I recently discovered beautiful Kazuri beads from Kenya.
I fell in love with the colours and patterns of Kazuri beads and was inspired by the story behind these gorgeous mini artworks. I immediately purchased some to include in my jewellery designs.
Kazuri beads are created from local Kenyan clay by hand and individually painted. Every one is slightly different, which means that each piece of jewellery made with these beads is unique.
The word “Kazuri” means “small and beautiful” in Swahili, which perfectly describes these lovely beads.
The Kazuri story started in 1975 when Lady Susan Wood set up a tiny workshop experimenting in making ceramic beads by hand.
Susan was born in a mud hut in an African village where her English parents were missionaries. She was sent to school in England where she later met and married Michael Wood, a surgeon. They came to Kenya in 1947 and worked on various projects together including starting a coffee plantation and setting up the East African Flying Doctor Service.
Susan initially employed two disadvantaged women to help her make clay beads. She soon expanded to employ many more local women desperately in need of a steady income. By 1988 Kazuri had expanded to a factory employing more than 120 women and men from the surrounding area. The women are trained in the art of ceramic bead making and decorating and become highly skilled fine crafts people.
There is a lot of unemployment in the region and it is not unusual for one Kazuri employee to support 20 family members with their single income.
The Kazuri factory is a social gathering spot and a happy workplace for those fortunate enough to work there.
The factory maintains high standards and an ethical employment environment. The company is a member of the World Fair Trade Organisation.
In 2001 Mark and Regina Newman bought the Kazuri company. Their goal was to expand its size whilst maintaining its guiding philosophy of high ethical standards and employment opportunities for disadvantaged local people.
I am so excited to have discovered Kazuri beads and look forward to making many beautiful pieces of jewellery with them over the coming months.