Following our recent interview with Tola of Aràtuntun, we’re endeavouring to have regular spots in our blog with those making waves in the design world and African Diaspora. This month I had the pleasure of asking Anna Boettcher, the Founder of Lov’edu Living, one of our retail partners in Camden.
Lov’edu sell home ware and jewellery which is all fairly traded, within strict ethical guidelines. The outlet also works exclusively with designers from all over the world including Africa, Thailand, Ibiza, and London.
So Anna, What inspired the name Lov’edu, and what does it mean to you?
“Choosing a name for your business is always a tricky affair, it took me a while to find the right name, but when I found it, I knew it was perfect. ‘Lovedu’ is actually a South African tribe. The particularity of this tribe, is that it’s always been ruled by a Queen, rather than a King. She is known as The Lovedu Rain Queen, so called because she brings rain to her people, allowing for a good harvest. The last Rain Queen sadly died in 2007 and there is still no heir and so, at the moment, the Lovedu tribe are ‘Queenless’. Since Lov’edu Living is an ethical business that wishes to promote fair trade and sustainable products, the metaphor of the Rain Queen making the crops grow and sustaining the tribe fits very well; Lov’edu, with the apostrophe, stands for ‘Love Education’. It is about growing awareness and consciousness around the subject of trade – who makes the things we buy, where do they come from, how are they made, what happens to them afterwards, and so on. Love Education is an all encompassing term to describe what I wish Lov’edu will bring to our customers, apart from beautifully designed and crafted products.”
Why do you think it’s so important to represent ethnic designers and products?
“‘Ethnic’ has become a very fashionable word in recent years but it’s origin comes from the word ethnicity, which is something to describe people’s heritage. It represents the uniqueness of people’s culture and traditions, but also their commonality of all being a part of the bigger picture which is our shared humanity and the planet we all live on. Ethnic designs and products on the one hand remind us about the differences between us, and on the other, that we are all the same. They accentuate the distinct beauty and skills of each culture which make them so special and one of a kind.”
Out of all the places in London to set up shop, Why Camden?
“That’s what I’ve been asking myself too, haha! To be honest, Lov’edu was set up out of a strong conviction, but with little time and little financial backing. I had been working in Camden for five years, so it was a very natural step for me to set up my first base here. Over time it is becoming clear though that Camden is not the ideal location for our brand, and we have started looking into alternatives. So if you hear of something, let us know! ;)”
What do you look for in the designers and pieces you sell?
“I look for pieces that are skilfully made, with designs that are aesthetically pleasing and unique. Overall, since all our products are handmade using natural materials, they all share a certain sense of history, even if that sounds slightly strange. I guess what I’m most interested is, are pieces that have character, and whose presence can be felt in a pleasant and warm way.”
What have you learnt from your travels and experiences since starting this venture?
“A lot! But in a nutshell, I’d say that I have learnt that you never know what will happen on the other side, so you just have to trust your gut instinct; keep adapting, remain flexible and open to alternatives. Things often don’t happen the way you hoped they would, but just as in life, the most beautiful things happen when you least expect them. So keep your faith in the road you’re travelling, and be prepared to be surprised!”
What was the thinking behind Lov’edu before it got started; what was the driving force behind it?
“The driving force behind Lov’edu is a strong conviction that the consumption of beauty and design does not need to be based upon inequality, cheap labour, mass production, and ignorance. The idea of owning a piece that has been hand made by someone who has mastered his/her craft is a beautiful thing – someone who has had creative independence and time, thus enjoyed themselves whilst supporting themselves and their families through their skills. To own a piece that is unique due to the way it’s made, and there being none other like it. To own a piece that was made from natural materials, so it will decompose naturally in the end, and not add more to the ever growing waste on this planet. Or even a piece that has been made of recycled materials in the first instance, thereby getting rid of some of the already existing waste.
This Is the ideal behind Lov’edu: allowing you to be conscious, aware, and express your individuality. Which, in my mind, in this day and age, is the highest form of luxury.”
Are there any up and coming designers you’ve discovered recently?
“There are always new designers that I discover, and whose work I showcase at Lov’edu. Two of my recent favourites are Miss Josephine, who is a basket weaver in Nairobi. She designs the most beautiful bags and baskets out of dyed wool.
The other is a Thai lady, who studied Jewellery making at London’s Art College, Central Saint Martins. She now lives and works in Thailand, where she designs the most beautiful brass and stone jewellery. This new brass collection has been quite a departure from Lov’edu’s initial emphasis on African design, but I am very excited to have this unusual collection amongst my selection, and look forward to travelling again soon in search of other such treasures.
What’s next for Lov’edu, and where can we find out more?
“We have recently had a makeover on our Website, for which we have received much positive feedback, which is great, so there will be a growing emphasis on expanding our online store and our international online presence. You can also find us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, as well as sign up to our newsletter and follow our Blog for updates. At our Gallery we are anticipating the start of the Camden Fringe Festival of which we are a participating venue with many exciting acts and shows performing for 4 weeks in July and August.”
Last but not least, now that summer’s here, what would be your perfect holiday?
“Ahhh… I would love a holiday right now! The Summer’s are always very busy periods for us, but if I had the opportunity, my perfect holiday would be spending a few weeks at my mum’s house in Ibiza, where I grew up. Whilst it’s nothing new, it’s still perfect: beautiful beaches, good food, lovely markets, and the best company amongst friends and family! If I do end up escaping London, I will make sure to send you a card! ;)”
On behalf of the team here at Arhinarmah, my thanks goes to the Lovely Anna. It’s our pleasure to help spread the word of suppliers like Lov’edu, and through taking the time to talk to us we’re able to work together to promote fantastic designers and celebrate all the great work being done by all involved.
Is there anywhere you can think of as a great new space for Lov’edu to expand? Is there anything that has got you thinking about where you source life’s little luxuries? Let us know through the usual channels of Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and Google+ whilst you keep up to date with all the goings on here at Arhinarmah!