When I was approached to create a necklace for @redheaddancingmachine I was very excited. The name of her Instagram account sounded extremely passionate and vibey! A perfect candidate for a unique African Baroque adornment. Barni had definite ideas which put me under slightly more pressure than usual. There were textile colour combinations and design briefs that were fairly tight. And yet I felt that I could interpret her personality well enough to still take some leeway.
This necklace incorporates far fewer beads than usual. Instead I’ve used a lot of tightly clustered tandletons.
These tiny ones are really difficult to make and my fingers feel like bananas as I struggle to stuff the filling in and stitch them up.
After seeing a progress pic on my Instagram account, Barni mentioned that she’d like a bit more orange and that turned out to be a key moment. I added dollops of orange using shweshwe and raw silk. The necklace went from eight to twenty eight tightly clustered tandletons.
I’ve played with it toned down in a casual combination and I know that it will also look incredible with the proverbial little black dress for a more formal occassion.
And now I’m really looking forward to it reaching it’s recipient and getting some pics! Redheaddancingmachine is going to electrify LA!!!!
I’ve been working on another brooch and really enjoyed the change. A couple of months ago, artist Karin Lijnes commissioned a needle-felted ring for the satirist and journalist Mark Verbaan better known to most as Ben Trovato. Check out his blog here but fasten your seatbelt first!!
This was going to be difficult; Karin couldn’t tell me what the finger size was as it had to be a surprise and in addition, I’m not experienced enough with felting to gauge the amount of shrinkage that might take place. A further concern was that an AK47 is a long rectangular shape and I was worried that, as a ring, it would lose it’s rigidity and start to flop around.
Someone suggested I make a brooch instead and this was the route I followed.
Karin was very happy with Ben’s brooch! So happy in fact, that it was with reluctance that she gave it to it’s intended recipient. The solution was obvious! She commissioned a second one!
Karin is a gutsy artist (get an idea of what her work is about) who isn’t scared to tackle anyone or anything and knowing her well, I knew it could be big and bold and colourful so my first decision was to needle-felt the gun in a purple pink. From then on it just got bigger and bigger. I had some lovely hand made Tibetan felt in a weird lime spinach sort of colour that Karin liked, but not enough of it, so I made it from a very light yellow green roving and then dyed it to get a closer match. The felt was a bit flimsy so I folded it over and stitched it onto some thick cerise Tibetan felt leaving one lovely wavy edge (i love to leave clues to the fact that this is not machine made, mass produced stuff). A bit of blanket stitching closed off the three remaining edges.
After this I wanted to embellish it and after trying various beads and other odds and ends, my trademark textile buttons seemed to be the way to go. I had some gorgeous Vlisco in lime green, tangerine, black and cerise that seemed perfect for some mini tandletons. I love the way they add a playful feel. I also stitched the layers together with red crosses – They look like kisses but also resemble the mass crosses marking the graves of unknown soldiers. The red shrieks a bit on the green background, but I was fairly sure that Karin would be fine with that!
The final touch was to add a row of Ethiopian silver beads at the bottom. They give visual support to the base of the brooch, but they also add a layer of meaning; The Ethiopian beads are all handmade from recycled pots, pans and used bullet casings; remnants of war that have been transformed into objects of beauty.
Today I delivered the brooch to Karin who loves it! And it looks absolutely fabulous on her! She really has the personality to carry it off!!!! As soon as I have a better pic I’ll post it! But in the mean time this one will have to do.
These fabulous pendants feature Coptic crosses, handmade in Ethiopia and a selection of handmade Ghanaian glass beads. Their adjustable leather thongs allow them to be adjusted and worn stylishly long if desired.
The coptic crosses I use are made in Ethiopia where they are individually hand cast. They are normally made of a copper alloy and then silver plated. A typical Ethiopian cross usually incorporates detailed and elaborate latticework which represents everlatsting life. Each cross is unique depending on the artists design sensibility. Although most crosses are made from metal, some are also made from wood. The metal ones are cast using the lost wax process.
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.
If you want to stand out amidst the trendy then this textile choker is the perfect choice.
Six sturdy strands of wax fabric create a sculptural statement in terms of scale and concept. I’ve been inspired by the neck adornments of Africa (idzila) and Northern Thailand where neck elongation is or was practiced. In some of these cultures, a long neck is seen as the ideal of beauty. In others it is seen as a sign of wealth, social status, and personal pride.
