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At the Heart of Creative Craftsmanship in Burkina Faso

Jul 6, 2023

Mixing the traditional skills and expertise of artists from Burkina Faso with contemporary design ideas, Maison Intègre is producing a stunning collection of furniture and objects in cast bronze.

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Text by TLmag

Maison Intègre was born out of the desire to celebrate and support the craft heritage of West Africa and in particular the lost wax bronze technique, which is a strong tradition in Burkina Faso. Maison Intègre works closely with fifteen bronze craftspeople in Ouagadougou. Throughout this Maison Intègre supports a community and perpetuates a knowhow.

Unfortunately, Burkina Faso’s displacement crisis is one of the world’s fastest growing, with the number of internally displaced people reaching more than 2 million. Around 40% of the country is outside state control. More than ever, Burkina Faso and Maison Intègre need support. There are no more tourists and the economic opportunities for artisans to sell their work doesn’t exist anymore. This savoir-faire is in danger and risks to disappear.

This year, Maison Intègre founder Ambre Jarno and the local community have built a proper workshop structure with its own bronze foundry, which employs around 15 artisans. The French expatriate has invited 3 French bronzesmiths to spend one month in Ouagadougou to help them build the new workspace and engage in a mutual exchange in terms of casting traditions, experiences, and techniques. With unshakable dedication, Maison Intègre has invested in some new tools, materials, and equipment to offer better work conditions and security to the artisans.

“With Maison Intègre edition pieces explored new applications of bronze,” Jarno shares. “The artisans weren’t used to casting furniture and objects for interiors. It was new for them, and we had to find new approaches and techniques together. With this project, I’ve experienced that the cultural industry can be a lever of growth and development in this part of the world.”

Together with her New York gallery Ateliers Courbet, Jarno is committed to ensure the team of bronzesmiths’ regular incomes and work. Alongside the foundry and its inherent social impact, Jarno expands her dedication to the bronzesmiths’ families as she opens the Maison Intègre foundation to secure their access to education and health.

“Maison Intègre is not only about the creation and sales of objects, but taking the time to create a virtuous environment,” explains Jarno. “Today, I need to focus on the structure of Maison Intègre’s foundation and put all my energy in raising the necessary funds to make this project sustainable long term. I have an entire community of collaborators and friends who are expecting a lot from this project and I want to give them my full support.”





Maison Integre workshop in Ouagadougou. Ambre Jarno, Harouna Porgo, and Denis Kabre testing wax textures at the new Maison Intègre workshop in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Moumouni Sawadogo working on finishing for the Y Lamp, one of the pieces in the Maison Intègre and Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance collection. Noé was inspired by the lobi ladder, an everyday object in West Africa, while designing this sculptural floor lamp
A third layer of clay is applied to finish the mould before drying it for 24 to 48 hours. The wax model is wrapped up in many layers of a mix of clay and horse dung. It is secured with metal wires and baked for a few hours depending on the piece’s proportions
Exploring new methods of moulding with the dipping technique
Once the moulds are dried, the fire is prepared to extract the wax
Bronze is made from recycled metals such as taps, screws and bolts. They are heated to about 1200 °C in a melting pot dug into the ground. When the fusion occurs, the bronze is poured in the clay mould
Breaking the mould and discovering the result
Mask sconces have been cleaned and are now ready for finishes
To be cast, the Kassena table is separated in five parts and then reassembled by the welder. This piece is complex and can take more than three months to complete. Noé created three Kassena tables for this collection, and the tables are inspired by the Gurunsi architecture of the Kassena villages in southern Burkina Faso
A model of the piece (here the masks) is made out of natural beeswax sourced in the north. In Burkina Faso, it can be very difficult to handle the wax due to the heat. The country is close to the Sahel region and the temperature can reach 50 °C
For the exhibition in New York at Les Ateliers Courbet, the support of a French workshop provided an opportunity to work on a special patina
Working on the finishes by hand in order to respect the shape of the design
The final series of Mask sconces by Maison Intègre and Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance. There are a tribute to the forms of African ritual masks

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