The colourful Samunnat beads.
The ladies in their new work space.
I was recently introduced to the beautiful hand made ceramic Kazuri beads made in Kenya and the stunning polymer clay Samunnat beads made in Nepal. You may already be aware of the story and perhaps you have even used the beads in your own work, but it was new to me and 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. 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.
Through training and support these two collectives have grown, enabling the women to not only make amazing beads but also to photograph them and to do all the things that come with managing your own 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 Market Place – Kazuri West is the main distributor for the beads these ladies craft and you can read much more about the history of these organizations and the important work being done both in Africa and Nepal here.
Although I have a small collection of both the Kazuri beads and the Samunnat beads to experiment with, I was immediately drawn to these gorgeous Bindu beads from the Samunnat range because of their vibrant colours and the detailed patterns. 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 bracelet or necklace, 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 put into each bead and the hope for change that this work gave them and then some particularly touching words that I had read on the Samunnat website 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 to weave large curved petals to provide a plain backdrop and then added a single shining Bindu bead to the centre of the flower.
If you would like to use some of these beautiful beads in your own work and help to support the women of Samunnat and Kazuri, 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 rules here.
Kerrie Slade is a beadwork designer living in Mansfield, England. She has been beading for more than 10 years and has had her work published in numerous books and magazines around the world. Kerrie has taught beadwork internationally and she now sells her patterns via her website.You can read more on her blog.