all of the design components together to get the them started on creating the prototypes.
What are they made from? Share a little about the natural fibres used.
They’re made from palm leaves. There are many different types of palm trees growing in the villages where our artisans live throughout Bangladesh - especially date and coconut palms. We are committed to using natural and locally-sourced materials so it made sense to create something from palm leaves.
What about the techniques? How are these pieces crafted, and what are the special design features that ensure the desired level of quality?
They’re a combination of techniques that I researched and observed while in Bangladesh. We have used the woven matting used in the artisans homes to create the backing piece of both wall hangings. Strips of palm leaves usually used for fencing and roofing have been reinterpreted to create the fringing.
These techniques represent a move away from the techniques used in The Dharma Door’s other wall hangings - particularly macrame. What motivated you to make this change, and why is it important for the artisan groups The Dharma Door works with?
We have worked with a remote rural community of women artisans to craft our macrame products for several years. I am ever-mindful of creating sustainable, ongoing work for these talented women. All things come and go - macrame is something that may wane in popularity in the future, so I want to safeguard against that possibility.
I want to make sure that the women in this community are developing skills and techniques beyond macrame so we can continue to work together for many years to come. So they can continue to earn fair wages, plan for their futures and educate their children.
Who makes the new hangings? Where are they made? What does a usual workday look like?
The Tala and Amua wall hangings are made by women across three generations across several villages. These women work from home around the needs of their families and animals; their days vary depending on their stage of life and the demands of each day. Their homes are made of tin or bamboo and mud, with a small verandah at the front. They will often sit on a woven mat on the verandah to hand craft our pieces.
What do you love about these new hangings?
It’s no secret that I’m a lover of natural fibres and texture! These wall hangings also remind me of tiki huts and tropical islands - what’s not to love about those? :)
What did you enjoy the most about the process of designing them and bringing them to market?
The majority of our products are made of jute - a fibre I’ve come to know incredibly well over the last 10+ years, as we have used it extensively in our collection of products. Creatively, it was exciting to develop products using a different style, from different materials. And I love knowing that we’re challenging and stimulating the artisans - it helps to keep their work interesting.
How did you go about naming them?
We name many of our products after places in Bangladesh or Bengali words that reflect the design; Tala and Amua are both regions of a country we have come to know and love.
How do they compare to The Dharma Door’s other wall hangings?
While they have our trademark texture and natural tones, these new wall hangings have a completely different vibe to our macrame wall hangings. To me, the Tala and Amua feel bolder and stronger, yet a little more lighthearted.
And how can you see them being used to best effect?
Hinting at the current love affair with all things retro, our new wall hangings pair beautifully with plenty of plants and cane furniture. Equally, they will look stunning as a focal point in a beach house alongside natural elements such as driftwood, coral and shades of white, wood and natural. Or in a tribal luxe setting - think malawi chairs, handcrafted timber furniture and rustic walls. However people choose to incorporate them, they’re sure to make a statement!
Is there anything else you would like people to know about the Tala and Amua wall hangings?
Every wall hanging impacts a woman’s life in a significant way. The highly skilled artisans who make our wall hangings are from marginalised, remote communities in Bangladesh and we are deeply committed to them. Through good design, sustainable work and fair wages, we can all truly make a difference together.
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