Ethiopian Craft Ideas

Written by laura sky brown
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Ethiopian Craft Ideas
Ethiopia has a wide-ranging and varied crafts tradition. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Ethiopia is home to a generations-old tradition of crafts in nearly every category. Any crafter wanting to create work in an Ethiopian style is likely to have plenty of inspiration. From basket weaving to native-style painting to household furniture projects, there is an Ethiopian style that can be adapted and honoured by the crafter who is interested in that country's culture.

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Fabric Projects

A traditional Ethiopian style of woven and embroidered goods includes shawls and "coffee dresses" as well as throw rugs and seat cushions. The traditional patterns often feature large decorative crosses, since Ethiopia has been a majority Christian culture for centuries. However, there is also a Jewish community in Ethiopia, and hand-woven tallits and prayer shawls are also a part of Ethiopia's culture. Spinning cotton and silk is prized as a skill in the country. A craft project involving fine cotton or silk and embroidery would be faithful to Ethiopian tradition.

Ethiopian Craft Ideas
Finely woven textiles are part of Ethiopia's cultural heritage. (George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Basket Weaving

Ethiopia's baskets are generally of two kinds: tightly woven, with lids, so that they are almost a replacement for a pottery vessel, or very loosely woven for an object that can be used as a sieve or a filter. Baskets are woven in coil style from wicker or dried grass wrapped with grass or straw. The baskets are round and many are intended to be carried on the bearer's head.

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Pottery

Pottery made of different types of clay dates back hundreds of years in Ethiopia. Ceramics are used for cooking and serving food today, as well as for the important ritual of coffee drinking. Simple hand-painted designs adorn the pots. Dark brown and black pottery is common and has a stark beauty that would be interesting for the modern crafter to replicate.

Jewellery

Silver and beads are the main materials in Ethiopian jewellery. Ethiopian jewellery's rich tradition of symbolism would be interesting for the modern jewellery crafter to copy and interpret. A centre of jewellery art is the walled city of Harar, a stronghold of Islam in Ethiopia, so the bridal necklace of Islam is one Ethiopian jewellery object. The Ethiopian Coptic cross is also familiar, and traditionally each area has its own style of cross made in silver using "lost wax," or one-time casting technique.

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