Some totally random products


Not so long ago, I was searching our photo archives for something to put up on our Facebook Page (hope you’re following us on there!).

In my hunt, I found some really cool, and interesting products that can only be described as random. Some were client requests, others were product development tests, but these are my favourite examples of how far the imagination can stretch sometimes. Despite being well-designed and made, some of these made me giggle, and I hope they will put a smile on your face, or inspiration in your mind as you enjoy the small selection below:-

Meet the drumming tortoise. Never seen a full-fledged tortoise orchestra in the wild, but perhaps this is what they do around a campfire when no-one is looking!

Not so much a random product, but a random fact about this product is the level of accuracy to the real deal… Our beaded baboons come complete with pink bums!

To go with the drumming tortoise, perhaps to start a reggae band, we have the rasta gecko!

Definitely not a random product – this wire whale now lives on Dyer Island, as part of a Volkswagen initiative. It contains plastic rubbish as part of an awareness campaign. The random thing about this product is when it was finished, we realised it was too big to deliver. We had to hire a flat-bed trailer to get it there!

Coat-hanger brooch anyone? (These were actually designed for the Fashion Delegates for Design Indaba in 2009.)

And how about a car wearing a helmet? Yep, done!

Meet the beaded cockroach. From a quality and design perspective, this is a rather handsome fellow, but I don’t think I’d be too relaxed if I found one of these lying around!

Then we did the telephone wire fork. Maybe a 0/10 score for practicality if you are trying to eat some soup, but I’d say it scores very high when used as restaurant decor on a big scale, perhaps up on a wall. Quite striking!

Then…. How about a stand to hold your feather collection? Yep, been there, done that, got it sorted!

We even made a griffin for a bespoke request once.

Back to the coathanger… We’ve even done one in the shape of a dog’s bone!

Need something to keep all your invoices under control on your desk? We’ve made these wire holders for just that previously!

‘There’s an app for that.’ Seems to be the standard response these days. Not in this case. Introducing the abacus keyring! Perfect if your mobile phone runs out of juice, and you can’t use the calculator.

And just in case the ones that keep you awake on a summer’s night are not enough, you can now have a mosquito paperclip as a reminder. Our version is silent, though. Bonus!

While these don’t really work, they look fabulous!

We had many regular orders for this guy – a beaded slug. Definitely a much more pleasant version of the squishy garden variety!

Then lastly, this wire man is so cute, but he made me giggle because he certainly has a rather large belly!


With this rather fun collection, we’re looking forward to receiving all the new and interesting client briefs for 2018. Make sure to get them in in good time!


Looking back at 17 amazing years

October is a good month for us. It’s our birthday month, and this year we’re 17!

We’ve laughed, oh, we’ve laughed so very much. We’ve cried, we’ve danced. we’ve sung, we’ve stressed, we’ve said hello, and goodbye, and hello again to many faces, we’ve probably circumnavigated the globe a few times with the kilometres of wire we’ve used…

It’s a proud moment for us, and one not to be taken lightly, so excuse us for getting a little sentimental and retrospective, but we wanted to take a trip down memory lane and dig out some photos to share with you…

Taken in 2001, this shows co-founder and master artist Winston Rangwani showing how it’s done!


This photo was dated 2002 on our server, and shows the first wire train ever invented, and a very young looking Artwell, who is still working his magic with us!

In 2004, we had the Wilbert ‘potjie’.

Also in 2004, we made and sent a tree to Kirstenbosch. Don’t worry, we know they have enough plants – this one was for their shop display. Here’s a pic of the team involved with that project.

Somewhere around 2008, we unveiled the first original beaded replica of Nelson Mandela, created by Mike Carella and Riaan Hanekom. You will see only a handful of the original Streetwires versions around. One is at OR Thambo airport in Johannesburg at the International Departures terminal, and another is on Warwick Wine Estate.

In 2008, Fresh Living Mag came and did a photoshoot with us, for an article they published in their mag. This was during the time we gave birth to many flocks of sheep and baby lambs!


Our very first lifesize lion was seen roaming the hills before heading off to Design Indaba 2009

In 2010, Hamba Kahle, a local travel magazine, featured us in a very nice article.

