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Currently, jewelry in the “My Sister’s Keeper” line incorporates fair trade certified and ethically produced beads from parts of Africa and the Philippines. There are so many talented artists throughout the world and I routinely seek out new groups/cooperatives in an effort to share their creations with my customers. I have a passion for supporting the economic growth and development efforts of other artists on a global level. I am also attracted to the variety of rich colors oftentimes used in the beads that I find. While many would describe the beads that I feature as having an "ethnic" element (and I would agree), I enjoy incorporating the beads into classic designs that result in a broader appeal. Many of my clients would not necessarily describe themselves as wearers of ethnic jewelry, yet the designs have a timeless and culture-neutral quality that allows each piece to be appreciated for its innate beauty. At the same time, the line is also favored by sophisticated women who gravitate towards the unconventional, with maybe just a trace of bohemian. The added bonus of the "My Sister's Keeper" line is the story behind many of the focal beads - the small way that my work also supports the causes of the organizations that I purchase materials from. Ultimately, the "My Sister's Keeper" line is a combination of my appreciation for ethnic elements, my southern heritage, and my desire to help others help themselves – Carolina girl meets female entrepreneurs from around the globe and tries to make a little bit of a difference. Please see below for more details about the beads currently featured in the "My Sister's Keeper" line.

Kazuri Beads

Kazuri means "small and beautiful" in Swahili. In 1975, Lady Susan Wood set up a fledging business making beads in a small shed in her back garden. She started by hiring two disadvantaged women, and quickly realized that there were many more women who were in need of jobs and so Kazuri Beads was created and began its long and successful journey as a help center for the needy women especially single mothers who had no other source of income. In 1988, Kazuri became a factory and expanded hugely with over 120 women and men. Here women are trained and apply their skills to produce these unique and beautiful beads and jewelry. The beads are made with clay from the Mt Kenya area thus giving them authenticity to their craft. The factory acts as a social gathering with the hum of voices continuing throughout the day. With unemployment so high, one jobholder often ends up providing for an "extended family" of 20 or more. Kazuri is a member of the Fair Trade Act.


Ugandan Paper Beads

Uganda, located in eastern Africa, is one of the world’s poorest and least-developed countries. Unfortunately, political instability is a characteristic of Uganda’s history. For the last twenty years or so, a brutal civil war has been underway; and even today, some 30,000 people have been displaced from their homes. Over 80% of Uganda’s population survives on less than a dollar per day, and only 13% of the country lives in modernized conditions with access to clean water, electricity, and healthcare. Fortunately, several organizations have been founded over the years in an effort to help. Each of the groups that I support shares a similar mission.  They are focused on creating sustainable opportunities for the women of Uganda so that they may experience economic development opportunities and ultimately lift their families and communities out of poverty. The paper beads that I use in my pieces currently come from three groups – Project Have Hope, Bead for Life, and Outreach Uganda. The beads are rolled-up, recycled paper and come in a variety of beautiful colors.


How Are Ugandan Paper Beads Made?

The women craft the beads from recycled paper, making each bead unique with individual color variations.


First the beaders cut the paper into long triangles and then roll the strips to make each bead. The beads are then varnished, giving the jewelry sheen and durability.


Decoupage Beads From The Philippines

To create these beads, the artist uses a wood casing as a base for each piece. Then glues layers of different colored paper over the wood base to give it more depth. The result is often a vintage feel, depending on the types of paper used. To give the beads a smooth, shiny surface, they are finished with a glaze. This keeps the paper safe from the elements and allows the beads to rest nicely against skin in a jewelry design.


Recycled Glass Beads From Ghana

Recycled glass beads are now one of the leading exports of Ghana, helping millions to avoid/escape poverty by generating a regular income for their families. Traditional recycled glass beads from Ghana are often referred to as Krobo beads because the Krobo Mountains are the main area of production. There are three main types of glass beads produced in Ghana: translucent beads, powder glass beads, and painted glass beads. All of the beads are made from either recycled or reclaimed glass, typically broken windshields and bottles. The bottles and other glass items are first washed and sorted by colors. In the case of translucent beads, they are then broken into small fragments. For powder glass beads and painted beads, the glass is pounded with a metal mortar and pestle, and sieved to get a very fine powder. Glass powder of different colors is obtained using ceramic dyes. Next, clay molds are coated with kaolin to prevent fused glass from sticking to the surface. Molds are then filled with the glass pieces or powder and cassava stalks are inserted. The stalks burn during the fusion leaving holes for threading the beads. The beads are cooked in traditional kilns made of termite mound clay. Translucent beads require longer cooking times and at higher temperatures than powder glass beads. Painted beads are decorated with a paste made of colored glass powder and water, which is applied using a thin wooden stalk. They are cooked a second time to fix the designs. Beads may be left to cool slowly (at least an hour) in their molds to prevent cracking. An alternative, which allows the craftsmen to better control a bead’s shape, includes using an awl to make the center hole in translucent beads as soon as they are removed from the kiln. While one awl maintains the mold in place, another one is used to turn the bead around in the mold and to shape it while the fused glass slowly hardens at air temperature. The final step consists of washing and polishing the beads by rubbing them forcefully with water and sand on a smooth stone.


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