Column of a material maker (23)
Published 18 April 2017 by Caroline Grellier
One foot in France and the other in Africa, our material maker found the balance for her business project, Termatière. In Togo, upcycling projects for local resources are being set up.
Woezon! Understand “happy arrival” in vernacular éwé language, in the south of Togo. One month already that I am in Africa, my head filled with projects for Termatière, my business in bio-sourced materials. After a first mission as a consultant on the upcycling of plastic bags in the African context, which led to an umpteenth epic trip to Ghana, here I am back in Togolese country, in Lomé, where I am getting back to basics.
From now on, the Termatière activities have been clarified. The skeleton of the business stands tall and the economic model seems relevant. The “material maker” activity alone not being enough, I widened the offers of Termatière and it works. Termatière is starting to generate revenue, selling its expertise on its know-how, but also initiating enthralling small collaborative projects, concurrently with my own R&D projects of bio-sourced local materials. This diversity of activities allows me not to get bored and even though being present on all fronts at the time isn’t simple, that’s how I blossom, in total freedom!
At the Togolese pace
First operation for me: organize the different projects of Termatière in Togo. And wanting to anticipate in Africa is not an easy thing to do… Between the meetings on African time (very, very, very late), unforeseen events that postpone the moment of the meeting again and again, and the rain that “spoils” the day’s program (we are entering the rainy season), I grin and bear it. As we live by the rhythm of the sun, we start very early and it isn’t rare to get phone calls as soon as 6am! If I can get two meetings in the morning and one in the afternoon, it’s already a very successful day with a full agenda.
I am also getting used to the working methods. No need to send emails, better to phone directly or even better see each other, even unannounced. This is what is the most effective to move forward. The rhythm of my emails has therefore considerably slowed down, and that feels good too. Here, dialogue takes priority, and everything is negotiated over time, through meeting each other.
Future workshop in preparation
Between two pencil strokes and mouse clicks in view of drawing a first range of furniture, 100% local and low cost, that will be manufactured by a Togolese craftsman; between two mission reports; between two meetings and two motorcycle-taxi runs from one side of Lomé to the other, I am thinking of setting up another material maker’s workshop on my balcony: 3m long by 1m deep, enough to fit in a lovely workbench and enjoy digging my hands into the material again! Especially as, for the furniture project, I want to experiment veneers made of skins and stones of fruit and other methods of bio-sourced finishing stages. The challenge is on, I will try and set up my workshop for next month!
For the moment, even without a workshop, I am tinkering with the remains of my meal in my plate, equipped with knives. I found out that the avocado stone was very soft to cut and peel and became very hard and light when drying. Its color darkens like mahogany. Here, banana skins are already used to polish furniture. I am therefore asking myself how to work on them to turn them into resistant veneers.
Drying operation under way. But with the April rain beginning, the humidity in the air doesn’t help. The DIY solar dryer therefore seems the next equipment for my workshop, ideal to dry vegetable material before working on it.
During this time, in France, the vine shoot composite, first material co-developed by Termatière and its laboratory partners (Montpellier Supagro, Sciences for enology and Engineering of agro-polymers and emerging technologies), arouse interest and questioning from clients. For the moment, nothing has been signed, but I am moving forward!