Beyond beads….

October 14, 2014 · 0 comments

…and why it is so desperately important we keep selling them!

In the week since the office re-opened after the Dashain holiday season, 5 young women in desperately difficult circumstances have come for help.  As ladies in our lovely new work room work to fill orders, Kopila meets with women who are scared, vulnerable and overwhelmed.  Yesterday she told me the story of one of the ladies. UUK is unusual in Nepal, a woman who elected to not marry.  She has been basically abandoned by her family but was able to scrape together some funds and start her own tiny tailoring business. Because of her choices, she is viewed with suspicion and scorn by many in her community.

A man sometimes visited to get sewing done. One day he came to the shop when no-one else was there and raped UUK.  In her attempts to prevent him, she sustained serious injuries and still needs surgery, which she can’t afford, to recover.

UUK went to the police and started a case against this man but with no legal guidance, police and defence lawyers are creating huge delays and obstacles.  She has just been told that there will now be a two year delay before anything else can happen. With no explanation.  UUK lives alone in the same town as the man and he wanders free.  She is scared.

These are typical of the problems women in Nepal face.  Because she lives alone, UUK is suspected of being a prostitute.  Many think that prostitutes or women living alone are ‘asking for trouble’  Because she couldn’t afford a lawyer, UUK was misled about the legal process.  Tragically, in her first attempt to get support, the organisation she approached seems to have kept the funds obtained in her name for themselves.  In desperation, UUK has approached Samunnat asking for assistance with her case and with finding safety. Kopila suspects corruption and headed off to the courts yesterday to start to get answers.  This will be a long process.

Kopila reported that more and more women are coming to Samunnat from beyond Jhapa.  Women from the neighbouring districts of Ilam and Sunsari are travelling to Samunnat. This means we will have to use funds to pay lawyers in those areas when the distance is too great for Kopila to travel.

DSCN5101As you think about gifts for Christmas, please look at the necklaces and bracelets in our etsy shop, or make your own art from the beads from Kazuri West. Buy from the galleries and distributors who sell our work.  You are buying more than necklaces and beads. You are helping to ensure that women like UUK get the legal representation they deserve; that they get the medical treatment they need; that they get the training they need to be able to earn an income and survive.

I head back to Nepal in a few weeks and the etsy shop will have to close so please shop soon!  To our dear readers, thank you for your support and love.


DSCN1724The blog for the Many Hands Market PlaceKazuri West makes great reading.  Over the past months readers have been introduced to the members of the Many Hands Design Team.  These are artists from all over the world who create jewellery designs which incorporate Kazuri beads.  In the past we have been delighted to see the work of  Pearl Blay, Sandra Francour, Kerrie Slade and of course, Paulette Walther.  In this latest post, the work of another team member, our very own Wendy Moore, has been featured.


Obviously Wendy is wildly biased about SamunnatDSCN1350 beads and keen to incorporate Samunnat them in her work.  Many of Wendy’s jewellery designs go on to be made by us and sold on our etsy site.  Of late, Wendy has been a bit distracted (which explains the silence emanating from this blog for the past month) by the arrival of her first born grand child. We are just as excited about Zoe’s arrival and this week, a Nepali national baby’s outfit similar to this arrived from us for Zoe. We’ll post pictures when she fits in it!!


bead style FPPaulette Walther, our LBD (loose bead distributor!) from Kazuri beads sent us an excited email the other day. A gorgeous bracelet created using some of our slider beads was on the cover of the latest Bead Style magazine!!  Bead Style doesn’t make it to Birtamod so we are so grateful to Paulette for letting us know.  The bracelet photographed featured our leopard, Cheetah, Giraffe and Golden Brown Dotty slider beads. bead style nov

We love seeing our beads used and were so excited to see the creative ways they were used in the Hand made Slider bead contest and loved Sandra Metcalf’s 3rd-1-sandra-metcalfthird place winning bracelet using our leopard slider.

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After delays due to rain, strikes, supplies and festivals, we are now forging ahead with imageour second storey. As you can see from the photos there has been lots of activity. Not to mention lots of bamboo poles!

The concrete of the roof is poured in a day with many, many people working in a carefully choreographed team to get it all happening in time.  No cement mixers here and bowls of concrete are carried on the heads of some workers to others who slap it down, smooth it out and turn around for the next lot. At the end of the day, when everything is done, we provide a meal to all the workers and we celebrate the stage we have reached.

