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Opinions of Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Columnist: Daily Guide

If I were an artisan

There are many opportunities in their trade that can make them build sustainable businesses There are many opportunities in their trade that can make them build sustainable businesses

I used to have a very good tailor who made women’s dresses perfectly. He would look at you, recommend designs, sew and deliver on time. His finishing was perfect and his dresses looked like ready-made dresses.

Someone referred him to me and I liked him. I mentioned him to people within my circles and soon some of my friends started going to him. He seemed to be in good business.

One day I went to him and saw a stack of clothes that he had made which he said were being sent outside the country to be sold. He now had clients in the UK who wanted to sell his clothes.

A friend of mine also saw the designs and bought a lot of fabrics and asked him to make clothes for her as well. He accepted to sew the clothes but was unable to deliver the finished items. We went there several times and never met him. There was always one story or the other about the reason why he was not there.

I just couldn’t believe what was happening. To sum it up, we never met him for a long time. The guy just vanished, got lost, moved, couldn’t be located at the time and so we gave up. We were told later that he wanted to travel abroad and couldn’t make it. He got depressed and stopped sewing. What a waste?

We met him about five years later in the streets of Accra as an instructor in a driving school. We couldn’t talk much under the circumstances. Later we met him as a driver in one of the public institutions.

About four months ago, the company I work for was commissioning its new building and we were all very excited about it. Every member of staff had been given a customised cloth to sew weeks before the event. On the day of the event, many of the staff, especially the women all had different stories about how their seamstresses disappointed them in one way or the other. Someone came with the cloth tied around her waist with a blouse (she had to improvise), others had to stay up in the night for their clothes to be re-sewn while others reported their seamstresses failed to deliver what they expected.

Recently, my husband hired some artisans to finish up some work on a hut he was building. It involved dealing with metal workers, masons, electricians, painters and carpenters. The work finally was done but we were left with some carpentry work and so he thought this will be done in a short time. The artisan came late in the afternoon, did part of the ceiling and promised to complete it the following morning. He called the carpenter several times the next morning he failed to pick up or turn up.

The issue with disappointing artisans is not just limited to tailors and seamstresses. Artisans have become very notorious for causing sleeplessness, heartaches, confusion and emotional trauma. Disappointments caused by some artisans can be worse than you can imagine. It has become an industry “disease” – many shoemakers, bag sewers, painters, designers, carpenters, welders, are all guilty of these breaches.

Many of them exhibit similar negative behaviours. They don’t deliver on time and some don’t meet the required specifications. Others mix up the requests and in some instances they lose the original fabrics they are provided. I once had a designer who lost some of my fabric didn’t seem bothered. Some have to undo and redo their work over and over again before the job is accepted.

I sometimes wonder how these craftsmen or artisans see their job. Do they consider it useful and critical? Do they consider it as a business which they need to grow or they are just doing it because they need their daily bread?

I know that people generally consider artisans as generally uneducated or semi-educated. That may not be absolutely true. They may not have high educational qualifications but they have what it takes to deliver good quality work on time and within time.

Small-scale artisans in Ghana have to take their work seriously. They must learn from successful artisans and approach their work with the seriousness it deserves. There are too many good examples around. The Kpogas, Woodecks and Accents and Arts are all good examples of great artisans who are building successful medium-sized businesses.

Internet and computer literacy can help boost the work artisans. With only a phone or tablet, artisans can manage their businesses better. They can search the internet for concepts, designs and ideas and they can also share their work with their clients. They can also set reminders on their phones or use their phones to cross check information from their clients.

Ahead of the scheduled date for delivery, the digital artisan has the opportunity to communicate any challenges they encounter in their work with the customer and make decisions before the scheduled date. Most importantly they can use the internet to promote and showcase their work.

Artisans in Ghana cannot fail, neither can they be poor. There are too many opportunities in their trade that can make them build sustainable businesses. Just like any businesses, referrals, positive experiences and goodwill can help them expand and build profitability. Many of them just have to sit up and organise their businesses better than they are currently doing. They must also learn to say no when they have too much on their hands.

If I were an artisan, I will just get to know my clients better and work to meet their needs.

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