Testimony Ipaye’s Journey in Ankara Craft

25under25 Award Winner 2023 Spotlight for a Campaign titled Dreamers to Doers
  • Could you share the story behind your journey into Ankara craft and how you discovered your passion for this art form?

Thank you very much! I first learned about Ankara crafts when I was 15. I had just finished secondary school. This one-week program taught different skills, so I registered to learn about Ankara books, bags, slippers, and accessories. I came back to it when I was in the 200 level, I was at Uni then and I had a nudge to start a business. So I started checking YouTube to gain more knowledge and then started making earrings for sale. From earrings and bangles, I went on to make books, bags, slippers, and then frames and now we are even entering into the clothing sector. I love that I get to show how beautiful the African heritage is by putting a touch of Ankara into all that we produce.

  • Ankara craft is deeply rooted in culture and tradition. How do you incorporate cultural elements into your designs, and what significance does this hold for you?

Basically, I think of products and then add a touch of Ankara to it. Sometimes, it’s full of Ankara all over, like our books, but sometimes, it’s just a touch, like our new frame designs and clothing designs. We know the world is changing, and our generation is starting to lose knowledge of our culture and tradition. We now prefer to wear brands from other countries and some need to learn more about what we represent. To me, this is showcasing our very own Ankara, not only reminding our people of how beautiful it is but also informing other people of it.

  • How has this recognition impacted your career and the visibility of your Ankara craft brand?

I won the award at a very critical time in my business, I was very discouraged and was fighting to not give up. The award was a big form of encouragement for me, every time I see it, I remember why I have to keep going. People also now take my business more seriously, they know it’s award-winning so yeah.

  • Your work showcases a fusion of traditional craftsmanship with contemporary design. How do you strike a balance between preserving cultural heritage and embracing modern trends in your creations?

I always make my design consciously, ensuring that the fusion is balanced and reasonable. This takes a very long time sometimes, because I and my team keep working on new designs again and again, like a scientific model experiment, that we keep printing and taking to the lab until we are sure of it. For example, I am working on a bag design with my team, we’ve been on it since last November and we are still not done with it. So it takes time, but we know that for it to attract a good number of people, there must be a fusion and the fusion must be reasonable.

  • Have you collaborated with other artisans or designers, and if so, how have these collaborations enriched your work?

I have once collaborated with a bag designer to make one of my first bag designs. When I made the first model, she looked at it and remade it, and she made something really good, we did not take too much time to conclude it. This made the production easy and eased a lot of back and forths. My collaboration with her was silent though. I have been thinking of doing another collaboration with another brand, this would not be silent, it would be a proper one so watch out for that.

  • The arts and crafts industry has undergone significant changes in recent years. How do you navigate challenges such as competition and market trends while staying true to your artistic vision?

The good part of Tesabel is, that we also ensure that our products are unique. So, when we have a product out, we have several sales we would love to make, after this, we would close the chapter of that design and make another one. So all the bag designs sold last year are no longer in stock and would never be in stock, same as the frame designs. So our customers can be sure that the products they are getting would not be very common. What this also does for the company is that we can produce new sets of products per season, following the trend of that particular season.

  • Your Ankara craft pieces seem to resonate with a wide audience. What do you believe sets your designs apart and makes them appealing to customers from diverse backgrounds?

I would say we have studied people through the years, and we have an idea of what the majority would prefer. We don’t joke with quality and we don’t joke with the efficiency of our customer service, we also try to ensure that our prices are at least reasonable. These things are qualities anyone from any background would love in any brand. A principle of the company is also to have something for everyone. No matter who you are, where you are from, your gender, your age, or anything at all, there is at least something for you to purchase, something that you would be attracted to.

  • As a young entrepreneur in the arts and crafts sector, what advice would you give to others aspiring to turn their passion for traditional crafts into a successful business venture?

If thoughts came to you, it was because you could achieve them. Get up, get it done, and in the process of getting it done, ensure that you are putting in your best because whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well. There is this verse of my favorite book that I live by “Whatsoever your hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might” and don’t give up. Celebrate your little wins, practice resilience and I promise you that you will get it right, you will become unstoppable, you will be recognized and you will make yourself and everyone around you proud.

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