Annual Report 2014-2015: full Craft Report

Craft Report


Overall during this period, the Craft Programme trained 130 women in three districts, Winterton, Swayimane and Mtubatuba. During the year the women completed over 26 new market-ready products.

The Craft Training Programme for 2014 continued to be conducted in the “train the trainer” method.  In order to train groups of crafters, one or two leaders from each group are trained. This leader is then the trainer for her group.

Another great development in the Craft Programme for 2014 was the employment of Phillipa Haskins who has become our Product Developer and trainer. She has created a stunning array of products for the year and is a natural at training the women.

As a further development to the programme and to improve our training methods, we underwent a strategic process in 2014 and decided to train in various levels. Because new women join the Craft programme there is an uneven standard of skills within groups. To deal with this problem and to ensure that all women are at a similar and competent stage of production, training is conducted in various levels. These levels also ensure that the development of the women increases their level of independence, as in Level 3, where they have the opportunity to learn the principles of starting their own craft business.

The levels are the following:

  • Level 1 – Basic Skills Training
  • Level 2 – Production Training
  • Level 3 – Specialist Training

Level One – Basic Skills Training

This training is for all new members of craft groups. From 2015 all members of craft groups undergo this training to ensure they have the skills required. This training is at a basic level to teach crafters the fundamentals required to make craft products. It covers the following subjects:

  • Maintenance & Safety – how to safely use craft-making tools and maintain them, the importance of cleanliness while working, taking care of eyesight and ensuring adequate lighting
  • Measuring – different methods of measurement, types of measurements that can be used
  • Cutting – holding scissors correctly, cutting out simple and more complex shapes, how to cut various types of fabrics
  • Production Cutting – maximising the use of fabrics, time-saving techniques
  • Patterns – how to develop and use patterns to make craft items
  • Basic Sewing – basic stitches in hand sewing
  • Basic Beading – different methods of applying beading to craftwork

The training is conducted over approximately 7 weeks and crafters are then ready to enter the next phase of their training. During this time crafters are not earning an income because they are not making products. This time enables crafters who enter the programme to see what is required and decide if it is something they would really like to pursue.

At the end of the training course, what has been learned by the crafters is assessed.  Crafters are required to make an object which utilises all the skills they have learned. If they successfully complete this assessment they are able to progress to Level 2 training if they wish. If not, the crafters are welcome to join the level 1 programme again the following year.

Level Two – Product Training

In Level Two training, crafters learn how to make marketable products. The product developer develops a range of products appropriate to the groups that we are working with, and the group leaders convey which product the group has chosen to learn to make.

The learning process is then one of perfecting the product they are making and making it according to the product and quality requirements. Quality requirements are taught to the women, such as neat, even stitches, accurate measurements and correct use of colour combinations. At the end of the training each group is given a diagram of the product outlining all the quality requirements – measurements, colours to use and areas to check to ensure that the product lasts: doing double stitching, correct knots etc.

At the end of the approximately 9 weeks of training, the women are assessed on their capacity to make the product, not only in line with specific quality standards but also within a set time frame. It is very important for the crafters to be able to make products within a certain period so when they receive orders for a particular product they will know how many they can produce to meet the delivery deadline. During the weeks of training the women earn an income from the products they learn to make as these items are marketed and sold.

During this training the crafters also undergo Business Training with the Zimele Enterprise Programme team – see below.

Level Three – Specialist Training

After Level Two training, the craft women are welcome to join the Level 3 programme. This programme is a mentorship programme in which craftmakers take the next step from making products that someone else has designed to designing their own products and establishing their own production group.

The intention of this programme is to give women the opportunity of developing their own independent craft business. The women work in a “one on one” relationship with the Zimele Product Developer and Trainer and later with the Enterprise Programme to develop their business requirements.


In 2014 the crafters of Winterton made a range of quality products: a Christmas wreath and a doorstop chicken, a small coin purse, a set of fridge magnets and a handbag with Shwe Shwe scallops.  These products have proved to be popular, especially our lovely doorstop chicken and the handbags.


In Swayimane there are now five groups of crafters. During 2014 we had a conflict in one group between the members and the outcome was that the group split into two. This solution has been very successful and both groups are now thriving. The smaller group has attracted several new members.

The groups have also made some lovely new, innovative products, thanks to the skills of our new Product Developer and Trainer. There is a new set of notebooks combining Shwe Shwe and twill (in large and small sizes), more gorgeous handbags, a tissue holder and iPad cover also made from our favourite material, Shwe Shwe.  We made Easter decorations for our Fair Trade buyers as the celebration of Easter is more significant in countries like Germany and Austria. We are happy to announce that some of these products have been positively received and orders have been placed.


