Bicycle Artisan: Madame Odette

Madame Odette and her family create the most adorable, and intricate bicycles out of scrap tin cans. I met Odette through a mutual friend of ours, Madame Fanja (Fan-za, pictured below). Madame Odette sells her art at the 67 Hectare Market in downtown Antananarivo (Tana, for short), the capital city of Madagascar. 


Madame Odette, at her booth in the 67 Hectare Market, and Me, when i visited Madagascar to fetch more stock in 2018.

Creating pieces of art out of scrap tin-cans is quite common in Madagascar, I've observed. I've seen airplanes, cars, busses, bicycles, and many other ingenious items handcrafted with meticulous attention to detail. Strolling the Artisan Market in Tana is akin to visiting a museum of art, in my opinion. The ways the Malagasy Artisans dream up how to use recycled materials and the natural resources they have access to is simply amazing. 


Tin-Can Bikes stand upright with functioning kick-stand.

Available in various colours. 

 VeloSoleX a French Bicycle Model with front mounted motor, 

Available in Black only.


Above, an Instagram Story I posted in December 2020. I was sent this photo by friend and colleague Kristen Unger, who lives and works in Mada. Kristen partners with me by directing funds from Distaff to recipients and beneficiaries. In this instance Kristen received a box of hundreds of bicycles from Odette that I had ordered via Facebook Messenger via Fanja's daughter. :-) Kristen paid the invoice amount to Odette that I had e-transferred between Canadian bank accounts (thus avoiding large international bank transfer fees). This is also how we paid the costs of Logistics and Shipping, processed by the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) Madagascar Logistics Department, who are also dear friends of ours from the time we spent living and working in Madagascar.

Madame Odette charges me what she feels is a fair price. I will never bargain a lower price for her products, since my goal with Distaff&Spindle is always to promote a living-wage price for the items I buy to support these skilled Artisans. 


December 2020 marks the first time Distaff organized a shipment of product - in this instance, Odette's Bicycles - via Air Mail. (Until this time I have traveled in person to Madagascar, purchased in person and brought the product back with me in my luggage. If you can believe it, this method is cheaper than mailing the same products!)

Mailing of Product was a learning experience to be sure! The required paperwork necessary to process properly through Customs is a new thing for me. I am deeply grateful for the knowledge and expertise of the MAF Logistics Department in their help with this project, as well as their commitment to reject any corrupt processing (ie. bribes) that would 'grease the wheels'. As I understand, the current Madagascar Government is actively working to root out the corruption that, previously, allowed those with money to pay bribes that would allow anything and everything out of the country. Madagascar is a resource wealthy Island Nation, and the people deserve to both protect what they have from foreigners, and to be properly compensated for what they choose to export. The fact that Madagascar remains one of the poorest countries of the world is due to injustice and poor management, not to the wealth of their resources or the capacity of their people!