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Chrissa Amuah, AMWA Designs

Our next Surface Design Show Isolation Talk is with Chrissa Amuah, Creative Director and Founder of AMWA Designs.

AMWA Designs create handmade textiles and print designs inspired by the Adinkra symbols and proverbs of Ghana. They serve a decorative function, but also convey traditional wisdoms and adages.

Chrissa spoke on the Main Stage at this year's SDS on the relationship between national identity and indigenous crafts, materiality and creativity.

Hi Chrissa

Thanks for letting us self-isolate with you, keeping in touch with our friends makes us all feel better.

Where is your isolation home right now?

I’m lucky to say that isolation home for me, is my everyday home in Anerley (South East London), which has always doubled up as the base for my design practice.

I think we are now into week 4 of lockdown - how are you coping with this new lifestyle?

I’m actually into week 6 of lockdown. I decided early on to kick start the process after speaking to a few friends who are doctors, who emphasised their concerns with the government’s approach as the pandemic was unfolding here in the UK. After the initial panic, I got to a very comfortable and constructive space. I’ve spent the past month and a bit, exercising, reading extensively, re-organising cupboards and bedrooms – all the things I’ve been meaning to do for ages, but never had the time to. There are good days and bad days, this week has been a good one.

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Have you developed a daily schedule? 

Yes I have, I think it makes all the difference. It’s not completely rigid, but I aim to be out of bed by 7:30am, check the news (I am slowly weaning myself off this) and then do an hour’s workout. Each day is different, but comprises of personal admin, AMWA Designs or AFRICA BY DESIGN projects, re-connecting with friends and networks or reading a great book.

What tends to be the highlight of your day? 

Wine o’ clock and a book, or video calls with friends.

What are you missing most? And what don’t you miss at all?

The biggest grievances for me are the delay to the launch of my first international collection with Bernhardt Design and the interruption to a project I’m doing with an international hotel franchaise.

The weekly food shop has become a military operation, but aside from that I am trying not to complain, I have my health and that of my family’s and that supersedes everything.

Are there some long neglected jobs that you intend to get around to doing during the lockdown? 

I’ve decluttered and re-organised my bedroom, loft room and garden shed, so that’s pretty good going I think. I’m just trying to see if I’ve got it in me to repaint my living and dining room.

It was great to have you presenting on the Main Stage at Surface Design Show in February, did you enjoy the experience?

Yes I did, it’s always a pleasure and an honour to give insight into African design, which is yet to be truly appreciated by the world for the depth, diversity, craftsmanship and skill.

Your heritage stems from Ghana. What is happening there at the moment? Are they in lockdown?

Ghana has just removed its lockdown restriction, but the borders remain closed, social protocol still requires distancing and large social gatherings are banned. Ghana has been driving a proactive testing programme. According to reports, most cases in Ghana (94%) have either mild or no symptoms. The transition from mild to severe or critical cases or death is not happening at the rate that is being seen in the West.

You represent many local designers in Africa, how is Coronavirus effecting them and their businesses?

Many are using it as a time to take stock, review their practice and ambitions, whilst some are also lending their skills to designing practical solutions, such as hands-free wash pumps, to aid the fight in the spread of the virus. Designers from the continent have always demonstrated tenacity, innovation and the ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, so those skills lend themselves brilliantly to the current pandemic.

How do you think the design sector in the UK will manage these difficult times?

There are so many unknowns with the virus that it’s difficult to make any predictions, but what I do hope is that it encourages all of us to review and consider how we can improve our design practice. Going further, perhaps it inspires review and restructure of the business of design; in a way that facilitates fairer profit margins for all in the production process. And it would be great to see that sustainability is better embedded into the blueprint of design and production – for myself included.

Which projects that you are working on particularly excite you?

I was looking forward to the international launch of my collection with Bernhardt Design, in May 2020, but this has sadly been postponed until 2021. I’ve been working with an international hotel franchise over the past three years and look forward to that being completed. I’m incredibly excited to be working with Alice Asafu-Adjaye, to represent Ghana, at the next London Design Biennale. We are incredibly proud of our concept and look forward to sharing it with the world. It’s also inspiring to be working with Es Devlin, who is the biennial Art Director.

When 'normal service' resumes how will your relationship with your African partners have changed?

I can’t say that it will. We are more like a family than partners, who each share the passion and vision to invest in and share the truth and beauty of African design with the world.

Thanks for letting us self-isolate with you!