Innovation keeps bamboo artist going

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THELMA Boetrich (50), an artist who produces and sells wares made of bamboo plants, has attributed her success in the male-dominated industry to innovation.

BY JAIROS SUNYAMA

“As a creative person, I keep on thinking of new innovations. I have not stopped producing bamboo products, but I have developed them to have an appeal on the market,” she said.

“Being innovative makes my products irresistible to art enthusiasts. Initially my wares were more of bamboos, but I am now blending them with some sisal strings.”

After buying a house in Highlands, Harare, Boetrich found bamboos growing lavishly by the pool side. Instead of reaching for the axe, the Chimanimani-born artist thought of a way to eke a living out of the bamboos.

“Art is a reflection of perception and when I found the bamboo plants I told myself that I have to make money out of them. I then had to plant some sisal plants, among other plants, to come out with the wares that I sell,” she said.

“I produce earrings, necklaces, purses and curtains from both sisal and bamboo plants which I have been selling in and out of the country.”

Boettrich was born in a family where both parents were remarkable artists and learnt the trade at a tender age.

Thelma Boetrich

She has employed 10 people who assist her in processing the bamboo before she does the final touches on her own.

The soft-spoken artist uses sisal plants that she grows along her driveway and tomato sap that she uses to colour the wares as part of her environment-friendly approach to her work.

“I am environmentally friendly and recycling production has been part of me. I grow sap plants in my yard that I use as colour.
For example, I can dye sisal strings using tomato sap,” she said. “When I run short of sisal strings, I drive to Chimanimani where I buy already processed fibre strings for 50c per 10 one-metre long strings. With 10 strings, I can produce two bags with each going for $20.”

Boettrich plies her trade at her home where she uses the carport as a showroom. The wares are hung on the wall and some displayed on tables.

She said although it was not easy to penetrate international markets, she had used the internet to market the wares. She has roped in disadvantaged women from Chimanimani who now assist her in producing the wares.

“I do the design and they copy before I order from them,” she said, adding that she exports her craft ware to Canada, German and Austria.

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