2013 saw us working on a very exciting project for Le Creuset. You can read more here.

While we’re on the topic of awesome brands, in around 2014 we worked with Woolworths on an exciting packaging concept. To this day, you will see our beaded items printed onto most of their food packaging for the ‘Love Local’ range. Cool hey!

Now this was something cool from 2016 – a beaded wine bottle for Backsberg, which they used as the centrepiece on their stand at an export wine show. You can read more here.

And then we moved! 2017 saw us moving to our new home opposite The Old Biscuit Mill. Have you spotted our giraffe? Tag us in a photo of it on Facebook, and we’ll send you a mystery discount coupon to spend in our shop!

Help us to achieve some big goals!

We are almost 17! As with most teenagers, we decided to move home into a new exciting space. We then decided it was time to grow and listen to what the world is asking for – technological advancements and an e-commerce shop. As a Social Enterprise, we rely on sales to keep our artists earning a fair wage, and we’d love to expand our base to ensure we reach more customers to help the artists earn more. Please join us in celebrating our milestones by contributing towards our dream, by supporting our crowdfunding campaign.

Firstly, what is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is by definition, “the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet.”

There’s a great blog explaining it further on Thundafund, which is the platform where we have just launched a campaign.

Please help us reach our goals to reach the world! Take a look at the campaign, please share far and wide – and pledge for some great rewards. The campaign wraps up at the end of this month, and we’d really like to reach our tipping-point at least!

Some learnings from SARCDA and AMP 2017

Wow, so at short notice, I packed my bags and headed off to Johannesburg, very excited to have been accepted for a Scholarship to attend a 4-day Access Markets for Profit course, run by The Africa Craft Trust alongside the 2017 SARCDA Christmas Trade Show.

Now this was a really big deal. Four days of working with industry experts, learning, engaging and working with updated info on everything from global economic trends, to buying trends, to colour trends, to shipping, marketing, costing, merchandising and client relationships. We got to spend some time at SARCDA, went on some store visits, and got to work with some esteemed local designers to get some fresh eyes and advice on some of our work.

Now, I could write a novel about this amazing experience, but I thought it might be most interesting to share with you my top 5 learnings / observations when it comes to product.

Some inspiration from Plascon.

Less is more. The eye needs quiet. In the handmade halls, the stands people were gravitating to were the stands with calm, muted, neutral and chalky colours. Apart from the really extraordinarily merchandised exceptions; loud, bright and blingy was being bypassed. The whole world is shouting at us right now, with news and media making us feel overwhelmed. Life itself has become a sensory overload. This itself is intensified in an exhibition hall experience, and buyers seemed to want a respite. What stood out is what stood back. Confident, well-crafted understatements, that make you look closer and find the hidden surprises in the detail. This was confirmed when I had a session with Magda van der Vloed who encouraged me to tone down the amount of colours and materials used in some of our smaller products.

Natural, tactile & repurposed materials. I think this links to the world that’s shouting at us all the time. It’s become impersonal. People are looking for an energy exchange with a product, a human story, something not mass-produced… Handmade is big. Well-made handmade is bigger. I saw a lot of natural materials being used – weaving, and textural finishes that draw you in to touch and feel. The innovation with repurposed, or upcycled materials was also amazing. My highlight was seeing some really delicate work done with the rubber from old car tyres, and sculptures made from knitted copper wire.

Design identity and authenticity. It takes a brave designer to say ‘this is my style and medium, this is my signature, and that’s what I’m presenting’ instead of taking something already successful and copying it. The great thing about a show like SARCDA and a programme like AMP is you can start to see trends in terms of colours, and product categories which can help you – but the producers who stood out were the ones that had interpreted this in their own style, bringing something different to the table. The industry is big enough for us all (yes, really!), and if you choose to complement instead of copy or compete, then you’ll find the customers you share with other ‘competitors’ will probably order from all of you, as the variety helps them build a bigger range with more variety for their own customers.

Design uncomplicated products. It’s all in the detail. A beautiful subtle surprise is what stands out, along with attention to detail. You no longer need to use all your colours, techniques and different materials in one product. Less is definitely more. Let one element be the hero – be it in the shape of the item, the technique you have used to make it, or the patterning you have used to decorate it. Keep it uncomplicated, and easy to relate to. Too much ‘going on’ in a product will just confuse your buyer.

