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.

 

How different materials and techniques affect pricing

When we work on new samples, there are two important components that go into working out the costing. One of them (and the most important) is the length of time it takes to make the item. This translates into the earnings that will be paid to the artists when they start producing the product on order, and is one part of the costing where we can’t really budge. In a mechanised environment, production is costed in ‘economies of scale’ as it will work out cheaper per piece to make a huge run vs a small run when setting up expensive machinery / moulds / screens. When items are made by hand, it takes the same amount of time to make one unit once-off, or the same item a thousand times over. The other item to consider when working out a costing is the raw materials used. The beads, wire and additional components all have a cost attached and these need to be considered.

Some materials may be more expensive than others, but they can be used in ways that make the product quicker (and cheaper to make), while other materials may be as cheap as chips, but are used for highly intricate and detailed work only.

Here we discuss some techniques and styles to give you an idea of what makes for a very pricey piece, and what makes for a more economical way to achieve a similar look or feel.

Wire outline

This is the perfect way to embrace the original form of this craft, and go for a full wire product. There’s a lot that can be done using just wire on a practical and artistic level. The shape can be manipulated to look like a line-drawing, or can de very detailed and decorative. If the plain wire colour is not speaking to you, bear in mind that effects such as rusting, or epoxy-coating can be done to add an aged look, or some colour,.

 

Copper wire

Copper wire is a great way to add a nice warm highlight of colour without using beads. Copper wire is more costly than galvanised wire, and is also much softer, so it is best suited for small products, or as a touch of detail on larger products. It is too soft to be used for the actual frame (or shaping) of the products, and only comes in fairly thin gauges, so it’s best to use it sparingly in a design.

Scooby or random wire wrap

Similar to copper in cost, softness and gauge, Scooby wire (telephone wire) is a great way to add colour to a product if you prefer not to go with beads. The actual wire comes in cords enclosing a mixture of colours. There is a bit of labour involved in opening the cords and separating the colours, so the most efficient use of this material is to allow for a mixture of colours for the items you order so that there is no wastage. While we don’t specialise in the intricate weaving of this Scooby wire, which is endemic to Kwazulu-Natal (like the baskets one finds), we do use this material for detailing smaller products, and often in a ‘random wrap’ style.

When it comes to adding beadwork to your product, the sky is literally the limit with techniques available. Here’s a run-down on some of them.

 Random wrap with beads

This is a great technique for adding some beadwork to open areas in a subtle way. Random wrap is a fairly quick technique to do, so is more cost-effective than fully-beading the same area, and can be quite pleasing on the eye.

Bubblewrap

This is a great beading technique that wraps around wire shapes and provides a soft, textured finish and also bulks up a product substantially. While it takes considerably more beads than a flat beaded technique, the labour involved is often a little less than more close-knit beading, and is a cost-effective way to incorporate a lot of colour and splash to a 3D product.

Fully-beaded

This has become the ‘Grande Dame’ of beading, as this technique offers the greatest coverage, smoothness of detail, and ability to mix and blend colours for very realistic finishes. Not surprisingly, this technique is one of the most costly options, but is well worth it for items such as décor pieces and logos.

Outline beading

This is a good option for those on a tight budget, for more stylized designs, or even to add lettering to a logo or small item. I can be quite strikingly beautiful and is often used to add detail.

Wooden beads

Wooden beads have not always been available, and we have mostly worked with glass beads for all our products. Recently, we found a source of wooden beads and created a beautiful range of homeware using these beads. While wooden beads are far more costly than glass beads, they are generally bigger in size, so less are used to cover the product. There is a little extra labour involved in beading them, as these beads have to be fed onto the wire one-by-one instead of via our famous ‘spindling’ technique the ladies use for glass beads. These beads are also much lighter than glass beads, making shipping weight (and cost) less for products made with wooden beads. Shipping products made from, or using wood do require fumigation and certification, but with a finish and look being right on trend, our new range has been well adopted by our export customers.

 

2D vs 3D

When it comes to smalls, (such as keyrings), there is the option to make a full 3D version of your design, or a flat 2D version. The 3D option makes for a very impressive piece for those with a bigger budget. For a more conservative budget, the 2D (flat) version is recommended, and can be just as nice (trust us!)

