The Start of a Craft Export Business
Last year when I came to Madagascar and particularly the capital Antananarivo it was impossible not to notice all of the crafts for sale. But at that time the start of a craft export business had not entered y mind. Many of the streets in the city centre have people selling these crafts, particularly the area around Place de l’independance where vendors approach tourists selling everything from large oil paintings to vanilla.
Oil paintings have never been my thing and I wasn’t keen on hauling vanilla around in the heat for a few months before I got home but they had a vast amount of little classic French cars made form recycled cans. The little cars were made mostly from beer and fizzy drink cans with the range of automobiles available including the most common taxis in Madagascar, namely the 2CV and Renault 4.
The level of skill and imagination to make these as decorative as they were wasn’t lost on me and I knew that I wanted to pick some up before leaving the country. A 2CV hand made from the most popular beer in Madagascar, THB or three horse beer, was top of my list bring home. Other models also appealed to me including the beige taxis which seem to be on every street corner of the capital and the taxi brousse which is the workhorse of long distance public transport in Madagascar.
Some of the model taxi brousse even come with little people inside, adding to the detail. The producers also have more freedom when it comes to decorating the taxi brousse as they are larger and have no particular colour pattern compared with the beige taxis in Tana.
I put all of the lovely crafts to the back of my mind while I went about exploring the magical and sometimes crazy island of Madagascar itself, but an unplanned visit to a market in Tamatave on the east coast – which I didn’t even want to go to – changed all of that and sowed the seeds that led to the start of a craft export business.. Frederick, the guide I was with, insisted that we go there; so I was left with little choice. What I thought was going to be a chaotic market turned out to be one filled with some of the most creative stalls I have seen anywhere. Rows of little classic cars, handbags, purses and shawls were just some of the items for sale and gave me the idea of exporting some of these charming products and selling them in Ireland.
Fast forward to November 2019 and the very start of my craft export business. Here I am organising a shipment of little cars to be sent to Ireland so I can sell them online and at craft fairs. After lots of online research and asking around a bit in Antananarivo I was given the name of a place about one hour’s drive from the capital and told to go there at the weekend as that is when it is best to meet the producers. This way I hope to cut out the middle man and pay a fair price for what I buy.
I also brought some models over from Ireland which I hope to get made by them also. These include an old Toyota Landcruiser and MK2 Ford Escort. The good news is they said they can make them so I left the models there and will go back next week to see how things are going. If all goes well then I will put my order in and I am in business.
When I visited the village I was taken to where they finish the models off by soldering them all together. This soldering was taking place downstairs in someone’s house with the living space upstairs. They’ don’t use pens to solder but have long flat lengths of solder heating in a fire with one end sticking out so it is accessible. Little bits are chipped off using a length of pointed metal and applied to the cars’ parts to be fixed, completing the soldering process. They shape all the body parts needed to make the cars in a different place, and I will ask to see this next time I am back.
For now I will just have to wait and hope the quality they make for me is as good as the models they showed me.