S3 Ep4 Designing with Meaning, Referencing African Wisdom and Championing Sub-Saharan African Design with Chrissa Amuah
In this episode, I chat with textile designer Chrissa Amuah. Chrissa is a textile designer and the founder of AMWA Designs a London-based brand of handmade textiles and print designs for the home. She is also the founder of Africa by Design a platform bringing together and creating opportunities for African designers. Of Ghanaian heritage, Chrissa’s sees design not only as a way of connecting to her heritage but also as a means to help the continent to realign, re-navigate its future. And harnessing the power of design to bring about great change.
It is this passion that led to the founding of Africa by Design, a platform that focuses on bringing together designers from sub-Saharan Africa to celebrate the beauty and diversity of African design and also explore and promote commercial opportunities. Chrissa sees the platform as a vehicle for addressing the challenges designers on the continent currently face, one of the key challenges being logistics, and getting products to market efficiently. Sharing design with a local customer base is also important for the growth of the design industry on the continent, sharing their design stories and getting audiences to appreciate the craft and value of homegrown design.
It’s one thing to be a designer. But then if you want to be independent, you’ve got to have an entrepreneurial spirit about you as well. Not everybody is able to combine the two. – Chrissa Amuah
Chrissa made the transition from communications and business development to textile design while searching for her creative outlet. A short introductory course to drawing for textiles led to a Master’s in textile design at Chelsea College of Art and Design. And it was here that she began to explore the Adinkra symbols of Ghana, incorporating them into her screen-printed textiles to create a signature style that underpins her design aesthetic. Upon graduation Chrissa found herself exhibiting at Milan Design Week, and launching her company AMWA Designs straight in at the high-end of the interiors industry. Exhibiting at Milan Design Week was a lesson in self-belief and aiming high, and doing so led to opportunities for growth and helped build awareness of her brand.
Often we don’t dream big enough for ourselves… it’s beautiful when you are surrounded by people who push you to dream bigger for yourself. Bigger than you would dare dream. – Chrissa Amuah
Chrissa harnesses the value of sharing her story authentically and using storytelling to connect her audiences to her products. She believes in sustainable design, the longevity of products, and purchasing what you love and will cherish rather than buying for trends that come and go.
I tell my story because no one else can tell it for me. – Chrissa Amuah
Building a business has not been without its challenges. Being a self-funded business means pushing boundaries with restricted means, or smaller means and for Chrissa working creatively around the limitations of money and time has enabled her business to grow and reach a point where she is now attracting opportunities to design collections for international brands. And as her business grows so too is her commitment to uplifting design from the African continent.
We talk about:
- Her thoughts on the future of Africa’s design, and how design can help the African continent to realign and re-navigate its future
- The motivation behind launching Africa by Design and the impact has it had on shining the light on African design
- Celebrating and highlighting the diversity in African design
- How she discovered her love for textile design
- Being authentic in telling her story
- The need to dream bigger for ourselves
- The challenges she has faced in building her brand and learning to push boundaries with limited means
- The importance of sustainable design not designing for trends but designing for meaning
Links and resources mentioned in this episode
Chelsea College of Art and Design
Milan Design Week + Salone Satellite
Where you can go to find out more about AMWA Designs:
You can listen to the podcast on iTunes (iOS) and Stitcher (Android)
And before you go I have a favour to ask, if you could take a few minutes to do the three R’s that is: rate it, review it, and recommend it to anyone you feel would benefit. It will really make a difference and I would greatly appreciate it.