Global Goods: The Baba Tree Basket Company

Sometimes a photo on Instagram stops me in my scrolling tracks. Does that happen to you too? What stopped me? These smiles! And these baskets!

Baba Tree Basket Company

Baba Tree Basket from Ghana

Baba Tree Basket Artisan

This is the joy! The joy of making things and sharing them with the world. I love the happy colors of their baskets. Here are details of the baskets, all photos from the Baba Tree Baskets Instagram (follow, follow now!):

Baba Tree Basket Company Details

You can find the basket that sings to your own heart, and buy it at their shop online. (go, go now!)

They’re made in Ghana from dyed grasses and reeds. I really like that you can see the artisan who made your basket with such pride, and know his or her name.

So far, I’ve shown you really colorful baskets. They also make beautiful neutral color baskets:

Baba Tree Neutral Color Baskets

I ordered a few orange and green baskets for our living room. Here’s one of them:

Baba Tree Basket Nomadic Decorator

True to my global style, this Baba Tree Basket from Ghana usually holds an alpaca Peruvian blanket we use on the sofa. The basket is in front of a rice god from northern Thailand, which is draped with a huge clay Mexican rosary I found in Old Town San Diego many years ago. My husband said, why did you put a cross on a rice god? (Which I think is either/both Buddhist or Hindu, I’m not sure.) I said that especially in today’s times, we need to mix with people from everywhere, with all backgrounds and all beliefs, all over the world.

Baba Tree Artisan

The baskets are very lightweight. I’m considering getting a big zig zag basket for our apartment in India. Something like this huge Jemima 10 Cows basket:

Baba Tree Website

The baskets are “smoosh-able” so I could fit it in a suitcase. Baba Tree sends instructions to you to put water on the basket and reshape it after shipping, so it retains its original shape.

See, this is how a Baba Tree zig zag basket would fit with all the patterns in our Chennai apartment — yes I have all these pillows and they’re going to India in a suitcase on the next trip!

India Apartment Decor Moodboard

Baba Tree artisans make baskets of all sizes, from small ones that fit in the palms of your hands, to baskets large enough to hold loads of laundry. Some are for storage, some are for display. They make baskets of all colors. Their handcrafted bicycle baskets and baby baskets are so cute. Their small baskets would be great gifts with things tucked in them like creative foods or small clothing accessories.

The Baba Tree Basket Company occasionally runs 20% off sales. Follow them on Instagram to get sale notices.

I should note, this is not a sponsored post. I just loved their Instagram, and I love the baskets I purchased – I thought I’d share to spread the joy of these basketweavers!


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Adinkra Cloth: Symbols to Tell a Story

In the U.S., we don’t usually wear our hopes, dreams and wishes on our clothes. Well, except for when you want your sports team to win! We don’t weave talismans and protections into our fabric, even when we feel vulnerable to things that affect us. Should we? There is a way to do it without being obvious. Like, you don’t have to print “I want the winning lottery ticket” on a T-shirt. You can use symbols to tell your story. And the combination of symbols can be beautiful. We can learn from how other cultures weave meaningful stories into their fabrics, like the Adinkra cloth of Ghana.

Here is Adinkra cloth from the Smithsonian:

Adinkra Cloth from Smithsonian

From Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco:

Adinkra Cloth from Museum of Fine Arts San Francisco

From Hamill Gallery:

Adinkra Cloth from Hamill Gallery

The black patterns are printed, and the colorful areas are made with embroidered threads. Here’s a close-up of the cloth from Hamill Gallery, so you can see the print and embroidery:

Adrinka Cloth Closeup from Hamill Gallery

Adinkra cloths have caught my eye for awhile — the lively mixes of patterns! — and I got curious to learn more and do a post about them.

These symbols are from the Akan culture in Ghana. They use these Adinkra symbols to decorate things like wood objects, pottery, jewelry and fabric. Traditionally these designs were reserved for the Asante kings, but now more people in Akan culture wear the cloth for important occasions.

Here you see that drawing a comb over the fabric creates lines:


Just like with the more popular mud cloth and kuba cloth, the symbols in Adinkra cloth have meanings, Some symbols represent more complex ideas like proverbs and folk tales, others show simple images like plants. Master artisans and elders know how to match the symbols into combinations that tell stories. From Aaron Mobley Heart of Afrika Designs, here is a chart showing the meanings of many symbols – click here or click on the image to open a bigger picture where you can read the words:


The symbols are pressed into cloth with ink and stamps. The stamps are carved from gourds:

Adinkra Stamps Carved from Guords

Oh my! If I spotted these on the roadside while traveling through Ghana! From Flickr:

Adinkra Cloth Stamps in Ghana Flickr


If you’d like to use these symbols, the graphics at were made for you to use for personal, non-profit and educational purposes. Save them and open them in a graphics program. Create art and digital fabric designs. Print them and transfer the images onto fabric or wood. You can carve your own printing blocks in foam.