The South African Craft industry has grown up. Most important this, and you can see it in the products and design. We’re no longer children who have to shout for attention, or teenagers that need to rebel. We’re adults, confident in quiet elegance, polished details and finishes, and timeless design. This will ensure our longevity.

Until the trends change again at least!

A mood-board I created.

Sales advice from our Sales Ninja


The craft industry is very unique in terms of the products being sold, the story being told, and the customers you get to deal with. While the actual principles of sales apply to any industry, here are a few extra tips for this special industry.


Embrace the different types of clients you will deal with:  In this industry, you will be lucky enough to deal with loads of people that appreciate handmade, want to support small business, and have a fond affinity to South Africa. These will be the types of clients that become like family, will hug you when they see you, and strike up a friendship. These clients are your gold. Make sure to treat them like that and always make them feel that they are your only client. With bespoke products, you will also deal a lot with clients organising events and sourcing for their own clients. These clients will often be under pressure and bring their own challenges with them. Be sure to always treat them like they are your only client too. Remember, they are possibly on the receiving end of a lot of stress or possibly an unpleasant client, so keep them calm, reassure them with as much info and confidence as possible, and if confronted, diffuse the situation by reassuring them that their concerns are in good, capable hands and all will be fine. You will have an ally for life if you handle this correctly.


Sympathy does not sell: Important in the craft / development sector this, and something I have learnt. Sympathy does not sell. Sad photos and stories of poverty do catch the eyes of some audiences, but do you want the sadness to resonate over your clients’ buying decision, impression of your company, and into the products you make? Maybe not, if every time they look at your artworks they feel sad and heart-broken about a problem too big to fix. Tell your story with pride. You don’t need to hide the hardships and tough times, but make sure your communication reflects the success stories, the upliftment, and the happiness. This will be felt as far as in the product that a client is holding and will build a good sentiment to your organisation and story. There will be a ‘warm and fuzzy’ experience in the buying decision instead of a guilt vibe, which is far more sustainable in terms of building repeat business.

Your hard work will keep many talented hands busy and earning money.

Follow up after delivery: An extra step in a busy day, maybe – but an important step. You are showing your client that you care enough to check that their delivery arrived, and if they are happy. This step is often the opportunity to bear more fruit in terms of future orders, or up-selling more goods – and often opens the conversation to get some feedback and photos which can form a valuable portfolio of testimonials or social media material to instil confidence when prospecting new clients. Remember that in most cases, even though you have handed your goods over to a courier, your job is not done yet, as your client sees the courier’s service as an extension of yours, so make sure your couriers stick to their word and don’t hurt an otherwise hopefully flawless order process.


Be brave – ask for feedback, the good the bad AND the ugly:  Any feedback, good or bad, is better than none. How many clients are once-off because they just needed you once, or because they weren’t happy and didn’t let you know? Be brave enough to ask every client if they were happy with their order / interaction with you. As above, the good feedback makes for good marketing material (and some personal motivation). The bad feedback is actually a very valuable resource too. It’s an opportunity to find out how to do better next time. The best approach to bad feedback is four-fold:-

  1. Acknowledge their concerns, apologise and thank them for taking the time to let you know.
  2. State how you will remedy this in the future.
  3. Find out how to fix this particular situation with them and offer some solutions for them to choose from.
  4. Reinforce steps 1-3 again in conclusion by acknowledging their concerns and your commitment to improving, and wanting to engage with them to sort things out. This will make the client know that they have been heard and will in most cases turn the situation around to a more positive outcome than if you had just never asked.


Send production updates and photos: More work, I hear you groan, but this shows your customer you are as excited about their order as they are. People love to see how things are made, so some photos of the people making the work is very powerful, to show them the impact their business to you is making. It’s also lovely and fascinating to see how things are taking shape. Most importantly, it’s a very good way to catch any issues before the order is finished and delivered – which is then very expensive to fix. This way, your clients can tell you you are using the wrong beads when it is early enough to switch, instead of having to remake a whole order.


