What a great day.
It started with a 08h15 rendezvous at the Bead Market in Warwick Junction, where even the Metro Police seemed to show their support by turning a blind eye as we parked & excitedly squashed into 3 cars on a yellow line infront of their kiosk.
Despite some illness and family responsibilities on the part of a few participants, we were really pleased with the attendance and quite taken aback with everyone’s excitement. In total 11 producers attended the workshop, which was held in the lovely Park Gallery at the KZNSA. We were fittingly surrounded by the vibrant colours of artwork from the KZNSA’s Member’s Exhibition and those visiting the exhibition added an extra dynamic to the workshop, not being able to resist oohing and aahing at the existing and emerging products on the table in front of the producers.
Local jeweller Nicky Savage of Savage Jewellery and jewellery lecturer at DUT co-facilitated with Mags Shapiro of e-Spaza, with Mamile Cele as Zulu/English translator and Andrew Griffin of e-Spaza, with his usual fresh eye, documenting on video and stills photography.
Minenhle Shozi tells her story
We began with personal stories of how the beadworkers came to learn their craft. The majority have learned as a family tradition and spoke of the value of being able to earn their own living with their own hands, rather than trying to seek employment in the current financial climate (the unemployment rate in South Africa is around 25,5%).
Mags (+1) on a role
Mags from e-Spaza and Gloria Hoff from the KZNSA Shop shared some of the challenges faced by retailers including availability of product, communication with producers and quality expectations, especially of overseas buyers. The producers spoke of their challenges, including fierce competition at the Bead Market, a lack of new product ideas, copying of those precious new ideas that do emerge and a lack of access to new markets.
Gloria Hoff of the KZNSA Shop sharing her many years of craft retail experience
We had a great debate around whether to try to control the prices in the market for existing products, hide new ideas and show select customers in secret, or whether to take the approach of abundance – accepting that design inevitably involves plaigarism, viewing copying as a compliment and focusing on continuous innovation, while always seeking new markets. Let’s just say the jury is still out on that one!
After lots of sharing and talking, we rolled up our sleeves. Nicky took the beaders through a series of practical exercises around finding inspiration and stimulating creativity, by looking at the immediate environment with new eyes, seeing everything from flowers to buses as potential new product ideas.
We explored the KZNSA shop and paged through magazines and all other conceivable printed material available to us to find inspiration. We played with colours and shapes and soon the tables were overflowing with ideas, storyboards and colourways.
Then came time to choose beads and decide on a new product idea to test.
The producers left with bagsful of beads and a host of new ideas. We regroup next Wednesday and can’t wait to see what has begun to emerge!
When asked for key learnings from the day, Sakhile Mabasa said,
“I didn’t know you could have a shop on the computer like e-Spaza. I learnt that there are many different ways to sell – not just face to face.”
“I’ve learnt alot. Like that I can come up with new products by making small changes to my older products,” said Thandi Shozi.
“It was so nice to see my products in the KZNSA Shop,” said Thandeka Phewa, “It shows me people want them and that they are selling.”
Toe Shozi said, “I can see now that one design only won’t work. I must think of new ideas all the time.”
“I am thankful for this. Sharing ideas together helps us to see things differently,” said Goodness Mfunsi.