It’s a bold and powerful statement piece that holds it’s dramatic form but is also easy to wear as it is light despite its appearance and unlike the real idzila which are very heavy being made of metal!
Wonderful and globally recognised South African artist Esther Mhlangu still wears idzila rings and this website has fabulous images of her by Trevor Stuurman as well as a short video and beautifully presented information about the fascinating Ndebele culture.
This striking little choker fastens at the back with an understated sterling silver clasp specially made by South African jeweller Amy Sinovich. One of the problems creating quality products in South Africa is the limited supply of materials and components. In this case I could only buy cheap clasps and they ruined the piece. Amy quickly picked up on what I needed and created this perfect solution. Take a look at her Instagram page to see the delicate and beautiful work she makes.
The limited but striking palette of red and black with a touch of blue is not out of the ordinary but the delicate hand embroidery and bead work embellishments add a touch of magic that sometimes goes unnoticed until revealed by closer inspection.
I’ve used black Dupioni silk and a contrasting red African wax fabric with hints of black. The silk is a rarity in South Africa – you can no longer go into Cape Town fabric shops and buy some but have to order. This is very problematic as I can no longer browse and carefully select and am forced to order in large quantities – but this is a problem for the future. Sometimes the problems lead to exciting solutions and I’m sure I’ll find one!
An unusual bead
The seed beads I’ve used are the ones that are used by most bead artists in Africa and I believe they are made in Japan. The focal bead is somewhat unusual. I bought it a few years ago when we had access to a much greater variety of beads. It is a glass lampwork bead made in India. A real beauty, probably produced in the 1970’s.
Easy to Wear
This piece is very light and extremely easy to wear. It would look fabulous with denim and a teeshirt for very casual wear or with the ubiquitous little black dress. Or simply let your imagination run free.
Ethiopian silver beads are objects of beauty in their own right. They vary a lot in quality but all bear the tell tale marks of hand craft and this is a large part of the allure they have for me. In a world bursting with machine made objects these have soul and it’s tangible. In the pictures below I am deliberately showing the joins, small “cracks” and other imperfections that mark them as handmade.
The Background Story
Most of the beads are made in small rural villages and with the most humble of tools. When I first began researching them I read that the “silver” (aluminum) ones were made by melting down old aluminum pots and pans which was pretty amazing. Furthermore, modern aluminum pots don’t melt properly; they can only use vintage ones! Then I discovered that old bullet casings are also used for this purpose. The casings are found by farmers who supply them to the bead makers. Sadly there are plenty of these around, a brutal reminder of the conflicts suffered by the Ethiopian and Eritrean people.
The casings are melted down in the traditional way over a bed of hot coals. The process is very laborious and time consuming. Beads produced in this way take various shapes and sizes but the ones I currently use are either bicones (double cone), heishi beads and narrow cylinders.
Beads of various shapes and sizes are also made from recycled copper and brass.
I am so in awe of the (sadly anonymous) bead makers of Africa and the beauty they produce. I hope to continue to learn about them and will share information whenever I find it. They deserve to be known and respected for their work.
Working with beads
Ethiopian silver beads lend themselves to inclusion with textile jewellery and were very effectively incorporated into this piece which I called “Meet me in Mauritius” as the turquoise and silver make me think of the azure waters of that area.
There’s an energy in this textile necklace that adds “impression” to any look you can possibly conceive. The authenticity of materials translates into something powerful despite the relative simplicity of the piece.
The centrally placed carved bone bead is happy vintage rescue. The four tear shaped beads are authenti glass trade beads from a Malian wedding necklace which are fairly hard to come by. These beads were made in Bohemia (now Czekoslavakia) and can be identified partly through the signs of “wear and tear” but also the way the bead was pressed – a technological advancement of the era.
The silver beads are Ethiopian handmade silver beads. These are all made from recycled objects such as pots, pans and bullet casings. The bullet casings, remnants from many wars, are gathered by farmers and from there go to beadmakers who melt them down and refashion them as beads.
I’ve used Vlisco 100% cotton wax fabric for this piece.