If you were to choose Adinkra symbols to tell the story of your life, or your hopes and wishes, which would you choose?

Right now, I would choose:

Story of My Current Life Andikra Symbols

These symbolize things I’m dealing with right now:

  • Adaptability
  • Transformation
  • Initiative, Dynamism
  • Humility, Strength
  • Hardiness, Toughness, Perseverance
  • Unity, Human Relations
  • Support, Cooperation

Yeah, heavy stuff. But I have some work to do to change some things in my life. I wonder what these symbols would look like if they were made into a cloth! Maybe we will see …


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Global Style: Necklace Displays

In the Marrakech souks, I was drawn to these chunky beaded and silver necklaces — you can see big displays of these everywhere in the souks:

Beaded Necklaces in Marrakech Souks

Yeah, I know it’s hard to focus here, there’s so much to see. It got overwhelming because everywhere you turned, there were scenes like this. I was able to focus and find a few things to buy in this shop, which was my first experience with negotiating in the Marrakech souks. Even though I probably still paid way too much, this man was nice and made the experience fun! It was like bargaining anywhere else, especially in Thailand where they make it a fun game.

Marrakech Souk Shopkeeper

But I didn’t buy any necklaces. Why? I know I wouldn’t ever wear them. Often we see things on vacation that are great in that vacation setting, but when we get back home to our regular lives, these things just don’t fit. The colors don’t go in our house, the style doesn’t go with our everyday work clothes, etc. It’s like getting back to the reality of our lives, versus what we’d like our lives to be when we’re on vacation. Maybe I’d like to be a bohemian babe who wears piles of these necklaces with caftans and I drift barefoot along long sunlit hallways all day, caftan fabric flowing and chunky beads clanking.

That is a magazine shoot. Or an Instagram shoot, more likely nowadays! It is not me or my real life. More likely I’m in a beige office in a basic all-black outfit, responding to email, or reading and highlighting a scientific paper and writing lots of notes in the margins, before I run to the next meeting of the day.

So. Felt like a fantasy just came crashing down there.

So I did not buy chunky beaded necklaces in the Marrakesh souks. But one night there, while at Le Tanjia restaurant, I spotted something. Something on the wall:

Le Tanjia Framed Necklace

My apologies the photo is so bad, but Le Tanjia is lit entirely with pierced metal lanterns so the atmosphere is dark and shadowy, and I may have had several strong mojitos before snapping this!

But you get the idea. Necklaces can be works of art. So why not treat them like works of art? Why not frame them and hang them? You can use shadowboxes for thick beaded necklaces like this. Here’s a few more framed necklaces I found online — this framed look is especially good with tribal necklaces with big style and personalities. These are from Neiman Marcus (left) and Amalthee Creations (right):

Framed Necklaces from Neiman Marcus and Amalthee Creations

Choose simple frames and matting to let the necklace be the visual focus.

You can drape necklaces on a vintage dress form. Put a plain dress or tunic on the dress form so the spotlight is on the necklace. This necklace was sold by Etsy shop MorningDoveDesign:

Necklace on Vintage Dress Form from Etsy Shop MorningDoveDesign

It appears these necklaces have sold, but this Etsy shop has many other beaded necklaces.

You could go crazy-nutso and pile a whole bunch of necklaces on a small vintage-style dress form that’s sized to display necklaces on a dresser or tabletop:

Necklace Display on Tabletop Dress Form

You could also pile beaded necklaces in bowls. Here’s a pile of old beaded necklaces I spotted in a bowl at the Antique and Garden Fair at Chicago Botanical Gardens:

Beads Piled in a Bowl

For a neutral look, here are strung African beads piled in a rustic industrial bowl that I saw at Randolph Street Market in Chicago years ago:

African Beads in Rustic Industrial Bowl

If these were turquoise, amber or carnelian color beads, the color pop could be really interesting.

If you come back from a vacation with jewelry that you feel doesn’t fit into your regular everyday life, try framing it or piling it in a bowl. Or display it some other way. This way, whenever you look at the jewelry, you can get the vacation fantasy and feeling back in your life, if even for a moment!

