It’s hard to miss Kazuri Beads when you spend time in Kenya. After too many occasions admiring a friend or colleagues’ jewellery and being told “it’s from Kazuri!” I decided it was time to go and find out more about this brand.
Situated in a quiet rural suburb on the outskirts of the capital, Nairobi, the green and leafy peace of Karen (named after the writer Karen Blixen, of Out of Africa fame, who lived nearby) - where Kazuri is based - is a welcome relief from the bustle of the city’s downtown.
It’s a beautiful sunny morning and walking up the gravel drive to the Kazuri workshop, we receive a warm welcome from the manager. She offers to take us on a tour of the workshops and explains how this impactful women’s social enterprise started.
Kazuri was founded in 1975 by Lady Susan Wood who learned that there was a great need of regular employment for disadvantaged single mothers in the area. After starting the workshop in her garden with two local women, in time the business grew and today Kazuri employs an amazing 300 women.
We start off outside in the garden compound, where we are shown clay from Mount Kenya being pressed to remove water, ready to later be shaped by hand into beads.
As we head inside to the workshop, we walk past small piles of beads drying in the sun and the guide explains these will then be hand painted with Kazuri’s iconic designs before being fired.
The workshop is quietly busy as we enter, with skilled artisans industriously working on different stages of crafting the ceramic beads.
Kazuri means “small and beautiful” in Swahili, and we see the women painting colourful, intricate patterns on thousands of beads. Kazuri jewellery has become popular globally and the team work hard to produce items that will be shipped around the world, including to Hamlin’s shop in Australia.
After firing, final glazes and finishing touches are applied by the women, before the beads are strung into a wide range of beautiful designs including necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
We finish our tour in the shop making difficult decisions on which designs to buy! It feels good to know all the purchases in the store are making such a difference - providing skilled jobs and changing lives for the women working at Kazuri.
To own your own unique piece of Kazuri jewellery visit the Hamlin store here.
Written by Julia Strong
Julia has worked with Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia since 2018, raising funds for our programmes for women in Ethiopia. Prior to joining team Hamlin, she worked for an association improving palliative care for people in Kenya, based in Nairobi.
Find out more about visiting Kazuri Beads and Pottery Centre in Nairobi at www.kazuri.com