We hope this helps to inspire you as to how versatile you can be with your ideas when briefing us on product ranges for retail, or for bespoke pieces. There are many amazing techniques and materials we can use. Feel free to chat to us about which ones you would like used on your products.

 

Nowhere to go

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COULD STREETWIRES BE LEFT OUT ON THE STREETS?

We hope not…

Big development, broken promises and agreements that have fallen through leaves our job-creation social enterprise with nowhere to go, currently.

Not so long ago, we wrote in our blog about the possibility of moving due to a development in the area. At the time, it seemed that everything was in order for a smooth transition, and that we were in the good hands of our landlady who had our best interests at heart: http://streetwires.co.za/we-might-be-moving/

After turning down an earlier offer from a neighbour to take over their building rent free for as long as we needed on the promises from our landlady that she would provide us with suitable space across the road, we have been let down very badly.

Established in 2000, Streetwires employs over 40 previously unskilled and unemployed artists who produce the finest wire and bead craft and art pieces for the local and export market. After over a decade, we have established ourselves as the only working artists studio in the city. One of our key revenue streams currently are the guided tours we offer to tour groups, where they can meet the artists, learn about the craft, and support our artists by purchasing gifts and souvenirs in our gallery store on the same premises. With the downscaling of certain design exhibitions in the city, our gallery and studio also serves as a showroom and meeting place for our local and export clients. We have become a designated itinerary stop for all the walking tours of the city, as well as shore tours for all the cruise liners that dock in Cape Town.

Going on the promises of our landlady, Cecily Blumberg, and feeling a mutual loyalty that made us decline the offer of the rent-free spot next door initially, we were positive for our move across the road as mentioned in our blog.

Unfortunately, this is now not to be. Speedy, the current tenant occupying the space we were promised (also owned by our landlady Ms Blumberg) has refused to move out, or even share the space with us, as we were previously led to believe would happen. This coupled with the recent decision to either sell the building we currently occupy, or renovate it and increase the rent to more than double what it is now once the development is complete, means that instead of our social enterprise having a place to continue operating, a tyre storage facility will be lucky enough to have business as usual – and continue to occupy prime city space while we struggle to find a new home for our business. While the original offer and the final outcome has dragged on for so long, we have lost precious time in securing a suitable alternative…

With the few available options of space which we have seen not being viable for us, we now face the strong possibility of losing over a decade worth of business relationships while we try and find a space we can afford, possibly far outside the city now – meaning a major reshuffle of our business and sales strategy, as it is highly probable that we will no longer be able to have our office, studio, showroom, welding workshop and a store trading all under one roof. The bigger impact of this also ultimately impacts our artists, who this business is built around. A move may not only mean no shop for them to sell their pieces, and the loss of our tour revenue – but could also mean a cut in our sales, and their (piece-meal) earning, along with potentially higher transport costs if we cannot find an affordable solution near a major transport hub.

We are therefore appealing to all readers to come forward and try and assist us in finding a space that suits the needs of our organisation in it’s current form. We’d really appreciate as many eyes and ears on the ground as we can get.

It simply has to work out. It can’t not.

Please contact Riaan Hanekom for further details – 021 426 2475 / riaan@streetwires.co.za

Product Spotlight – Bowls

 

 

We have had a beautiful range of bowls in our shop for quite some time. They literally fly out faster than we can make them, so we realised that it was time to give them their own range and catalogue.

Therefore, we are proud to Introduce Thetha Kakhulu.

Thetha Kakhulu is Xhosa for ‘talks very much’.
These beautiful bowls are beaded by our ladies who sit in groups and
chat while they work. With the happy sounds of their chatter,
and the cheerful colours of the bowls, the name Thetha Kakhulu seemed
fitting for this range.

One of the beautiful things about this range is that no two bowls are the same. We have given the ladies free reign to decide which colours, patterns and bead-mixes they would like to bead. This uniqueness is what has added to their appeal with our retail shoppers.

