Frédéric grew up in a mountain village in southern Togo, a small French-speaking country in West Africa. As a young man, he moved to nearby Kpalimé, a pretty town at the foot of the mountains. Because he was always strongly attracted to color, he chose to complete a traditional, unpaid apprenticeship under a local batik artist for 4 years. His work was recognized by an American Peace Corps worker who encouraged him to participate in a technical course on color. Later, a woman in the Peace Corps office in Lomé, the capital, shared his work and helped him learn some simple management and marketing techniques.
Since Frédéric began his own business in 1996, he has taken his skill to a new level. Togo does not have the number of tourists and western workers it did a generation ago, making it difficult for artisans to make a living. Frederic’s batik art stands out with its vibrant colors and unique appearance. Most would be amazed to learn that, beyond the most basic techniques, he is primarily self-taught through reading and experimentation with color. He spends his time creating impressive batiks which are primarily art pieces to be used as wall hangings. When not doing that, he farms a piece of land, growing manioc, beans and corn to better support his wife and daughter. He says, “If one is creative, honest and a hard worker, he can live off his work.” He is so proud of his daughter who recently completed high school and dreams of success and opportunity for her.
When Nell saw one of Frédéric's beautiful wall-hangings which we brought back to the states, she asked us to find him and explore the possibility of creating something for Threads by Nomad. What followed was a close collaboration with Christen to create “jolis pagnes” (beautiful cloth), with his inspiration taken from nature. It was impressive to watch his commitment to this creative process. Concepts and colors were discussed and samples created and shared through use of What’s App on cell phones. It helps that Nell and Christen are fluent French speakers! Frédéric made 3-4 hour trips on his motorcycle to purchase materials in Lomé, experimented with ways to incorporate more colors and to use larger pieces of fabric than usual, and patiently worked through the many steps of wax-resist batik required to create these hand-dyed beautiful works of art. Frédéric's fabrics were used in many of the designs included in Threads by Nomad's most recent collection, which you can shop here.
A quick note on the author by Nell: We first met Lynn and Mike Hutchinson when we served together in West Africa. They would sometimes pass through Dakar and a couple of times if I am not mistaken their children were some of the expat kids to whom I administered vaccinations. Then when we were in Brussels they traveled through and we got together. Virginia (their daughter) was in grade school at the time and I remember her being sooooo cold! A few months later they joined our organization and were assigned to Paris. We became even closer. Now "Aunt Lynn" (to my children) is on my Tuesday morning prayer call (a years-long weekly tradition with close friends) and we visit regularly.