Five years ago, Tanja Curcic embarked on a trip to Africa to meet her sponsor child. Then unbeknownst to her, that trip would change her life.
"I instantly fell in love with Africa, its people and stunning landscapes…It really spoke to my soul," Curcic explains.
Curcic's newfound affinity for Africa led her on the path to creating a business aimed at assisting African women and their children to overcome challenging life situations (even freeing some from a life of prostitution, drug and alcohol abuse).
In 2010, she founded 'The Little Blue Shed'; a business giving African women the means to financially support themselves through the creation of arty but stylish handbags and accessories made from recycled paper.
I happened to meet Curcic at a market stall in Sydney, immediately falling in love with both her products and the cause.
Purchasing a magnificent lime green clutch to add to my collection of designer handbags, I found myself wanting to know more about The Little Blue Shed and to communicate Curcic's story to the fashion world.
I interviewed Curcic about The Little Blue Shed in the hope my NSS readers will support and spread the word about her products; being the labour and love of a talented, inspiring and incredibly resilient group of African women.
- Michelle, NSS Editor xx
Q: Tanja, tell me more about the story behind the Little Blue Shed?
A: After I returned from my trip to Africa to meet my sponsor child, I found myself very unsettled. Although I was back in Australia, Africa was constantly on my mind. I felt like something was pulling me towards it; a pull that became too strong to ignore.
Instead of fighting or ignoring my restlessness, I decided to undertake a TESOL course with the plan to go back and teach on a volunteer basis. One and half years later, I was ready to return. I boarded the plane with an open mind and heart.
Within three month of my trip I found myself in a small village in Uganda called Mufabira. Here, a group of women asked for my assistance in purchasing some sewing machines and I agreed. We built a small work shed, painted it blue and called it ‘The Little Blue Shed’. This is the place where we would work for the next nine months.
Q: Tell me about the products you make at The Little Blue Shed. How is each item made and from what materials?
A: The Little Blue Shed's products are made from 100% recycled magazine paper. Each paper strip is hand rolled and then vanished several time before the product is made. Our current product range includes handbags, purses, necklaces, bracelets and earrings. We are continually experimenting and looking for new ideas to merge African culture with the Western World.
Q: Who designs the bags and jewellery and how do they come up with the designs?
A: We work as a team - myself and the girls from the Little Blue Shed. Although we are located far from each other (with me being based in Australia and they in Africa), we manage to communicate and trust each other. Our designs are formed from talking to customers and finding out what is desired. We work closely together to develop the designs; but the women at the Little Blue Shed are extremely creative, so it's never a struggle to produce products which are loved by many!
Q: Tanja, tell me about you!?
A: I have to say, I am still learning! I have a passion for women and strongly believe every woman should be able to provide for herself and her family in a nurturing way. I am a sensitive soul. As a child I was always concerned about people who were struggling. I was always drawn to help in some way.
Q: What's your take on eco-fashion?
A: Eco-fashion and ethical fashion go hand in hand for me. Both are about taking responsibility for our planet environmentally and ethically. I enjoy the possibilities of what can be created from recycled materials and the experimentation that comes with it.
Q: What does "style" mean to you?
A: To me, style is about personality; it is an expression of oneself. There is no right or wrong!
Q: What are your future plans for the Little Blue Shed?
A: Our future plans are to build strong awareness of the brand and the project and to continue training and employing more women on a consistent basis so that they are able to provide for themselves and their family. My aim is to unite women to support each other, no matter where they live in the world.
Q: Your life mantra is…
A: Trust your own nature; trust in the process.
Little Blue Shed bags and accessories are available to purchase online @ www.thelittleblueshed.com
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