Light and easy to wear – in fact it’s easy to forget you’re wearing it! Just slip it over you’re head and you’re ready to take on the world!!
african baroque unique handcrafted textile necklace
If you’re looking for an accessory that will really get you noticed then this handcrafted African textile necklace is the one for you.
The triple strands are covered in three different “Africa Print” cotton textile and the entire piece adorned with some really fabulous handmade African beads. The many colours in these textiles work well with a boho look but you can also easily create a striking and sophisticated evening look.
The brass mask is made in Ghana by members of the Baule people of the artistic Akan tribe. This tribe resisted French colonization longer than other West African people, and maintained their traditional objects and beliefs longer than others did. The origin of the name Baule is from the word “Baouli” which means “the child has died”. As legend has it, Queen Abla Polu broke away from the Ashanti king and led her people west where she had to sacrifice her own son in order to cross the river.
And despite it’s size it is really comfortable to wear and surprisingly light.
If you’d like to know more about this piece please contact me via my contact page
Crystal, turquoise sea and lazy days on the beautiful beaches of Mauritius inspire the name of this textile necklace.
The lovely big silver bicones are handmade in Ethiopia. Beautiful signs of handwork in the form of tiny dents and splashes of metal are definitive of these beads and imbue the piece with authenticity as opposed to mass produced, machine made objects.
This shimmering piece will turn every day into a romantic holiday.
Vibrant red is a colour much favoured by the Maasai people, a semi-nomadic people of Tanzania and Kenya and the dominant colour in this piece which is made from 100% cotton isishweshwe and wax fabric. The central bead in the pendant is a found vintage ivory bead and the central tandleton is encircled with “silver” prayer beads from Ethiopia.
Please contact me for more information about this neck adornment.
Thuli – in form – resembles one of those gorgeous ornate oval frames favoured by Victorians for portraits.
It’s a powerful piece incorporating linen, isiShweshwe and found textiles. I’ve used many found and vintage beads here as well as tiny ostrich eggshell beads handmade by the Himba tribe from Namibia and some Ethiopian “silver” beads.
Three Cats Shweshwe brought out a Madiba range to honour the late Nelson Mandela. Sadly this is no longer being manufactured due, I’m told, to royalty issues. I am lucky to have some in stock and I’ve used it in this pendant necklace.
Madiba was a such a great statesman and an exceptional human. Wise, courageous and truly inspirational. I think most South Africans miss him very much.
Traditional indigo cloth is the most beautiful fabric and was the starting point for this textile necklace. It was difficult to cut into it not knowing whether or not the textile would lend itself to jewellery making. The weave is quite loose and I was worried that it would unravel. Luckily I was able to make three perfect little tandletons which form the focal point of this adornment.
By clicking on these pictures you will be able to see enlargements and get a really good look at the details.
There are some really beautiful beads in this piece. Some subdued paper beads which I bought from a North African trader in Cape Town – a really good find – the beader appreciating the subtle colours in the paper itself rather than smothering them in crude bright paint. The spotty beads are Ghanaian glass beads which have been hand painted and then fired for a second time. The Coptic cross comes from Ethiopia and has a beautiful and very ancient history; more about this in another post. The beautiful blue and brown beads are also Ghanaian recycled glass.
This is the first time that I worked with gold leaf and I was very excited with the outcome which i further enhanced by stitching with a bronze metallic thread.
Vuyo (meaning happiness in isiXhosa) was completed some time ago. And it really did make me happy until suddenly I had a new vision for it and now it has quite a different look.
I’ve added six Ghanaian brass beads, including “spiderwebs” and “filigree triangles”.
At the bottom of the pendant is an authentic Mali wedding bead – an antique trade bead originally made in Bohemia (now Czechoslovakia) and prized by the Fulani women of Mali who to this day present them to their daughters on their wedding day, hence the name.
The necklace is the first to include hemp cord binding. This is pure hemp which I have hand dyed giving it a beautiful irregular tonal look that really compliments the irregularity of the hand made bead.
The irregularity of these pieces and with particular relevance to the beads is largely where their charm lies. On closer inspection you will notice tiny chips and even dust in the really old beads which have been handed down as treasured possessions through the generations. I do wash them but nonetheless it is often very ingrained!
One can also see the “hand” of the craftsman in the graze of a file on the brass beads or the smudge of a paintbrush on the Krobo beads. Nothing is perfect in the mechanical way of the modern world and in this lies the true charm of the piece.
