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Introduction

I’m Colleen, owner, designer and creator of African Baroque textile jewelry.  I’ve been designing and creating jewelry since 2016 and during this time have created unique necklaces, earrings, brooches and bangles that have been bought by amazing women all over the world.  In fact, my jewelry has found homes in Africa, the USA, UK, Australia, Japan, parts of Europe and the UAE.  It’s been an exciting and rewarding journey that began decades ago when as a young woman I studied art.   Throughout the years I have worked as an illustrator, painter, printmaker and performance artist.  In fact it was through performance art where I developed a love of needlework and began to make jewelry as part of my “costume making”.

A Passion for Thread

I love using hand dyed silk to embellish my jewellery and really didn’t expect to find it in South Africa.  But amazingly enough I did find it here and it has been a joy to use.  I do combine it with many other threads including, on occasion, metallics. I also make my own tassels by hand, carefully blending them to blend or contrast with a particul ar fabric.

 

The Travelling Bead Merchant

One of the most exciting moments was being introduced to Mr Bakary Sillah, the late bead merchant from The Gambia.  A giant of a man with the most incredible knowledge about beads  ancient, weathered beads through Venetian glass trade beads to modern day beads from various parts of Africa.   He made two visits a year to Cape Town.  To me it was shrouded in mystery.  One never knew when he would arrive or where he would be selling and one needed good contacts for this information.  It was like going into Aladdin’s Cave.  The floor covered in strands of gorgeous dusty beads, mostly strung on raffia.  Dozens of Coptic crosses from tiny little ones to huge intricate ones.  There were enormous collectable trade beads worth a small fortune but what a joy to see and sometimes touch.  Beads of ebony, silver, copper, glass, shells and even ancient stone beads.  He had so much knowledge which he would generously share. His premature death was a sad loss.

The Late Bakary Sillah

Intimacy, Integrity and Creativity

African tribal earringsOn the creative side I see African Baroque diversifying more widely in terms of textiles and treatment.  I have begun working with clay with the intention of making my own beads and pendants, starting with some fetish mermaids.  On the business side, I’m scaling down and working towards an even more personal relationship with my customers.  This extends to shipping options which allow me to offer more cost effective solutions, particularly for the smaller pieces.

I’ll be working slower making things that I love rather than trying to emulate big ateliers.  Intimacy, integrity and creativity will be the buzzwords.