Miora Randrianasolo and Anja Randrianasolo are the primary artisans responsible for the creation of the raffia hats and handbags that we offer to the public. Their ethnicity is Merina and they are from Andramasina, Madagascar. The Merina people of Madagascar hail from the highlands of Madagascar and they are known for their skilled craftsmanship when it comes to weaving. Andramasina is located in the central highlands of Madagascar an area rich in raffia palm trees which provide the raw materials necessary for the creative process.
The word Raffia is of Malagasy origin and refers to the palm tree (Raphia farinifera) native to Madagascar and the fiber extracted from the plant that is utilized for weaving. Though raffia and straw look similar at first glance, raffia is from palm trees and straw is from the stalks of grain crops. Raffia’s natural resin gives it more longevity and flexibility than straw.
The work always starts the same way. The palm leaves are sun dried, softnened and sometimes cooked in ash. Then it is cut lengthwise into very long and fine threads that are tied together wound onto quills. The weaving is then completed on hand looms where the raffia is crafted into mats or sheets. The weaving techniques are varied and some of the tehniques utilized in our products are aravola, pinj, moramanga and rariboka.
This supple raffia fabric is then ironed with an iron that is headed using rehot coal and sewn into hats, baskets and bags. The design on the bags are also made from raffia cuttings. Leather accents, vegan leather accents and/or cotton drawstring linings are added to some bags/baskets for decorative purposes and beauty. Eco friendly vegetable based dyes/pigments that comply with the Oko-Tex 100 standard are used to add color to the raffia.
Sisal is also used in some designs as a source material. The sisal is obtained from the leaves of the sisalana agave plant which is known for its strength and durability. Sisal fibers are typically extracted, processed, and spun into a yarn-like thread. Looms and other weaving tools are used to interlace the threads and create the desired desings and textures. We mainly make bags and baskets out of this material.