Recently we received another generous donation from the IPCA.  Our increased visibility means that more women know about us and the there are more requests for us to help.  This means more demands on legal resources, training resources, short term help, and so we are so grateful for the donation coming in! We are really glad too, that now people know that we are where we are to stay!

imageThe other week, Kopila was the subject of a Nepali TV series featuring people who are working to bring peace in Nepal.  Obviously it is in Nepali, but you can still see her passion, pride and determination and you get a real sense of our place, our lives. I hope the link works and that you can see itimage  here. More soon!


Samunnat Flowers

August 16, 2014

P1020892Samunnat-FlowersLook at these beautiful beaded flowers made by UK artist Kerrie Slade! We love the way Kerrie has used our beads and were also very touched by her comments in her post here.  We do indeed make each bead with great love and care and our existence depends on the sales of our beads so there is a huge amount of hope there too!

There is still time to enter the Kazuri competition using beads from Samunnat or the Kazuri range!  We are so excited about seeing the results. Read the details about the competition here and let us know if you enter!

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DSCN5397 It is always fun hearing about our jewellery as it travels the world.  The connections are wonderful to hear about.  Recently I (Wendy) caught up with two ladies helping us by selling our jewellery.  Virginia Dixon is on the board of the Langtang Valley Health project which provides primary health and emergency medical care to people living in the Langtang Valley region.  Every year, Virginia and her tireless board organise a range of fund raising activities and an auction is part of these.  This year she selected some Samunnat jewellery from our turquoise and black and white range to coordinate withDSCN5400 pashminas to auction.  They looked fantastic packaged up and the women who made the winning bids seemed delighted with their purchases!

Virginia heard about Samunnat from our dear friend and incredible supporter Sarah Bartram.  Sarah has taken our jewellery to so many places and we can’t thank her enough for her support!  She is based near Australia’s capital city Canberra but travels widely, visiting gallery owners and attending markets, selling our products and many other gorgeous items.  It was wonderful to see her in action and to meet people who bought our jewellery.  People were so interested to hear about the process and to know how the money was used.

DSCN5402 We would not survive if it was not for the support of people like Virginia and Sarah, Mel and Yohann at Surya, Sacha at Red Earth in White Cliffs, Sally at Albury Picture Framers, our friends at the Art Vault in Mildura, Robin at Breathing Colours Gallery and the gang at the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery to name some of our angels.

And talk about six degrees of separation! Sarah’s husband Geoff Bartram is on the board of Langtang Valley Health and was part of the team who made the first Australian ascent of Mt. Everest in 1984.  InDSCN5403 1980 he led a group to Everest base Camp. This group included a young Australian man who came home and showed his trekking slides to a few people including a former student of his next-door-neighbour.  In the fullness of time*, the young man and the student fell in love, got married, had a family, moved to Nepal for a while and in 2007, met up with Kopila and learnt about Samunnat.  The rest, as they say, is history….

*Long but romantic story depending on who you ask!

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Step by Step…

July 31, 2014

photoWe’ve been promising photos of the construction of the second storey for a while but keep getting distracted! It has been happening and dear Kumari and Yashodha have had to put up with living in a building site for a while now.  Finally the bamboos are all in place ready for the roof and then we will be well on the way to completing our second storey.

Bishnu is getting excited about moving in.

As, no doubt are the cows.  And the bees.

Yes, we have identified bee-keeping as another source of income for someimage ladies and after training and buying the required equipment, the bees will join the ladies up stairs. (The two cows have their own place next to our building!)  Apparently the bees need to be fed and taken to the jungle as part of their up keep!  Who’d have known?

Kopila went to do a presentation about women’s rights to an organisation in a neighbouring VDC and learnt about their bees.  She came back buzzing with excitement.

photoGroan. Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.

Anyway, we are going to trial bee-keeping and selling honey as a way to provide an income for some ladies.

Our building will remain unpainted for about a year as that is traditional and allows the cement to really dry out. This year’s monsoon was not good enough to plant a lot of rice (which means it will be very expensive for us later ion the year) but was enough to flood our little block regularly!  A dampness and leakage problem that were a legacy from our original builder have been fixed by the new builder so we can start to think about colour schemes…..something subtle? Not likely!

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In many of our posts we mention in passing that we are busy filling a loose bead order or photomaking beads for Paulette.  Paulette of course is Paulette Walther of Kazuri beads and thanks to her energy and vision, our range of bead designs has grown steadily.  We love making our slider beads which we make in several patterns including the Wild Things range and our beautiful dappled Winter and Golden Brown tones.

