The Kazuri Beads Story
The History and Background of Kazuri Beads
Kazuri is Swahili for “small and beautiful” which aptly sums up the Kazuri pottery and bead workshop when it was started up back in 1975. The late Lady Susan Wood founded the business just outside Nairobi, Kenya, with a view to providing sustainable employment for single mothers who were struggling to survive and support their families. The pottery and bead-making enabled them to learn new skills very different from the traditional crafts they had been brought up with.
Today, the workshop is now a factory, situated in a place called “Karen”, named after Karen Blixen of “Out of Africa” fame, on part of the farm which was once owned by her. It is a beautiful location just outside Nairobi, under the Ngong Hills between Kenya’s vibrant capital and the spectacular Rift valley. The factory was bought in 2001 by Mark and Regina Newman whose goal is to expand the business whilst retaining its commitment to providing employment to the most disadvantaged members of the local community.
The Kazuri factory has become a popular attraction for tourists and a guided tour shows the visitors how each bead is shaped by hand from local clay. The beads are then fired, painted and glazed by hand, and then fired again before being carefully threaded to make necklaces, bracelets and earrings. As each bead is individually hand made, no two beads are exactly identical. All the designs are colourful, vibrant, and as well as the visual appeal, the beads have a wonderful tactile quality about them also.
The women really enjoy their work which they find satisfying and creative and visitors often remark upon the relaxed, happy good-natured atmosphere of the place with women laughing and chatting to each other as they work.
The factory has its own shop where people can buy the beaded jewellery to take home as presents and souvenirs for themselves and others. The purchase of these products brings with it a dual benefit: not only do the customers get to take home a really stunning handmade piece of jewellery, but they also feel good about knowing they are helping the community of Kenyan mothers to support themselves. This is what Fair Trade is all about.
This enterprise has grown so much that it now provides meaningful employment for around 340 women from the large city slums and is a lasting testament to the altruistic vision of Lady Susan Wood. You can find out more about Kazuri beads from the websites below.
Buy Kazuri beads at: www.caravelajewellery.com
Read more about the fascinating story of Lady Susan Wood http://www.amref.org/who-we-are/lady-susan-wood/
See a video of how the beads are made here:
Read about Karen Blixen: