Bishopston resident changing lives with craft

October 01 2013
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A Bishopston resident is turning people’s lives around in Gambia, after teaching locals how to create rugs.

by Rebecca Day

A Bishopston resident is turning people’s lives around in Gambia, after teaching locals how to create rugs.

Kath Mayall, was inspired to help after initially visiting Gambia on holiday around 20 years ago.

“There were lots of projects and volunteer groups already in place, which were helping improve the lives of the local people,” she says.

After being made redundant in 1994, Kath, pictured, started extending her visits to the Kombo district of Gambia.

She initially took out a tool, found at a junk sale, and started teaching people there skills such as macramé – a form of textile-making using knotting. Kath also got in touch with a charity in Southampton which equipped her with the rug tools needed.

Currently 18 people are making rugs, which are hand woven using jeans and dress-makers’ cut-offs and are sold at hotels in Gambia, as well as local art trails and fairs in Bristol. Each rug is intricately woven using recycled materials and a hessian mat to create a unique and vibrant design. Makers – who range from men in their 20s to women in their 60s – have used patchwork, lettering, symbols and random patterns to give their rugs a personal touch.

“One boy making the rugs was just about managing to survive through selling items at a market stall,” explains Kath. “I asked him what he would have done if he wasn’t making rugs, he responded: ‘I would have died’.”

Around 350 rugs have been sold since starting the project. Kath sells them at £20 each with 95 per cent of the profit going back into the Kombo residents’ pockets. Kath dedicates her time at home to selling the rugs to friends and family, and working at the Amnesty bookshop on Gloucester Road.

“Being in Gambia, I’ve realised what an impact making these rugs has had,” enthuses Kath.

“There’s no doubt that they are changing people’s lives.”