TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Meet the Oshiwa Carvers: Gorgeous African Textile Stamps!

The Oshiwa Namibia Team

When you buy a carved stamp from Oshiwa, you will find a name on the side or on the back, written in pencil.  Almost all of the stamps have been signed by the person who made them:  Josef, Dhumba or Paulus.

This is the thing about buying "handmade": a real person made that thing shown in the photograph.  When we speak about a handmade revolution, we give voice to the desire of providing options to the way our world has chosen to mass-market industrialized products.  The handmade option is naturally more expensive than its commercial counterpart.  How many rubber stamps can be made in the time it takes to carve one Oshiwa stamp?  And, at a fraction of the cost.  The handmade option takes more time.  It also creates community, allows men to remain in their villages or neighborhoods (as opposed to traveling great distances to find work), allows women to stay home and raise their children while engaging in a cottage industry.  It allows artists in developed countries similar choices over lifestyle and community.  The handmade option can also produce healthier products which may recycle garbage or come from sustainable sources.  It brings us closer to Earth and helps us to walk more carefully, leaving a lighter footprint behind.
Meet the carvers!

When I began to work with Oshiwa, I suggested that the carvers standardize their designs somewhat: choose a few sizes (instead of dozens...), repeat the same designs (so we have to take less photos), and perhaps borrow images from other cultures (that might sell more quickly).  If you watch these videos, you will see that this is impossible.  The stamps come from the soul.  The carvers are intimately connected with the end product.  We hope that you will also make it yours. 

You will notice that all three men are holding a frame as they speak.  This is one of the products they make for the local Namibian market.  At this time, I am only carrying the stamps in their Etsy shop.  In time, if we can make the stamps a steady business, we may introduce the frames and other products that they make.

I was approached to represent Oshiwa as they have logistical problems with both banking and shipping that make it difficult to sell in small quantities.  We now have a fully stocked shop for them on Etsy.  Sales have been slow going, but the stamps which have been sold have been well received.  We hope that as the economy recovers, Oshiwa will also benefit from more business.  The stamps can be used on fabric or paper and can be pressed into clay or soap.  They are also beautiful enough to hang on the wall.

Spread the word and help us keep these wonderful men busy doing with what they love: carving.


1 comment:

  1. Oh you're all great man! How did you do it and where did you learn to curve amazingly? That's really a talent. Thanks for sharing the video I enjoyed it.


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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