I’m always browsing in fabric shops for new inspiration for my handcrafted textile necklaces and recently I fell for a lovely floral print chambray. It combined beautifully with the velvet and silk but was slightly more challenging to work the shweshwe into the design, until I tried the blue/purple/black print. But it was the chambray that truly dictated the style of the piece. It had a delicacy that I wanted to retain and lingering sense of soft spring meadows with fragile multicolored blooms that one doesn’t really find in Africa except perhaps in our indigenous fynbos.
This is an asymmetrical necklace and features a tumbling cluster of tandletons in various sizes. The dominant colours are periwinkle blue, rose pink and an apple green and these colors are repeated in the tiny beads.
I have used lots of found beads and among these are two very ornate glass beads that I think are wedding cake beads. I don’t have the expertise to tell whether they are genuine or reproduction but they are beautiful and do have all the characteristics of Venetian wedding cake beads which you can read about in detail in this interesting blog post.
I’ve also used two millefiori beads but these are reproduction and probably come from either China or India.
Periwinkle is a real little beauty and would look gorgeous for just about any occasion from tea with the girls to mother-of-the-bride. It has a circumference of 69cm and it’s lowest point is 17cm when measured from the base of the neck. It weighs 145g.
I’ve used a beautiful indigo shweshwe for the necklace and a rich paprika shweshwe for the pendant and the result is something earthy and warm. The tiny tandleton buttons are made out of raw silk and found sari silk and add a soft reflective quality that contrasts very subtly with the matt cotton.
The piece is framed by a halo of beautifully made Zimbabwean paper beads. They are slightly smaller than usual and very delicately made. I mention this because you do get very varying qualities, the worst ones being clumsily coated in ghastly primary colours. These ones need closer examination to really be appreciated.
Queen of Ethiopia is a great accessory with a myriad outfits; dark, light, plain or patterned.
Mr Sillah, the traveling bead merchant
The focal point is a tiny handmade Coptic cross from Ethiopia. I bought this from Mr Sillah, a bead merchant from The Gambia who visits Cape Town twice a year with an Aladdin’s Cave of authentic, handmade African beads, both modern and vintage.
A giant of a man, Mr Sillah is gentle and SO knowledgeable about beads; knowledge that he readily imparts. A visit to his “pop-up” shop is magical and requires much time as one paces the floor (the beads are all laid on the cement floor) bending down, picking up, examining and hours later emerging with a heavy bag of glass, bone, wood, metal and paper as well as very collectable African trade beads.
I’ve just completed a lovely little textile necklace in muted neutral colours. It’s a breakaway from the typical bright colours of Shweshwe and African print textiles that I’ve been using and its been exciting to see how differently the beads have behaved in combination with ivory, black and soft gold of the textiles. This is also the first time I’ve included velvet in a necklace and I am very happy with the textural interest it creates.
Velvet from Bellamy & Bellamy
The velvet was a happy find at David Bellamy in Muizenberg. They have the most amazing range in very high quality British and Dutch velvets and what’s most fabulous is that they aren’t scared of colour. Their are some bewitching purples and acid greens, iridescent turquoise as well as the more traditional colours, the silvery grey I’ve used in this textile necklace being one of the latter. Of course this might not sound exciting to followers in other parts of the world, but in South Africa there is very little in the way of quality fabric of any kind.
Zulu Teething Beads
The little pale blue grey Imbifinga beads are known by many names, most commonly Job’s Tears. In South Africa they are known as Zulu teething beads, amatandjies (or amatantyisi). These tear shaped seeds come from a grass that is similar to corn and in some parts of the world is known as “The Mother of Corn”.
I was fascinated to read that the male flower actually grows through the center of the seed and so there is no need to drill a hole to make the bead – it comes ready made!
“Etosha” is truly a versatile piece as this pics show, looking equally great with denim, Indian cotton and linen. I have a sense that the possibilities are endless and I know that the artistic customer who commissioned it is going to do some exciting combinations.