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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.