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A conversation with Monique on the artisans behind Coastal Drift

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

“Growing up in Malawi in east Africa, I was inspired to connect the talented craftspeople of my birth country with the global markets that could support them.”

When recounting memories from her childhood, Monique explained that it was the soul of Malawi that really inspired her to work to support the people who lived and created there.

Collage of Malawi people and their handmade goods

“Malawi has always been known as ‘the warm heart of Africa’, and it’s the people who have created that reputation. The Malawian people have always got so much time to give along with a radiant smile, despite the hardships they may be going through. They are also an inspiration with highly talented traditional skills and age-old techniques for handmade products, along with an immense amount of enthusiasm and patience! Having roots and connections in Malawi, I was in the position to make a difference: to empower the community and drive positive recognition for their unique designs and crafts, to the right people”.

Alongside the signature Malawi Cane pieces, Coastal Drift Interiors stocks a range of hand-crafted, artisan products, and Monique explained how her upbringing and early adulthood experiences informed her sourcing approach.

Picture of African artisans with their handmade goods, with caption explaining positive business model to help the artisans sell their art and support their communities.

“Growing up in Africa, I’d seen what artisans and weavers could create. Every weekend we’d drive up to the lake (Lake Malawi) and stop to buy fresh fruit from the roadside. Beside the food stalls there would be artisans selling baskets and furniture and children’s toys, so I was mindful there were many beautiful things that these talented weavers could create. During University in the UK I had a placement year in Zimbabwe, and that opened my eyes to artisans beyond Malawi: in Zimbabwe and across south-east Africa. Amongst the rural villages in Africa, there is a rich and diverse cultural history. With close connections throughout the region I could work directly and exclusively with supply partners that I’ve curated. It’s personal and human, and we have trusted relationships – knowing they really value their artisans."

"We work closely with our supply partners to preserve the traditional skills and natural heritage of existing culture and craft. We also work with them to adapt and diversify for a broader reach in the global marketplace - traditional practice and techniques used to make practical every day products; baskets and trays to store and carry food and home-goods are developed into ornamental decor for the Coastal Drift collection and looming techniques now used to create sumptuous rugs for your home.”

“The characters and personalities of the artisans we work with are visible in the pieces they make, their experience and knowledge add to the beauty of our collections. It is easy to overlook the handmade touches, time and effort invested in an artisan made product, but if you can stop for a moment and count the number of wax drops on one of our hand-printed cushions or run your hand against the undulating textured surfaces of our hand woven baskets, the handmade nature will sink in to your skin, along with a sense of appreciation and pleasure knowing it’s source.”

While each piece embraces crafting as a common artistic language, they all bear the distinctive mark of individual craftspeople – perfectly imperfect.

Supporting the empowerment of artisans in remote areas of Africa who make our baskets, décor and lighting and furniture, strengthens their individual and communal social and economic abilities; as well as inspiring the next generation of crafts people. This drives the core passion within our business. Monique and the Coastal Drift team are incredibly proud of the business's positive contribution and support of traditional artisans. We strongly believe trading fairly provides these artisans with an opportunity to build a future.

“This is the sum of our greatest impact – empowerment and trade.”

Monique – Founder, Coastal Drift.


Where images are not produced by Coastal Drift, we extend thanks to our partners and other photographers: @TribalTextiles, @SoulDesign, @CollaborativeCraftProjects, @Coral+Hive, @annabellepauline, @izlaphotography

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