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Beloved Beadwork

Cape Town, South Africa

- Beaded Jewelry

As the thoroughly British daughter of a left wing Anglican priest and a schoolteacher, Anna Richerby studied anthropology and economics at Glasgow University, did lots of very worthy volunteer work and looked forward to a career in "development" or something similar.  Though she had beaded since the age of eleven, Anna never thought she had it in her to be a designer.  It dawned on her only when she began to work in NGOs in Cape Town after university, and Anna was repeatedly being asked to teach bead work, that she thought it might be a potential career.

Anna began working at a refugee center teaching students bead work and English.  In turn, they taught her everything she needed to know about the realities of the Cape Town economy, how to survive as a migrant and what good friendship means.  They joined forces with beaders from other backgrounds and out of their encouragement and pure insistence; Beloved Beadwork was born in 2009.

The driving purpose of Beloved Beadwork's work is to explore and attempt to answer three questions:

  • How can the company push the medium of beadweaving to its fullest potential, in order to both produce beautiful products and contribute to the strong tradition of beadweaving in South Africa?

    How can beadwork be used to illustrate complex mathematical concepts, including the interplay between mathematics and natural form?

    And what would a socially transformed, ethically minded, Black Conscious, feminist, arts-based business look like, and can Beloved Beadwork achieve it?

The more Anna works in the industry the more she realizes that her upbringing and education destined her to be a designer.  From an early age she was encouraged to dream of other worlds, to like change, and to challenge the way things are.  That is what designers do.  Designers take a look at things from another angle; they do not take for granted that just because something is done a certain way, that is the best way to do it.  They shift things, reshape things, and posit alternatives.

Beloved Beadwork is comprised of a socially diverse team of 20 expert beaders who work from home in Cape Town.  They use unusual stitches, intricate color schemes, and the best possible glass beads and thread sourced from Japan, the Czech Republic, India and the US.  Their aim is to push the boundaries of the bead work tradition in South Africa, and to produce distinct, original pieces of work which can be considered "wearable art."  Their interest also lies in contributing to a transformed and ethical craft sector, which develops good creative skills and enables a high quality of life for all its members.


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