When does beadwork go from craft to art? The answer is when it comes out of the workshop of Beloved Beadwork! Not only is their wearable beadwork art but it’s science too as designs are often based on nature’s own mathematics and geometry (the Golden Ratio), and the number of beads and time it takes is carefully calculated. Such precision takes nothing away from the amazing creativity of their exquisite glass bead necklaces, cluster rings, bracelets and earrings.
Life takes unexpected turns and Anna Richerby from the UK never imagined that her lifelong love of beading would bring her to South Africa to start up Beloved Beadwork. Meeting other people skilled in beadwork through voluntary and anthropological work here, she couldn’t resist the forces that drew her towards recruiting these people and starting a business designing and hand-making original beaded jewellery that pushes traditional boundaries.
Beloved Beadwork opened at the beginning of the recession but has had great success selling through outlets like Cape Grace via Imagenius who source much of the stock for the hotel shop. Beloved Beadwork employs 11 people, more or less full time, most of whom work at home, except the designers and finishers like Anna, Laurence, Constance and Francine who work at the studio/shop at Montebello Design Centre, Newlands. Their distinctive Thousand Hills necklace can involve many beaders and take up to 20 hours to complete.
But why are people so attracted to beads? Joan Ericson, who wrote The Universal Bead, has a theory that it’s because beads are as attractive as eyes and humans are intrinsically drawn to eyes. When babies make eye contact it produces a happy response and this same response is elicited by beads. In short, they make us happy!
The best glass beads (for regularity of shape and interesting finishes) are nowadays produced in Japan and the Czech Republic. But it’s what they do with these beads that makes Beloved Beadwork stand out from the rest. See their beautiful creations at Cape Grace or adorning models at Fashion Week catwalk shows, also at the National Gallery and Imagenius shop at 117 Long Street, Cape Town.