I seem to make a Pinterest Board for everything, and I made a board to collect ideas for displaying necklaces. Check it out for more ideas:

Follow Nomadic Decorator’s board Necklace Displays on Pinterest.


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Global Style: African Stools

Someone, somewhere online said that African stools have the perfect chunky look to contrast with many decorating styles. You need a surprising contrast to make a room interesting, and small furniture with a chunky tribal look can do that. Check out Justina Blakeney’s post about Afribo style — African + boho. You will see she added stools from Burkina Faso and Ethiopia to a room. She shows how these stools can be used in any style room.

Here is a home Justina decorated for charity, for female homeless veterans and their children. And what a beautifully-designed home this is, complete with that little African stool:

Justina Blakeney The Jungalow Designed Living Room

I always like to have a little table or stool nearby to set a drink, bowl or plate, or even lay a book. There’s always something that needs to be set down while you’re sitting on a sofa, and drinks on the floor often tip over and spill or break. Yeah there’s usually a coffee table, but you have to lean over further to pick up things. Maybe I’m lazy! I like a drink to be a few inches away. A little stool is perfect to set close to the couch without getting in the way.

These stools can also be extra seating when needed, without committing to big upholstered chairs. Set a few stools on the side, like you see in this IG post from one of my favorite stores, Tierra Del Lagarto in Scottsdale:

African Stools from Tierra Del Lagarto

There in the front are Senufo stools. I’ve written about Tierra Del Lagarto before because their style is my style. As you see here, they are masterful at mixing patterns! Every vignette they create is so full of life. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram to see the scenes they create in their store. And if you see something you love but you’re not near Scottsdale, they do ship.

I’ve spotted African stools in rooms created by Amber Interiors, like in this room she designed at Domaine:

African Stools Amber Interiors Design via Domaine

A pair could work at the foot of beds too — different than the usual long bench:

Senufo Stools at foot of bed

Here’s a dramatic example of Senufo stools in a home from House and Leisure in South Africa:

Senufo Stools House and Leisure South Africa

These look huge. Senufo stools are made in different sizes. I have noticed some for sale on eBay and they’re very short, like 5″ legs. So be sure to check the measurements if you purchase online.

Now, it’s important to say that “African stools” might be a misleading thing to call these. They are from Africa and they are stools, but Africa is a huge continent with many cultures, tribes and countries. I’ve posted Senufo stools here because I like that simple style the best. But there are other styles of stools from other African cultures too.

There is Bamileke from Cameroon. You’ve probably already seen stools like this used as seating and tables, because this style is common in mainstream catalogs and websites. This stool is Bamileke style, from World Market:

World Market Bamileke Table

Bamileke tables and stools have a criss-cross pattern like that. Here you see how this style stool or table can work in a room:

Bamileke Table

There’s Ashanti. I love these examples of Ashanti stools in more modern interiors. This is where you can see what I’m saying about using something unexpected to contrast with everything else in the room:

Ashanti Stool in Modern Room

If you have furniture similar to this, there’s no reason why you can’t put an Ashanti or other African stool in the room. Not everything has to be matchy-matchy.

Here’s an unexpected placement of an Ashanti stool:

Ashanti Stool in Bathroom

It adds the perfect bit of warmth to a black and white bathroom full of hard colder surfaces. I also love the mix of the African stool with the clearly Indian block print wallpaper — it looks like Les Indiennes style to me.

There’s Tonga. From Zimbabwe. This bold chunky style would bring a good contrast to many rooms. These Tonga stools are from SnobStuff:

Tonga Stools from SnobStuff

I would love a set of Senufo stools in my living room. Our living room is full of Southeast Asian, Indian and regular ol’ American stuff. It’s missing this chunky element. These stools can be a bit pricey, but occasionally you’ll find a seller who’s pricing lower than market because maybe they haven’t done their research, honestly. For sources, you can search “African stool” or be more specific with the type of stool you like such as “Senufo stool” or “Bamileke stool” at sources like:

Smaller independent shops that import from Africa are great sources. They’re often in larger cities, so if you live near a city, look for stores that import directly from Africa. These stools can be heavy and you’ll avoid shipping charges by buying from a local shop. Also, flea markets can be great sources. In Chicago, we have Randolph Street Market and there’s usually sellers of African imports there. Just search for your local big flea markets that might cater to a more design-savvy customer.


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