I had a bit of an altercation yesterday – well, it never came to that except in my mind as I thought about it later. I was in an upmarket shop in town yesterday and I was admiring their products. I was particularly taken with some circular, sisal jewelry – ear rings, bracelets, necklaces, from Swaziland. They were very attractive. I am quite drawn to anything with circles – as a design feature I think it’s superb. The shop owner told me these circles were very skillfully woven by Swazi women who must have very delicate fingers. Well, I looked and I looked and I could not for the life of me see how these could have been woven. A long time ago I made several circular rugs using a metal hoop and starting from the hollow center and making my warp threads spread outward, adding more warp threads as needed. Yes, this was weaving. Similar to basket making.
But the circular sisal jewelry was very fine. These threads were tiny. I’m certain they were coiled and the coils laced together. That is not weaving and it irritated me that the shop owner was insisting it was.
On a bigger scale I have made some fun little baskets by looping wool around a bit of thick sisal string and lacing the coils together.
Coiled basket – wool and sisal
And I have also make circular braided rugs by coiling the long strip of braid. You couldn’t call either of these techniques weaving.
Back to the shop – I continued to browse and finally decided on a fun pair of circular, bead ear rings made by Masai women – these also were circular and made from beads strung on wire. They were from Maasai Women Art in Tanzania. These came from Tanzania but they could equally well have come from Kenya. There is a central loop and 4 spokes radiating out. We did not discuss the intricacies of making these ear rings. Weaving? – no I didn’t want to go that way again.
When I first discovered this shop a week or so ago, the sales girl went into a great spiel about how the shop’s aim was to support self-help groups in Africa. Fair enough and I’m sure most of the products are from such groups. When I talked with the buyer yesterday I asked her if she had been to Africa recently. Yes indeed, she is just back from a buying trip to Botswana, Swaziland, and South Africa. She was in East Africa, Nairobi at Easter time. I was eager to hear about Nairobi having lived there for 7 years, but she was reluctant to talk. She became a bit vague at that point. Nevertheless, she has certainly brought back some lovely products, but I wish she would research her handcrafts a bit more. Last night, the more I thought about this shop the more I decided I would much rather buy genuine world famous Kazuri beads from a lovely Kenyan girl/woman who has married an Irish man and has a stall each Sunday in Dun Laoghaire People’s Park on Sunday afternoons. She also sells items made by the Masai and recycled paper jewelry from an aid project in Nairobi. She is a lovely person and we have had such nice chats about Nairobi. I enjoy purchasing from her.