Changing lives through recycled rugs

July 28 2016

Bishopston resident, Kath Mayall, is helping to turn lives around in West Africa through making rugs using recycled materials.

Rug man

Bishopston resident, Kath Mayall, is helping to turn lives around in West Africa through making rugs using recycled materials.

“I started this project about 15 years ago and provide rug students with a small hand held rugging tool a thick needle and a pair of scissors. All the materials to make the rugs are sourced for free locally, hessian potato sacks for the base and offcuts from the many dressmakers and tailors in the area. 

“I help to sell them at local markets in The Gambia and bring back as many as I can to sell in Bristol at craft fairs and art trails,” Kath explained.

Kath usually spends the winter months in villages in The Gambia and teaches local men and women to make rugs using recycled materials. She has also taught them macramé, a form of textile-making using knotting, and last winter four young men made great hanging basket pot holders. The macramé pot-holders are very strong and will withstand outdoor conditions as well as looking great in a conservatory. All the profits from these projects go back to the people who make the rugs and the macramé pot holders.

Over the years more than 30 people have made them, ranging from men in their twenties to women in their sixties, and more than 500 colourful rugs have been made and sold. Some people from Sierra Leone, Ghana and Senegal have moved back home and have taken this skill with them using letting, symbols and random patterns to give their rugs a personal touch. All the profits from the sale of the rugs go back to the people who make them.

Kath said: “It's quite amazing when someone produces a colourful rug and says, ‘I can't believe that I made that!’ It's even better when they get paid! Several women have been making them from the very start of the project and they make stunning rugs.”