That being said, if you have specific requests in terms of the colours, patterns, etc that you would like, then we’d be happy to oblige. Want plain cream beads, and all 20 bowls the same? Not a problem.

This catalogue should be available with our download pack on our website very soon. For now, just give us a shout via email and we will send it to you.

Bead & wire art – where did it all start?

Welcome to a little history lesson. Before you start groaning and thinking of dusty old bent artifacts, or sad, slow websites that don’t load properly with very wordy information last updated at least a decade ago… We thought we’d give you some insight into what is actually a fascinating story of how wire-art started, and how it became such a valued, innovative and sought-after contemporary art form. This may still be a wordy post – but if nothing else, it makes one appreciate the value of the items, and how the art form has evolved. Quite an eye-opener really!

Let’s start with the nuts and bolts locally:-

Wire-art is said to have begun in the townships and rural areas, with children (and sometimes their parents) making toys from discarded materials they were able to recover, such as old fence wire, tin cans, bottle tops, etc. Over time, the saleable value of these items was noticed, and people started to make items not only for themselves, but to sell to others.

Bicycles and cars made out of wire were the most popular items to make.

Wire art is now a thriving business and a sophisticated art form, with many producers of wire sculptures supporting families by selling their creations on street corners, at markets, in shops, high-end boutiques and selected art galleries.

So how did these wire sculptures become beaded?

Hard to say exactly, but in Southern Africa, beads have been found in important historical sites across Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The uses of beads differ widely across the continent and the world, and include:

Relaxation: worry beads are used in many cultures for relaxation, and as amulets to guard against bad luck.

Currency: One of the uses of Aggry beads from Ghana was for exchange and as a way of payment during early trade in Africa. Europeans first collected aggry beads from the West Coast of Africa in the 15th Century.

Games and hobbies: some games were played using beads.

Adornment: historically, beadwork was the insignia of tribal royalty. In contemporary Southern Africa, beads have experienced a revival in popularity and are easily visible in contemporary fashion design, which incorporate cultural as well as individual expression.

Used for souvenirs and to raise awareness: contemporary uses now include beaded souvenirs, such as wild animals, décor items and art pieces. The list continues to grow as the art form evolves.

The use of beads added an additional decorative and colourful touch to the wire pieces.

With the various uses of beads, especially the last two, and with wire being a relatively cost-effective and strong structure for beadwork, it is only suffice to say that this mixing of mediums was a logical next step in the development of this art-form.

Rewind to a decade or so ago, when independent artists had seen the commercial value of handmade wire and bead products and had started selling these informally… As time passed, the craft started evolving as artists started seeing that new products needed to be developed constantly to stay ahead of the growing competitive pack. This coupled with formal organisations opening within the craft industry (Yay, Streetwires!) innovating and refining the quality of the art through skills-training – this once haphazard collection of styles became a respected art-form in it’s own right. And now, even more so as people try and identify with something tactile, familiar, and unique in a fast-paced and sometimes impersonal shopping experience. (a new appreciation for handmade shows as the trends shift away from mass-produced and ‘faceless’ products to those made by hand, accompanied with a story and a certain energy that they carry.)

Taking it to a whole new level

So there you have it…!

 

A few words with Angela

 

 

 

We have had the pleasure of working with Angela Pasker, a Commercial Management student from Maastricht in the Netherlands, who has been doing her internship with us, helping in our Sales & Marketing Department.

Angela at her desk

We’d like to share a little bit about her, her experiences and her contributions here at Streetwires.

First up, her interesting field of study, Commercial Management, is quite a heavyweight course. It includes all aspects of Marketing, Sales, Economics, Finance and Management. Of that hefty list, Angela has decided to major in Marketing and Economics, and aspires to work in the Marketing / Sales department in a hotel. We’d agree she’d be good at this, with her warm nature and efficient manner.

In her spare time, Angela likes to play tennis , shop and hang out with her friends.

We asked her a little bit about her impressions of Streetwires, and South Africa – and she lists her best moment at Streetwires being at our end of year party where all the staff started dancing and joined up as a train and danced through the office. I think we all enjoyed that! When it comes to work-time at Streetwires, Angela’s favourite project, within her social media plan has been the setting up and populating of our brand new Instagram account (Watch this space!).

