a colourful journey

…So please pardon a longer post!  It has to be said that here in Birtamod we are BESIDE OURSELVES WITH EXCITEMENT!

In September, Paulette Walther contacted us having heard about our little group from Helen Breil, a Canadian polymer artist.  Paulette is the North American distributor of Kazuribeads-beautiful ceramic beads made by women in Africa.  For 38 years, the mission of Kazuri has been to grow and create meaningful employment and lift women and their families out of poverty.  The major part of their business is selling completed jewellery but for eight years now, Paulette has been helping them to grow their loose bead business and now their beads are sold to crafters who like to make their own jewellery.

In her introductory email, Paulette shared that she contacted us because she loved our mission and our beautiful beads and wanted to explore some possibilities … to see if this could be a win win collaboration for both of us.  Then, over a series of emails, Paulette sent honest, patient, frank and  encouraging replies to our hesitant, faltering, anxious and excited questions.  We sent her some samples of beads and to cut a long story short, Paulette is now going to market a range of our loose beads at The Tuscon Gem show in Arizona (late Jan through Feb, 2013.) Somewhat mindbogglingly to us here in Birtamod, there are over 50 shows in the town of Tuscon and several of the largest Bead shows in the world.  Tucson has over 100,000 prospective buyers attending shows as well as editors from all the major beading – crafting  magazines.  

Our beads will be marketed as Samunnat beads (it sounds obvious but in the past others people contacting us have not wanted to do this!) and they will ultimately be sold on Paulette’s new website which will be called Many Hands Market Place to reflect the increased range of groups she now represents.  Already we are very excited by the respectful and collaborative way that Paulette works and communicates and by her obvious experience in working with groups like ours.  Her passion to help the ladies, her understanding of the issues involved in working with small groups in the majority world (or whatever the politically correct term is these days) and her realistic expectations have given us the confidence to take on the largest order we have ever had.  To say that the results of this partnership could change lives would be an understatement. 

As we have hinted in recent blog posts, there has been a whopping great learning curve as we have explored pricing; efficient production processes; the value of two tables that stand evenly on the floor; and some equipment needs we have to improve our capabilities.  (Gosh, two lots of Kemper circle/ square cutters and a room we all fit in would be a good start!  We’re onto the cutters but the room may be a while down the track.)  

We have powered through clay at a rate of knots and have to completely rethink the amount we have in storage at any one time.  We are learning about new terminology, naming our ranges and colours and how to record orders, keep track of what we have made and what we need to make; and how to eliminate production hiccoughs.  We all talk about things together and think about different ways we can solve the problems.  Everyone has good ideas and we learn a lot from each other.  

We have shared frustrations about inefficient and notoriously corrupt government departments and some of us may have said some not very nice words. 

But we have also rejoiced at the creation of some really beautiful beads and the recognition of our talents and skills at a time when we can respond to moving to the next level.  Now we are working very hard to have the order of our beads ready for Paulette to launch in January.  If you happen to be passing Tuscon, Arizona make sure you visit the ” To Beads True Blue Show” (February 3 – February 8, 2013 and look for the Antelope Beads booth.) and the “Tuscon 22nd Street show” Jan 31 – Feb 17th – Tuscon, Arizona – look for the Small and Beautiful Beads Booth.  You can follow these event’s and more on Samunnat Beads on Paulette’s current site www.kazuriwest.com

When Malcolm dai came to Birtamod to visit his wife, he took some wonderful photos and Paulette is already using one of these on her site.  We had too much fun being models and are all going to get a copy of the eyes photo with ourselves in it.  We’ll keep you posted with developments and will let you know when Paulette’s new website is up and running.  For now, it’s back to the tables!

A Colourful Journey

A Colourful Journey