These are usually teamed with leather and worn as bracelets but we are looking forward to seeing lots more creative uses of our beads as people submit entries to the Handmade Slider Bead Jewelry Design Contest which starts today (28 July) and extends until 28 August. Three winners will be selected by a panel of jewellery designers: Pearl Blay – who was responsible for helping us with our Modahaus Photography tent and wrote a wonderful post about that on her blog here; Kerrie Slade; Sandra Francour and Paulette herself.) Winners will be announced in September and can win terrific prizes.sammunat-polymer-bead-leather-bracelet

For design inspiration see some of Pearl’s fabulous designs here.  This photo shows one of her designs using a version of our giraffe bead! She has also made designs that don’t use leather.  Read all about the contest here and get cracking.

We can’t wait to see what you do with our slider beads!

And, strap yourselves down because we will be publishing progress shots of the second storey later this week. It’s  all happening!

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My name is Yasodha and I’m 23 years old.  My life was full of pain before coming to 30 Nov Kumaris 6Samunnat.  I was in an arranged marriage to a man with serious mental illness. He and his family tortured me and eventually my situation was so bad I decided to divorce him.

I am glad a man in my village told me about Samunnat [Ed: it was one of our board members] and I approached them for help.  They provided me with the training of Polymer clay. Each day I would ride my pushbike 15 kms each way from my parents home but I got very tired and decided to stay with a friend in a rented room in Birtamod. Unfortunately, this did not work so I shared my problem with my friends in Samunnat.

When Kopila didi heard it she invited me to stay with her in her house until the new building was completed.  I stayed with her family for three months.  Now I am very happy staying in the office room with Kumari and her son.  We have a beautiful kitchen, our room and aphoto bathroom.  I am so grateful to the friends who have donated the money to build the office home and to the board members of Samunnat who have let us stay.

I am Kumari and I have been working in Samunnat from 6 years.  I am very happy staying in the new building together with my son and Yasodha.  Our kitchen and bath room are DSCN0814inside the house which is very easy for us. We have a tap for water and when there is power electricity is available.

Before staying at the room I used to ride 13 km each way on my push bike from my parents house. It was not easy for me to stay with parents along with my son.  It was financial burden for them which I could easily understand.  Thanks to Samunnat I have relief from these problems.  I am very happy here caring for my son and looking after the building.  Slowly people visit to the office after hours and we are making friends with our neighbour.

When the next storey is built and our fence is up, we will welcome Bishnu to our family.  We will be very glad when the next storey is builtphoto because at the moment our lovely home is filled with bags of cement and building supplies!  I want to thank the friends of Samunnat and the Board members for letting us to stay at the new office.

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The conference was in the Hotel Dolmen in Valetta. It was very huge. I have never been to such hotels. One really memorable incident was the lift.  Every time, I feel very DSCN5045nervous to be on the lift on my own so I don`t want to leave Wendy Didi.  But one  day I wanted to try to be my own in the lift so I was trying to find out the button to open the door of the lift. I was pressing and pressing on the wrong side of the lift! One person saw me doing this so he showed me the right way.  I felt a little ashamed. I realized that we were from the very small village and haven’t seen like this anything before.

IMG_2496People were very friendly and lovely.  I liked to share so many things with oneIMG_2529 another and also want to make friends. It was very hard due to lack of language.  Where as I felt very proud of my English in my village but in Malta I felt like it was not enough.  I thought I needed to improve my communicating skill.  I had never attended the conference like this before so obviously it was very Big for me.  I always want to ask questions about how can we do better than we are doing now. (L: With Dan Cormier and Tracy Holmes.  R: With German artist Anke Humpert)

IMG_2570I saw very beautiful pieces of polymer jewellery and started to think of ours. Before the display I was thinking  we were very  basic  but when we sold our jewellery I feel very proud. People had admired our work. When people appreciated our work I thought of the ladies and I started to cry.  My eyes were wet every time. One other exciting event was our presentation. I felt very happy when we got aIMG_2421 standing ovation.

One thing I never forget is the breakfast items which was out of my thoughts! (R: With Cynthia Tinapple and her husband Blair Davis) [Ed: Sure wasn't much of the traditional Nepali breakfast of dal bhat to be found!]

Many times I have shared my memories of my conference stay with our Samunnat Ladies.  The first thing ladies wanted to hear was about their jewellery and what people thought of it. Second, they wanted to know what other people made and new things to learn. Thirdly, they wanted to know if people like our New Home.

I would like to thank to IPCA committee who helped us to participate in the conference. I would also like to thank you to Dear Wendy Didi for every step I took for the Malta visit. She encouraged me, took care of me.  Even crossing the road I catched her finger in Malta.  I felt very relieved and calm during our stay in Malta. As I said in our presentation:  I would never have thought that one day I would be physically present to be here in front of my dear friends.  I would never have dreamed that and it is like a miracle.  I want to say a big thank to… the IPCA who have helped me to be here…. To you all DHERAI DHANYABAD. 

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