IMG-20170130-WA0024

Her favourite part of her time in South Africa is without a doubt her trip up the Garden Route with her friend who flew down from Holland to visit. Totally beautiful and unforgettable!

 

Angela has taken some important life lessons from her experiences here, which we love:-

Streetwires and the staff have taught her to always make the best out of her life.

South African people are surprisingly kind and helpful. She says Holland can learn a lot from that. Also, our jokes are much better here too, apparently!

 

Angela tried some local cuisine here, and found her favourites to be Ostrich meat which she found delicious, and Samoosas (Yay for our regular office visitor, the Samoosa man!)

Then, the vital final piece of information, we wanted to know – Angela’s favourite Streetwires product…. She has this to say: ‘The hippos are my favourite. They are full of colour and look beautiful’

Streetwires RobinZoo hippo

‘I want to thank everybody from the Streetwires team that made my internship wonderful.’

Angela has really integrated well with our team and company culture, and provided some very valuable groundwork for our next interns to follow. We wish you well when you leave us (and wish you could stay!)

What happens when you place an order with us?

Streetwires beading

Magic and a lot of delight and celebration from our artists, that’s for sure – but there is a lot involved in the process behind the scenes, which we thought we’d walk you through. It should hopefully prove helpful for planning and understanding lead-times and aligning them with your own needs, deadlines, shipments and functions. It certainly makes me appreciate our products more and more the deeper I understand the process.

Bespoke samples

 With our exceptionally talented team, one of our specialties is bespoke products, branded corporate gifts and custom art-pieces. These items have to be designed, costed and sampled from scratch. This process involves a small and very specialized team of artists, so can take up to 10 working days until the first sample is ready for approval. We are able to design according to a budget, and the more detailed instructions we get from clients, the better and faster this process can happen. More about that here…

Streetwires design sample

Catalogue items

 With over 16 years in the game, we have developed a lifetime of products, and have extensive catalogues, which we add to as we develop new ranges. Ordering off catalogue is pretty straight-forward with no extra time needed for sampling and design, if products are ordered exactly ‘as-is’.

Choosing and ordering

 This is when the ‘adminy’ stuff gets real… Once an initial order or ‘wishlist’ is received, we will gather all necessary contact and business information from our client so that we can load them on our system and send them a formal quote for final approval and sign-off. At this stage, lead-times will be discussed, and a 50% deposit will be collected. This deposit is important, as we need to ensure we purchase enough raw materials to make the products, and to pay the artists for their work at each completion point in the order process.

Lead-times – ‘Back up a bit”, you say, “Lead-times…?’ Yep, good things take time, especially when they are made by hand. On average, we need 3 weeks to produce an average sized order. At peak times, or for quantities over 1000 units, we may need 4-6 weeks. Why so long? We need time to make sure quality is top-notch and to correct anything that proves to be problematic in the process. Also, as orders come in, they are put in a queuing system on a ‘first come first served’ basis, so sometimes the actual wait in the queue will be longer than the actual production time needed, but we do advise on our lead-times in order to manage the expectations of our clients. We have been known to pull off very short-notice work, but this comes at a premium cost and we try to make sure that this does not affect the delivery dates of other orders that have been waiting in the queue. This being said, we have extra capacity when needed (and with pre-warning), as our network of artists is broader than the walls of our studio. We are able to employ many talented extra hands on a casual basis when the orders are flooding in.

Job-cards distributed – So back to the process. When the order is confirmed, and deposit received, ‘job-cards’ are issued to the artists. This details the product they are required to make, along with the quantities. These job-cards are distributed as evenly as possible, to ensure the earnings from an order is spread fairly among the artists.

Samples – Once the artist has received the job-card from the team-leader, or studio manager, and they are ready to start, they request a sample of the product they will be making. We keep samples of all our products, as this forms an important reference both for the artists, and for the quality controllers, who check that the quality of the order is consistent with the sample. This way, there are no variations in size, technique or colour-mixes.

