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’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.
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.
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.