Raise your hand if you’re obsessed with baskets! The trend for all things woven is still going strong and as someone who has carved her whole career around the beauty of baskets, it is amazing for me to sit and scroll through social media and see how more and more people are incorporating them into their lives.
In this new series, I chat to wonderful women who know a thing or two about hunting down the perfect basket for their home or wardrobe.
The series kicks off with my dear friend Kelley Mullarkey, who, in all honesty, is a complete bundle of joy. We chat about her impressive collection of baskets in her West London apartment, as well taking six months out of every year to travel around the globe, running not one, but two, successful businesses.
Hi Kelley, for those not familiar with you and your fantastic work, can you introduce yourself?
Of course - I’m the founder of Majestic Disorder - an independent art and culture magazine connecting nomadic creatives, a global community and a creative agency based in London. We focus on sustainability, travel and lifestyle, and work with clients such as the Moroccan Tourism Board, Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland, Go Hawaii, Visit Quito, University of the Arts and more.
We also recently launched our sister company, Magic Bus Morocco, which acts as a bridge between artisans and curious travellers. We guide an assortment of group trips throughout Morocco exploring the diverse and beautiful craft and regions of the entire country.
I need to book myself on one of your trips! How did it all start? What was the inspiration behind starting the magazine?
It's been a really organic journey. The idea for Majestic actually came about back in 2010 while Couchsurfing (pre-Airbnb!) on a backpacking trip through Europe with a friend. For nearly three months we stayed in over a dozen countries with the coolest artists, activists, global nomads, surfers, musicians, designers, PhD students and a few unstable characters.
Their homes and personal style were as unique as the stories they told, the music they played, and the friends they kept and introduced us to. It was a perfect blend of the majestic - the magical soulful existence of one’s art and passion– and the disorder – the chaotic tapestry (or storm) that surrounds any creative’s life.
I wanted to document it all in a physical format that felt relatable. Like you were reading about your best friend’s fascinating cousin or the neighbour next door who grinds away at a 9-5 but does incredible embroidery, basket weaving or pop-up dinner parties on the side. I was so tired of seeing celebrities profiled and craved everyday creatives and artists.
Prior to the trip and up until moving to London, I hosted dozens of Couchsurfers from over 20 countries in my loft in Chicago where my interest in travel and sociology truly came about. I took these curious strangers to my favourite bars, museums and coffee shops. We ordered in pizzas, shared wine, and laughed until we cried.
These stories are amazing! Now, I’ve been to your home in London and I’m in total awe of your basket collection. How many do you own?
I definitely have over 100 baskets now! I have an entire basket wall in our bedroom and have placed plants in baskets all around our flat. It's an addiction. I've long been fascinated with traditional craft, especially textiles, beading and basketry. I travel extensively for work, about six months total each year, and I'm always on the hunt for baskets during these trips.
I've collected baskets from all over - from Mauritius to Morocco, Poland to Arizona, Ghana to Peru, Colombia to Portugal, and so on. It never fails to amaze me how the humble basket, so simple in nature yet so symbolic, can be found throughout nearly all our incredibly diverse and beautiful global cultures.
From colourful and woolly bread baskets found in the streets of hippy Essaouira to market baskets woven from palm leaf and sold throughout the sun-dappled French Riveria, each one is unique, special and above all else, functional.
My hope is that more people see handmade pieces such as baskets as luxury and move away from toxic consumerism. Handmade items carry a piece of the maker in them. How moving and intimate is that? That to me is the definition of true luxury.
I couldn’t agree more! Tell me about your best ‘Basket Find’ - the one that you would save from a fire?
It's so difficult to choose a favourite, but during the holiday season this past year, I travelled home to the US for a month-long visit with family. During this time my mum and I spent several afternoons together bouncing from coffeehouses to secondhand locally owned spots in Arizona.
It was a really special time that I cherish deeply. Not only is my mum my best friend, but she's an incredibly talented woman who devoted her life to protecting us on the frontlines of the medical world, all while being a gifted interior designer; a hobby she took such pleasure in during her very minimal free time. She actually spotted this gorgeous handmade basket first and came rushing to show me. It's both so delicate yet impeccably sturdy at the same time. Just like her.
I love that story and it is truly a beautiful piece. How do you use it?
I store handmade scarves and beaded jewellery in it. Another growing collection of mine.
Any tips when we're out of quarantine to find hidden gems? Where do you find your baskets in London or elsewhere?
Markets! Nothing beats the hunt. With international travel on pause for a bit, and once businesses begin to open up, it will be a wonderful time to explore more locally, especially in London.
Some of my most treasured baskets have been found at Portobello Road Market on Saturdays, Deptford Market, and tucked away inside vintage shops in Brighton (great for a day trip!)
And a little tip, I am not sure if it's going to still take place this August, but the annual Jarmark Jagielloński Fair in Lublin, Poland is absolutely a must-see for any basket lover. The fair brings together artisan masters from Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus, Hungary and Slovakia to celebrate and highlight craft. I can't recommend it enough!
Ok, I’m off to book a trip to Poland!
All images are the property of Kelley Mullarkey