Listen to all your enquiries: With every couple of enquiries, you’ll get a request for something you can’t do. Be it a certain technique, colour, or product. If you start getting more and more enquiries of this nature, and the request is not way off your core business (ie: someone is not asking you for pottery if you do wire-art, but instead everyone is asking for purple beads), then it may do you good to start looking at diversifying to accommodate these requests. If the amount and frequency of them is increasing, it’s indicative of a trend or a changing market-place – and the only way to keep growing as a business is to find a way to service these. It is the perfect opportunity to be paid to innovate after all, and no-one can keep going by doing the same things forever.


Find ways to make your systems work: Let’s face it, in our industry, there’s very little time or resources (and often far too many financial constraints) to invest in the latest technology or systems for the admin side of your business. You’re busy hunting for business, dealing with queries, watching your quality, trying to remember to update your social media pages, getting things out on time and trying to work on new ranges, to have time to solve that freezing-computer-that-belongs-in-a-museum issue, or to get a shiny new quoting app built, or anything like that. The reality is that some things you just have to work around. Find quicker and easier ways to deal with processing admin and orders in your business so that your clients experience priority service. It may be as simple as the fact that you are better at admin in the mornings, but by the afternoon you feel you will cry if you have to look at a costing sheet again. Then, do all those tasks in the mornings and spend the afternoons on more creative things. Through it all, make sure your inventory and accounting systems are tight, and that you get info out to customers asap all the time. That’s the core to everything in your business, and if those systems are tight, then who knows, you may be able to afford that fast new office computer one day (or even an online shop, which is our dream right now!)


Develop products: You’ve had an amazing run over the last few years with that certain product, haven’t you? It keeps selling and being reordered over and over. Things are so easy, and it’s working beautifully, right? How long did it take you to get to that point? It took a few months / years for anyone to notice that product, you remember now, right? What happens when everyone in the world who is possibly in your target market owns one of those products? Then what? Or someone has now copied that design and sells it for cheaper. Think about it. It can happen. To design something new after that may be a little too late. If you relax now, it may be OK for now as things tick on, but it will bite you later down the line, and you will work long and hard again to get something new accepted, leaving you with a dip in revenue. Make time to develop and innovate as regularly as you can and set yourself timelines. Even if it’s once or twice a year that’s realistic for you, that’s great, but make it a habit. Keep your existing customers engaged and hungry for more, and also keep ahead of the pack in terms of those that may take inspiration and copy your ideas.


Keep communicating: Every day, I take 10 minutes to go though old emails. If someone reached out to you once, there’s an opportunity to gain their confidence and build a relationship. They asked for a catalogue and you sent it? Yes, great, but your job is not done. Check if they received it. Maybe it landed in their spam and they think you never replied. If they did get it, what did they think of your range? This should mostly open a conversation. By doing this review of old emails, it may also remind you of a talking-point that you didn’t consider while you juggle so many other things. Someone once asked for a costing on some flowers (as an example). You sent it? Yes, well great – but what has happened since? You see that email from a while back now and suddenly remember that recent order you did for a new flower design. Send that new pic to the client as a follow up. You’ve got nothing to lose, but possibly something to gain.


Ultimately, it really helps when you are passionate about what you are selling, why you are selling (to keep those talented hands busy and earning), and to be proud of where you work. Keep in mind, you are an ambassador and custodian of the brand you represent, so be sure to give it your all and give the kind of experience to your customers that you’d like to receive if the relationship was reversed.


Wishing you all much success as things start to wake up and heat up for the year-end rush!

– Catherine

Top three facts about our interns

We hope that you’ve been enjoying the blog series featuring the ‘Top Three’ things that our interns recommend each week. But who are these interns..? Here’s some info about them. Read the top three lesser-known facts about them that they have chosen to share with us!


 1 – I am a Pescetarian

About 7 years ago I decided to make a big change in my life to create a healthier lifestyle. I gave up all meat besides seafood in April of 2010 when I was only 15 years old. It was not the easiest transition, but it was what I wanted to do, so I stuck to it. Within two years, I lost over 60 pounds and have kept the weight off consistently. This is an accomplishment I strongly identify with because it has driven my passion for health advocating. One thing I love to do, is spread knowledge about how important healthy living is to each individual, and how it can affect almost everything about your existence.

