Handcrafting Materials & Care
Gitzell Imports specializes in African art imports. All the items are handcrafted and made from materials such as wood, banana leaves, soapstone, cloth, and soft metals.
The banana leaf is the first dried and then a light varnish is applied. Once this process is complete, the artist cuts the fiber into thin stripes to use to make a variety of items such as baskets, figurines, etc. The varnish on the fiber enhances the different tones of the dried fiber and the outcome often resembles a textured tortoise shell. Banana leaf use for weaving and other crafts is environmentally friendly.
Many Kenyan jewelry pieces are made from cow bone. It is first cleaned and then wax is applied to give it a desired pattern. Some bones are blackened by dipping them into black dye made from boiled tree sap.
Soapstone is a dense rock that is mined in Kenya. It is also known as Kisii Stone.
The Kisii first mine the soapstone from the hills of Tabaka in Western Kenya. Then using handheld carving tools, the craftsmen carve and sculpt each piece. The figure is then wet sanded and polished by hand. Dye is used to create various patterns and artistic designs.
Soapstone is soft enough to carve with hand tools. The natural colors range from creamy white and yellow to red and dark grey, depending on the minerals present in the stone. As a result, even the dyed soapstone products are individually unique.
The most frequently used wood is from the Muhuhu tree, also known as African Mahogany. Other commonly used wood pieces come from Black Ebony and Jacaranda trees. The art of African wood carving is a craft passed from father to son.