I'm delighted to announce that I have recently become a design team member for Many Hands Marketplace - Kazuri West. Perhaps you are already aware of the story and maybe you have even used these gorgeous beads in your own work, but I have only recently been introduced to them. The beautiful Kazuri beads are ceramic and made in Kenya and the stunning Samunnat beads are polymer clay and made in Nepal. Both of these small businesses were set up to help disadvantaged and vulnerable women escape their impoverished and often abusive situations by making and selling beads. Once I learned the background and saw the beads, I was happy to lend this initiative my full support and help to spread the word.
Through training and support these two collectives have grown, enabling the women to not only create amazing beads but also to photograph them and do all the things that come with managing your own small business. In turn, this has given the women confidence and hope and helped them to support their families and gain a level of independence they never thought possible. Many Hands Marketplace - Kazuri West is the main distributor for the beads these ladies craft and you can read the full story including the history of these organizations and the incredible work being done both in Kenya and Nepal here.
I have a small collection of both the Samunnat and the Kazuri beads to play with, but I was immediately drawn to these gorgeous 'Bindu' beads from the Samunnat range because of their detailed patterns and vibrant colours. These beads are so pretty that they don't really need any extra adornment and would look perfect simply strung with some spacer beads or crystals to create a necklace or bracelet, but seeing as I am primarily a beadweaver I wanted to find a way to incorporate them into my usual style of work.
As I rolled the silky smooth beads around in my hands I thought about the women who created them, the hardships they had endured, the love and care that they all put into each bead and the hope for change that this work gave them. Some particularly touching words that I had read on the Samunnat website also echoed around my head: "Each bead is a gift and a story of one woman's life." So with those thoughts in mind I decided to create a collection of 'Samunnat Flowers' as a tribute to the women who carefully crafted each bead and as symbols of femininity and of hope unfurling.
I used Preciosa Ornela seed beads in teal, matte white and black to weave large curved petals to provide a simple plain backdrop and then I added a single shining Bindu bead to the centre of the flower to let the focal bead take centre stage.
If you would like to use some of these beautiful beads in your own work and help to support the women of Kazuri and Samunnat, the beads are available to purchase from their website. They are also currently running a jewellery design contest to win some great prizes and you can read the full details and contest rules here.
See you next time!