2 – I am very passionate about photography.

I have always loved photography but I have not always been consistent with working on this skill until very recently. I went on a week-long photography camp, back in America, and remember winning a free ice cream for winning most pictures taken, and they didn’t tell us about the prize until after our time there. We created mini portfolio’s and I admired my work so much, but after camp I didn’t continue as heavily. I bought a Canon Rebel camera this past Christmas and have been loving every second with my camera ever since. There can be so much power behind a photograph, and my love for this art never seems to fade.

Myranda’s beautiful photos have been featuring recently on a lot of our posts and marketing material. We think she she deserves more than just an ice-cream for her talent! 🙂

3 – My favourite colour is orange.

Since I can remember, brown was always my favourite colour growing up. I always wanted to have a different favourite colour than anyone else so I would always go with brown. Then I grew up a little, and began to love the colour Maroon because it was close to brown but also close to red and slightly close to purple. I even dyed my hair a few times purple and maroon! My recent love for orange started about a year ago, I saw an orange backpack by Osprey and bought it instantly. I began to see orange more and more because I found it so attractive, and I just recently bought a beautiful orange floral scarf here in Cape Town to remind me of all the good memories here. What I find nostalgic about the colour orange is how an old friend of mine used to adore this colour, so it always reminds me of my friend Aundrea.

Also the Streetwires Corporate Colour, so a good thing Myranda came to do an internship here 🙂


1 – I from French Guiana

French Guiana is on the South America border to the North of Brazil. It’s an old colony of France. There is a big cultural mix in French Guiana and the landscape is very rich with the Amazonian forest that is a big part of our country. We have only two seasons: Sun and Rain and the temperature it’s about 30 degrees Celsius throughout the year. It’s one of the best places to live, so peaceful.

2 – I like to cook

In my country we cook a lot. We love food, and we have a lot of special dishes, so when I started to live on my own, I began to cook small things and step by step I learned how to cook very well, and now I cook almost every day.

Editing this at lunchtime makes me think I need to test some of Alex’s dishes (hint-hint).

3 – I love fishing

Fishing is a family story; I’ve been fishing since I was five years old. My father used to have a boat, so during the good period we would go fishing every weekend.

So there you have it! Three things about the people behind our ‘Three Things’ Blog Series.

Interns’ top 3 things to do in Cape Town

For this next instalment in our popular ‘Interns’ Top Three’ series (which we kicked off chatting to them about their favourite Streetwires products), we were keen to hear what they rate as their top three things to do in Cape Town. Apart from some retail therapy in our own shop, read about their top recommendations of things to do while visiting Cape Town:-


#1 – Cape Point Tour

I went on a tour of the corner of the Cape Peninsula and I absolutely loved everything I saw. From 9am-5pm we explored the Cape of Good Hope, the most southern (Cape) point of South Africa, Boulder’s beach, and a delicious fish and chips restaurant. At Boulder’s Beach I witnessed hundreds of African Penguins and enjoyed some pistachio and peach gelato. At Cape point I saw around 30 baboons! This was very enjoyable because they seemed very timid around my group – probably because none of us had food. I captured some really amazing pictures of the baboons that I will cherish forever.

#2 – Game Lodge Game Reserve Safari

About a week after I arrived in Cape Town I was already off to my first Safari EVER, which was about a 4-hour drive away. On the way there I saw very beautiful sights including sheep herds, ostrich farms, snow on nearby mountains, and endless mountain ranges. It was luckily great weather considering it’s winter here in South Africa. Once we arrived we immediately had lunch – which was very filling and tasty. At lunch, I sat next to our bus driver who told us about the numerous trips he had driven. He has been driving for 27-years accident-free! After lunch, we unloaded the bus and headed to our single room hotel huts that had all sorts of amenities – including heating! Then we headed to the evening tour of the Reserve where we first saw Hippo’s (my absolute favourite), and they were surprisingly out of the water feeding on grass because the sun was hiding behind many clouds that night. We then saw oryx, lions, zebra, springbok, many antelopes, and lastly a momma cheetah with her three cubs. After this excursion we went back for dinner – where I had a small bite of red meat for the first time in 7 years.. It was honestly so good but I couldn’t finish it due to the fear of an upset stomach. The next morning, we had breakfast and then went out for a second tour of the Game Reserve where we witnessed the lions again, the Wildebeest, the giraffes, and the elephants! What was especially cool about the second tour was how close we got to seeing a cheetah attack a baby Gemsbok. Unfortunately the adults had spotted her and she wasn’t able to take the opportunity.