Streetwires teamwork

Teamwork – Generally, the artists work in teams to complete the order, as there are different components that go into creating a finished product, from creating the wire framework, to the beading, to adding any final details etc. This also ensures speed, efficiency and uniformity in the process, and spreads the earnings on a job fairly.

Almost there

QC – So now the items are being completed and handed in. Where do they get ‘handed in’, and what happens next? The artists hand the finished items to a team of Quality Controllers (previous artists who were promoted and have eagle eyes). They first count that the correct quantity has been submitted, and then they check the products against the sample to ensure that the design has been followed correctly. They also check that all components have been done neatly and sturdily, and that any extra instructions from the customer (like colour choices) have been followed.

Packing – Once the items have cracked the nod with our QC ninjas, they are then packed for dispatch. This process can include adding any Point of Sale packaging on request (swing-tags, etc), wrapping or bagging the items, and placing them in cartons. The packers measure and weigh the cartons so that the sales-team can get shipping quotes for orders being delivered outside of Cape Town.

Your order is on it’s way to you – Yay! Once you have chosen your shipping option, and paid the balance due on your order total, your items will either be made available for collection, or shipped. Please remember to factor in shipping time to your own timelines and deadlines when planning an order, especially for an event. For deliveries within South Africa, allow 48 hours for the most economical option. Overnight delivery is also available, but couriers charge extra for this. For orders going abroad, allow 3-10 working days across all air freight options.

That was quite a long read, I know – but it’s really fascinating to follow the process. Studio tours are always available if you’d like to see the process in action, and we’d be so happy to welcome you into our vibrant and creative space!

 

Lauren is spreading her wings

lauren

Not so long ago Lauren sat us down to let us know she had accepted an exciting new opportunity to head up a new hotel retail market which launches early next year.

When a person is such a valuable and unforgettable part of the history of Streetwires, it is really hard to even start thinking how to put into words a retrospect of the value they have added.

Lauren’s journey with Streetwires is probably one of the longest, as she has been working with us basically from the very beginning. Some of the longest-standing team-members here pin down her start to 2003. I got to start working with her in 2008 when she returned after a couple of years away. While I sit here thinking how to make a short blog post of a lifetime of memories, so many things start popping up. With Lauren around there was always so much laughter, many jokes, much teamwork in times of stress – and beautiful products, so many beautiful products.

For me, Lauren’s most amazing talent of many (and which will be her biggest legacy here), is her gift for product development and design. She has a natural creativity and eye for trend and is able to translate this very well into reality in conjunction with the sample team. Through her guidance, the quality and variety of designs has increased in leaps and bounds. This was especially noticeable after my return here after 6 years.

Lauren has headed up the most challenging sales portfolio, which we call ‘Corporate and Custom’ – translating all the bespoke requests into product mainly for the corporate market. The growth in this demanding portfolio is testament to her talents, and she leaves huge shoes to fill here.

The other thing that stands out about Lauren is her passion for the business as a whole, and most especially for the people at the heart of it – the artists. Lauren has personally hosted parties for interns, for artists, cooked for, mentored, helped with family issues and illnesses, and even led some excursions for the artists over the years. If she wasn’t selling up a storm or designing something extraordinary, then the team knew Lauren had their back.

That is why we decided to interview some people she has worked closely with, to convey just how we have valued having her here. We started with the sample team, the group of artists she worked the most closely with. (They are also a little shy, so they chose to do a consolidated tribute 🙂 )

Favourite memory: ‘She had nice jokes all the time, everyday she came up with something new that made us laugh.’

The value she has added: ‘She made new ideas work.’

Their farewell words to her: ‘We wish you success in all you are going to do after Streetwires.’

Then, an excerpt from other team-members:-

Nolubabalo:

Lauren has a good memory of every product, good relationships with the clients, great ideas for custom made products and also really funny nice jokes.

I wish her all the best at the new place, and hope that she will not forget Streetwires. Lauren knows that Nobs loves her so much.’

Berni:

‘I am going to miss her great input at Streetwires. I wish her all the best and that she knows that Streetwires will always be her family.’