This necklace is quite small with a circumference of 55cm so you’d need to be certain that it will slip over your head before purchasing.
Ndyakuthanda – I Love You – is one of the bigger contemporary textile necklaces I’ve made. Four rope strands of shweshwe and wax fabric are adorned with tandletons, brass cylindrical beads from Ethiopia, cowrie shells and some pretty Ghanaian hand painted recycled glass beads in a rather unusual orange with a hint of lavender.
At the base of the necklace is an antique millefiori trade bead which I was lucky to come across somewhat unexpectedly at a vintage bookshop in Cape Town! There are also several ostrich eggshell beads used to cover the ends of some of the textile tubes.
The geometric shapes remind me of the designs frequently used by the Ndebele people when they paint their homes.
This is such a joyful and festive piece made with some spectacular textiles in vibrant and very African colours. The outer two strands are covered in textiles bought in Ghana by someone who used to work at the Vlisco factory in the Netherlands. The design on these fabrics is particularly popular in Ghana. The inner strand is covered in some lovely pinky mauve wax fabric bought in Cape Town. The design here is more European in flavour and yet they all juxtapose to great effect.
Encircled by Ghanaian brass beads, the leaf, spiderweb and sun pattern and vaseline beads that pick out the green in the outer textile.
The focal point is a textile circle that encircles a green raw silk tandleton
On a visit to a Zimbabwean trader, I was inspired by the discovery of some little carved bone elephants. It is not always easy to establish the country of origin let alone the town or craftsman but he told me that they come from Nigeria and are carved from oxbone. The combination of the apple green textile, the creamy white elephant and the handpainted Krobo beads worked so well to create this fresh pendant necklace but there are other details that also worked well. The green glass bead above the tassel is a Vaseline bead. Originally these beads were produced in Bohemia (now Czechoslovakia) between the mid 19th and early 20th centuries. Their translucent yellow green colour was obtained by the addition of uranium salts and they are identified by placing them under ultraviolet light which makes them glow.
I have used Ethiopian “silver” bicones, green paper beads from Zimbabwe, and green recycled glass beads from Ghana to complete this piece.
Please email me if you’d like further information about this piece.
The bone beads I used in this necklace come from Nigeria and are carved from ox bone. They are lightweight but strong and in this case they have been left pleasingly matt whereas they are usually polished.
The golden faceted bead was given to me and I don’t know whether it is stone or glass but it has the most beautiful glow to it and makes a great feature. This necklace can be worn in it’s long oval shape as shown in the picture below or as a shorter more circular shape by gentle manipulation.
As always I have enjoyed using the Ghanaian brass beads
Brown isiShweshwe is one of the more traditional colours of this textile and the image is created by the inimitable discharge printing method. This is a silkscreening process in which instead of normal ink, discharge inks are used, which remove the backround colour to create the pattern, rather than printing a colour on top.
The name of the piece, Girl from Egoli, references Johannesburg, city of gold. This choker features an embroidered and beaded double tandleton of lustrous, golden raw silk – hence the name – topped with bone linen and a pearl bead.
It is fastened by means of a soft brown velvet ribbon which, being adjustable, makes it extremely comfortable to wear.
Please feel free to email me for further information about this African textile choker.
I was going to call this necklace “Sweet Clementine” which has a rather more poetic feel to it, but naartjie is the South African word for this sweet and juicy winter fruit.
Two things really excite me about the piece.
The orange glass beads are very difficult to find. They are Ghanaian recycled glass beads and have that typical matt finish. It is, of course, when you hold them up to the light that all glass beads have that magical luminosity and these are no exception. They look so fresh and juicy – hence the name.
The other excitement arises from the fact that this fabric is the real Dutch Vlisco wax fabric. Their designs and colours are fantastic – it’s worth taking a look at their website.
This necklace can be worn as a choker or slightly longer as you tie it with the rather punchy orange velvet ribbon.
It looks absolutely gorgeous on!
Please contact me for more information or to purchase.
Dive into an underwater world. This isiShweshwe choker is bejeweled with glass beads. Hand stitching in metallic thread and a gorgeous turquoise velvet ribbon finishes this piece off beautifully!
isiShweshwe has a long and interesting history that began in the East and was introduced to Africa by Dutch and German people. This is the genuine South African Three Cats textile which is made from 100% cotton. The pearl beads I’ve used are vintage sixties and of a particularly good quality. There are also some tiny vintage glass crystal beads.