The three groups of crafters in the area are doing well, despite the physical distance from us. As an area they do pose special challenges as it is difficult to get materials to them and difficult for them to return the finished products. Transport costs are high, both for us and for them. Craft skills are certainly increasing in this area and the crafters have made stunning oven gloves, lovely little hair clips and business-card holders.

School Holiday Workshops for Children

Transferring skills from mothers to children is an age-old method of preserving cultural and social knowledge and the strengthening of relationships between mothers and their children. In our country, it often sees the strengthening of bonds between children and women who may not be their natural mothers – often they are grandmothers or guardians. Once again we held workshops in 2014 with all groups in all areas, both in the July and October school holidays.

The exciting part about the organisation and running of these workshops is that this is undertaken by the craft women themselves.  Zimele supports the workshops with funding but the events are structured by the women, who organise what items to teach the children to make, prepare lunch for the day and finalise all other arrangements. They even have a great time participating in games for the kids. All in all, 195 children had meaningful social interaction and fun in the school holidays, something they don’t often get in a rural community.


In 2014 the Zimele Craft Programme arranged that the crafters attend the following shows in order to assist them in developing their business skills:

Royal Show, May 23 to June 1

This show gave all women from each area an opportunity to exhibit and sell their goods over a period of 9 days.  Not only was craft sold but agricultural products as well.

Fair Trade Week, May 4 to 10

To promote the Fair Trade Organisation and its principles, Zimele had an eye-catching stand at the Midlands Liberty Mall in Pietermaritzburg, the largest shopping centre available to our local community with an impressive amount of people passing through it on a daily basis.  Many thanks to the Midlands Liberty Mall for making available to Zimele a prime space in front of the busy Pick n Pay supermarket at no cost. The Pietermaritzburg citizens enjoyed the wonderful work of the Zimele crafters and purchased craftwork to the value of R19 000.00.

Ladysmith Show, May 15 to 18

This show was made available to the Winterton craft women only as they are in close proximity, with representatives from the four groups in Winterton attending.


DESIGN INDABA, Cape Town, February 27 to March 2

The Design Indaba trade show is an excellent showcase for Zimele crafters as it is the premier design show in the country and it is prestigious to be accepted into the show. Orders from the show amounted to R24 805.00 and direct sales of craft amounted to R15 564.00. The total amount sold at the show was just over R40 369.00.

SARCDA Show, Johannesburg, August 21 to 24

 This show was held at Gallagher Estate in Midrand, Johannesburg. This is a purely wholesale show (only retail buyers attend) and is the only one available for craft in South Africa. Sales were not as good as last year but came to about three quarters of last year’s sales. Total orders were R75 000.00 this year and for last year were R112 000.00.


Garden Show, Pietermaritzburg, September 19 to 21

This is a direct selling retail show and is quite successful for Zimele. The sales were R6 130.00 (an increase of about R1 000 from last year).  A bonus was getting an order worth R2 000 from a local shop which had been unable to order at SARCDA in August.

Hope Market, Umhlanga (Durban), November 1

This one day market was a great opportunity to boost the sales for the crafters. Held in a wealthy area, the sales for this show are very good, given that it is for one morning only, from 9am to noon.  The sales were R4 438.00, about the same as last year.

Nottingham Road Market, November 15

This was a pre-Christmas show in the Midlands, in Nottingham Road just north of Pietermaritzburg.  Unfortunately this show was plagued by very high winds and a severe cold front that came through in the early afternoon, after which all stallholders packed up and abandoned ship. Due to the poor weather, sales were unexpectedly low at just over R500.00.

Wartburg Christmas Market, November 29

Wartburg Market is a lively and long-established market.  Although only for one day and a short one at that (from 10am to 2pm), Zimele crafters’ products were well received and sales were R1 500.00 for the day.

Tatham Art Gallery Market, Pietermaritzburg, November 29 and 30

The Tatham Art Gallery Market was a completely new market. Unfortunately, not having established itself, the amount of people who attended was small and therefore sales were limited to R1 500.00. We find that it takes time to establish these shows and we hope that the sales build in the future.


Total sales of craft were R636 894.00 and the amount paid to crafters was R501 466.00. Sales for the year were extremely pleasing. Our highest selling item was our small angel, selling 2733 items.

 Julia Buss
Co-ordinator: Craft Programme


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