#3 – Lion’s Head Afternoon Hike

In a group of about 8, we decided to take a quick hike up Lion’s Head which is one of the well-known mountains in Cape Town. It was a pretty windy day but the sun was shining bright, so we definitely had to undress a bit while going up, but once 5pm rolled around it definitely began to feel a bit chilly. We took some great pictures of each other at the top and then headed back down soon after. The views from Lion’s head were so beautiful – especially the view of Table Mountain which you can see in the background in the photo above! It was definitely worth the challenging hike up AND down. This mountain is known to be more challenging than Table Mountain in terms of danger, because it is quite steep. We all plan to hike this mountain a few times more before we have to leave wonderful Cape Town.



It’s a very beautiful place near to where I live. I like how you can find different kinds of restaurants inside or outside, and most of them are very good. The Waterfront is not only about shopping in Victoria & Alfred Mall, because around you have the aquarium, a museum and activities like Robben Island trips. You can go to Robben Island from the Waterfront. The Waterfront is definitely the place I have visited the most since I’ve arrived in Cape Town. I go to the cinema and eat there most of the time, and went to Robben Island from there.



It’s just in front of our shop, and it’s a nice place with artistic shops inside like a Chocolate maker and a wine shop. The neighbourhood is kind of artistic too. During the week it’s quiet but on Saturday it’s amazingly full of people because The Old Biscuit Mill transforms into a food market and everything is so delicious. You have all kinds of food. It’s unbelievable! I’m just in love with that place.


When I arrived in Cape Town, I was amazed by this big mountain and wanted to go to the top, even if it’s a long hike. But firstly I hiked Lions Head, which is quite incredible too. Last week I went to Robben Island, and the view of Table Mountain was amazing, and now I don’t want to leave Cape Town until I go on the top of this mountain.


Not sure about you, but this all makes me want to start exploring our beautiful city all over again!




Interns’ top products

We have two new interns with us at the moment – we’ll introduce you to them soon. They’re doing some amazing work with us, and we’re really glad to have them here! We asked them to give some ‘first impression’ type feedback, and we thought we’d share with you what their top three favourite products are so far.

First up is Myranda Castanon

#1 The Elephant Head (“The Elephant in the Room”)

The first piece that struck my eye was the Elephant head mostly because of its size but also because of how it glistens so beautifully! When you get closer to it, it becomes even more enormous and the details in the piece start to stand out as well. It has such a presence because the colours are just right and the neatness is impeccable – it really is such a flawless piece. It truly gives off a quiet and peaceful energy just like a real Elephant would.

#2 Mini Hippo

This was my second favourite item in the shop because the Hippopotamus is one of my favourite animals and I was able to see a wild Hippo for the first time just a few weeks ago. What I like about this piece as well is the colours that are used – shades of purple, black and silver/grey. The purple beads make this item stand out and sparkle, while the silver wire used for the nostrils also stands out against the colour of beads used. It is one of the cutest animal pieces in the shop, in my opinion ☺.

#3 Custom made colourful tree

After a few weeks in the shop, I finally noticed this small tree with curvy branches and colourful leaf petals. It reminds me a lot of a flower and a tree combined. The branches look very unique up close and I loved the matte look to the wire that was used. It is a very dynamic yet simple piece that would fit perfectly in any room of your house, office, bathroom.. really anywhere!

Next we ask Alexandre Karam what caught his eye

The Lion Head is one of the beautiful pieces in the shop for me because of the details, and it’s incredible how he looks like a real one. Once you put him on a white wall you cannot stop looking at him. His name reminds me of one of the three mountains of Cape Town.

These Trees are amazing! Each of them is different and when they all are on the wall together it’s incredible. You imagine that you’re in the wild and the trees are surrounding you.

Now, this white Lion… I saw this one for the first time this morning and I love his kingliness. He reminds me why the lion is the king of the jungle, and his mane in white is so classy.