If you’d like to know more about this piece please feel free to email me.
This little choker is made of linen, African wax fabric and raw silk. It is richly hand embroidered with metallic thread and ties with a soft pink velvet ribbon which means you choose whether to wear it snugly or allow it to hang slightly.
Ruby is perfect for those evenings out when a little bit of glamour is required but can also look super for day wear.
For more information on this piece please contact me by email. African Baroque Textile Jewels are easily posted anywhere in the world using South African postal services registered airmail post and take within two weeks to reach most places.
This unusual necklace is made from genuine African Indigo cloth. Every aspect of this cloth is handmade in Mali, from spinning the yarn to weaving to dying. The texture is absolutely fabulous; soft with a typical handwoven irregularity.
The beads I’ve used on it include spherical Ghanaian beads, made by hand from recycled glass which is crushed by hand to a fine powder before being placed in a mold and fired with a cassava stem used to create the hole. There are also several rather delicately decorated glass beads – also Ghanaian. The cylindrical brass beads are from Ethiopia and the focal point is a Ghanaian brass pendant. This was made using the lost wax method which means it is unique as the mold is destroyed when the molten brass is poured into the mold.
This necklace is available. Please contact me by email if you are interested in buying it or knowing more about it.
Charlotte is a soft and gentle double stranded necklace made mostly from South African “Three Cats” isiShweshwe which comes from the Da Gama factory in the Eastern Cape. On closer inspection you will see a variety of beads such as the recycled glass “flowers” , some very tiny Himba ostrich eggshell beads, a soft brown Zimbabwean paper bead.
I have used some cowrie shells on the necklace as well. The cowrie is the most commonly used and longest used currency in history and was last used as such in West Africa as recently as the mid nineteenth century. These shells were also used as fertility symbols amongst many people. There is a very interesting research document here that provides information on it’s use for divination, as a symbolic message, in the preparation of medicinal herbs and for decorative purposes.
Softly subdued earthy tones imbue a sense of African earth. I’ve used a gentle brown isiShweshwe as the dominant textile buat also incorporated a lovely wax fabric and some linen. The splash of turquoise in the isiShweshwe tandletons is complimented in the Krobo beads as well as some of the decorative hand stitching.
The two brass Tuareg beads are new additions to my bead collection and I love the irregularities that attest to their handmade nature. Tuareg tribe are well known for their beautiful jewelry and it’s a pleasure to tap in to the mystique of this nomadic people.
Also in this picture is one of the hand painted beads made by the Krobo people of Ghana. These are hand made from recycled glass and refired after hand painting. The Krobo people have a long history of bead making and these ancient processes are still followed to day.
Please contact me if there is anything you’d like to know about this piece, to purchase it or to place an order for something similar.
On a recent bead search I was delighted to purchase some beautiful paper beads from a Zimbabwean trader. Now paper beads can be find all around Cape Town but often they’re heavily painted. I look for those that have only been varnished so that the original paper is visible. It is here that you can see the real artistry of the beadmaker.
The little “silver’ bead is a Tuareg bicone. These are made by melting old aluminum pots and pans. I have read that they also use old bullet casings in the manufacture of metal beads. The ostrich eggshell beads have been used for thousands of years particularly by the Khoi people of Southern Africa. These ones probably came from Namibia.
I also used some found beads on this necklace as well as some contemporary beads such as glass pearls.
The necklace strands are African wax fabric which is actually probably made in China but is still a very popular textile in Africa.
South African isiShweshwe was used for the textile buttons/tandletons.
Klimt in Africa fits over a medium sized head. It retains it’s circular shape when worn.
Like all of my pieces it is very light and easy to wear.
If you’d like to purchase this piece of have any questions about it, please feel free to contact me by email.
Nadia is a regular customer based in New York. A bold and stylish woman, she recently commissioned this dramatic sculptural neckpiece which is made from three shweshwe bands and five huge purple “cones” made from deep purple raw silk and topped with Ghanain recycled brass beads.
It would be interesting to see this piece handled in a completely different style…. something earthy? Something to think about in the future.
I do take commissions but no two pieces will ever be identical. Please contact me for further information.