Theo

‘Lauren is always fun to be with. She has good ideas for the sales department, good ideas for the decor for the store, and good ideas for the new stock. I’m hoping that she has a lot of fun at her new work and hope that she will also make the people over there happy.’

Marange

‘She is always on focus and has a good vision for Streetwires and works efficiently. Good luck wishes, Lauren, for your new job and hope you will be enjoying life.’

 

These few words are just a drop in the ocean, and we can’t thank her enough – but we wish her so much success, luck and fun with her new role.

An appropriate Xhosa farewell would be ‘Hamba Kakuhle Sisi’ (Go well, sister), but it seems too final to say this as we know we will still be seeing and hearing from Lauren regularly. After all, Lauren IS Streetwires, and she always will be.

Introducing Citizen

citizen

 

We have been so lucky to have crossed paths with an extraordinary artist, with an extraordinary story, and even more extraordinary talents.

What makes it even more amazing is that Citizen is a beader. If you know anything about wire & bead art, you will know that the men normally focus on the wire armature, while the beading is reserved for the ladies.

With a tertiary education in Fine-Art, Citizen has broken stereotypes and discovered a passion for ‘painting with beads’.

Citizen’s story is an interesting one. Let’s meet the man behind some amazing gallery pieces that we will be auctioning soon.

Having studied extensively, Citizen’s academic background spans both Fine Art and Chef School. In the end, art won, as Citizen says he met his wife at Chef-School and soon realized that a marriage can only have one chef, so he decided to refocus on art instead.

 Citizen’s academic achievements didn’t come easily. Suffering from anxiety, he dropped out of college for a little while. During this time, he really struggled to find work, so he decided to help his mom out in her business. He never actually knew what his mother did for a living. He just knew that the family was always provided for. He found out soon enough when he joined her. His mother owns a very successful funeral parlour, and Citizen spent much time working there. Art started calling again, and he returned to college to complete his course, still helping his mother after hours. Citizen is now a fully-fledged artist who has found his niche, and we are so glad we have connected.

Citizen finds he is most inspired with designing patterns for his beadwork, having no boundaries, and being able to see where the process takes him – and to make any changes or adjustments to his patterns as part of the process. His favourite work-space is in his garage, where he locks himself in for some quiet, creative time.

Citizen is also very much a family man, with 2 daughters, and a son on the way. He likes to let his wife to plan the family activities, but he really enjoys baking, visiting museums, and singing and dancing with his family.

We will unveil some of his work in a follow-up post, where we are planning an auction of his one-off gallery pieces, but for now we wanted you to meet this amazing man.

It’s all about the people – Cath’s series of favourite stories – Part 1

Over the years, we have had some incredible requests, some incredibly funny moments, and worked with some amazing partners. As I have missed some of these moments in my absence, I gathered the team, to ask for a ‘top 5 list’. I did plan to shoot off a quick blog with all of them, but on gathering pics, I realized this was impossible. The only way to do the memories justice was to create a series of stories…. That way I can also savour the feel-good goosebump moments myself as I write!

Part 1. All aboard

As many of you may know, we don’t only create and sell the best wire and bead handmade craft this side of, well the universe – but our principle artists also offer workshops to anyone interested in learning a bit more / having a bit of team-building / birthday / hen party / book club fun – or for tour groups wanting to make their own gift to take home.

Sometimes, these workshops take our artists off site, mostly to some interesting spots, and once on a cruise-liner. To Mauritius!

Artwell Munenura, our principle sample artist (he deals with bespoke requests and cost estimates and constant interruptions from the sales-team), and Jethro Mare, all-round solid talent, in-house comedian, and the one and only grandmaster of the beaded gecko were invited onboard the MSC Rotterdam on it’s Voyage to Mauritius, to keep the guests entertained with wire-art workshops.

Not only was this a fantastic ‘trip-of-a-lifetime’ for Artie and Jethro, but the passengers enjoyed the workshops and the advice from Artwell, and the jokes from Jethro so much – that our two hero’s were apparently literally mobbed at breakfast every single morning for more help and design ideas!

Here are some of my favourite pics from the voyage. As for Artie and Jethro – they are hoping for another experience like that, so we’re holding thumbs for another opportunity!