What do you think? I tend to agree with these choices! Want to find out more about Myranda & Alex, who they are, what their advertures at Streetwires and Cape Town include? Watch this space for some more blogs from them.

Appreciating Quality

With any handmade product comes a touch of the hand of the person who created and designed it. There is always a certain energy and rawness to a handcrafted product which gives it it’s appeal. With that energy and rawness also comes the elements that define the level of quality of the work and the value of the piece.

The level of quality, or the definition thereof (and how easily it can be recognised) does vary from person to person and medium to medium, but here are some ways we distinguish this in the Streetwires context.

Before we dive into that, you may be curious to know how we monitor or control the quality of our work in order to continuously improve?

Samples – Absolutely every product in our catalogue has a sample. This is so we always have a reference for the artists to work from, and to compare when we do a quality check.

Quality control process – The original sample is used as a reference when work is handed in by the artists. Some (but not all) of the checks done, are to check that size is consistent, weight is consistent (for raw material usage), shapes are consistent, colours are correct, and beading is neat, and details and embellishments are all included.

Customer feedback – Another important criteria to consider is customer feedback. Any questions or concerns about the appearance of any products is carefully noted so that any improvements can be made where necessary. It must be said that we work with some very creative and helpful customers who very often engage with us with ideas for new product development too. This all ensures a constant evolution and growth of our quality.

Now, when it comes to our handmade bead and wire art-pieces and crafted smalls there are some things that our artists are fanatical about (and specially trained around). You may already have started to notice the difference after holding one of our products in your hands. Keep an eye out, and consider these factors when you shop around for pieces – be it at a gallery shop, a seller on the street, a market, or directly from an organisation such as ours:-

Originality – A good artist develops new designs without copying. Are the items you are seeing for sale all over the place, and the same things you have seen for years, or have you found something totally unique? In the craft space, copying is unfortunately rife. While it is a compliment when people feel inspired by your work, it is not deal to copy. Original work is probably one of the most important factors in determining the quality of a piece. By buying a knock-off, you are not uplifting anybody. Look for those hidden gems, even if they end up costing you more.

Unique style / signature – Like any good original artwork, even wire-art retains the signature of the artists’ hand. Train your eye to start seeing unique use of techniques, quirky attention to detail, distinctive shapes, styles and design. The originality and creativity is astounding when you can start to recognise it. Try and find those rare pieces when you decide to invest in some craft items. By doing this, you are encouraging innovation, and therefore truly uplifting this art form.

Consistency in shaping and size – Have a look to see if two items of the same design are consistent in size, and that their shaping is also pretty much the same as each-other. While a little bit of irregularity is quirky and part of the appeal, items should always be as alike as possible. This is especially important when selecting gifts for an event, or products for retail. Everything should look consistent and good on shelf. If one beaded animal looks like it still needs to grow into it’s head, is missing an eye, or is 5cm taller than it’s brother, then it may not be the best example of the work out there.

Uniformity in beading – Beading requires a very high level of skill, and many years to master. A good indicator of quality in beadwork is to check for uniformity – no gaps, or skew lines. The beads should also be tightly plastered on the product, with no movement or looseness. Keep an eye out that all the beads themselves are the same size.

Loose ends – Like anything in life, it’s important to tie up any loose ends. A good wire-artist will always finish off his or her work with no loose ends, and pokey pieces of wire sticking out. Everything should be neatly wrapped and finished off for as smooth a finish as possible.

Bead size – Recognising what size beads works best on what size piece takes a discerning eye and a bit of practice to recognise, but this is super important too. Beads that are too big for a small frame will make the piece look a bit lumpy, and will make for gaps in places where the areas are too small for the beads to be wrapped or plastered smoothly. An experienced artist will always use smaller beads. Keep in mind that the smaller the beads, the more work involved, so you will end up paying more – but it’s an investment after all!

With all things made by hand, there will always be small imperfections or variations, and that is part of the charm of buying a handmade product vs a mass-produced item. It all boils down to learning how to spot a quality piece, which will be an investment, rather than opting for a cheap and cheerful item just because price is dictating your decision. When it comes to craft, it’s best to budget a little higher because you do get what you pay for.