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About Craft Zoo

The Company

Craft Zoo™ is a wholesale and retail supplier specialising in the supply of handmade giftware of the highest quality at competitive prices.

We took over the business in 2006. Helen Hart was born in Kenya and her sister has spent many years in Africa as an ecologist. John Russell worked in the Middle East, Africa, and the Far East. Sadly John passed away in 2011 but the business is carrying on with help from a Kenyan friend here in Leeds.

We are committed to continuing the ethical trading policy of the company.

We work closely with small family businesses in Kenya, which helps assure the quality of the work. The Kilundo family source our wooden goods as well as the textiles and jewellery. They also organise the despatch of goods from Kenya.

The soapstone is supplied by friends of our favourite charity “Harambee for Kenya”. Some of the goods are made by one of the first street children who is now a young man starting up his own business.

We love to get feedback about what you think of our products. Click here to see our other customers say about us.

 

Product Uniqueness

 

Due to the handmade nature of our crafts, dimensions stated are for guidance only. It is normal for product dimensions to vary as the crafts-people try to make the best use of a piece of stone or wood to hand craft an item to the required shape and size with minimal wastage.

As natural materials are used the colours vary from one piece to another.

They are made by master crafts-people whose skills have been passed from generation to generation. The men normally source the wood or stone and carve the artefact. The women usually prepare the stone or wood, mix the pigments, and also paint and polish the artefact.

 

The Soapstone Crafts People

THE KISII.

The Kisii are known for their soapstone carvings, basketry and pottery.

The soapstone or kisii is found in the Tabaka Hills of Western Kenya near the town of Kisii.

Kisii district is one of the most densely populated areas of Kenya, Kisii land is very fertile and often wet throughout the year, making it a rich agricultural area. The Kisii grow cash crops such as tea and bananas.

Modern day life in Kisii may still mean no electricity in the home. Poorer families struggle to feed and cloth their children leading to many children living on the streets. Please look at our charity link on the home page to support these children.

Making a soapstone plate

 

The Wooden Crafts People

THE AKAMBA

The Kamba are extremely skilled craftsmen and their beautiful artwork includes bracelets, inlaid stools and wood-carvings. The women gather the wood, clean it and let it dry. The men carve the wood. Once the carvings are complete, the women apply the finishing touch by polishing or painting the products.

The Kamba live in extended family units and the elders control the life within the clans. Modern Kamba families struggle when droughts cause the crops to fail, as a result many younger Kamba leave to work in the cities, but maintain strong links with their homeland, building homes to return to on their family land.

 

Jewellery

THE MAASAI

Most of our Jewellery comes from the Maasai.

The Maasai tribe is a unique and popular tribe due to their long preserved culture. Despite education, civilization and western cultural influences, the Maasai have maintained their traditional nomadic way of life, making them a symbol of Kenyan culture.

Though they traditionally dressed in animal skins, today, typical Maasai dress consists of red sheets, (shuka), wrapped around the body and loads of beaded jewellery placed around the neck and arms. These are worn by both men and women and may vary in colour depending on the occasion.

The Maasai men tend the cattle and the women raise the children and make and sell jewellery.