There’s nothing like handmade beads to make a jewelry design truly unique, and beads with a story are the best of all. Today my guest is Desiree Malan, the designer behind Earthbutter ceramic beads. With the help of local moms, her studio in South Africa is a source for fabulous focals and accent beads.
Inspirational Beading: When did you first get started with bead design?
Desiree: I started making beads at the end of 2009 after having seen pictures of Egyptian paste beads in a very old pottery making book. Something clicked and I realized that I could use pottery clay to make beads and jewellery. I use terracotta clay which is dug from soil deposits in my hometown to make tiles, and my bead making journey started with this terracotta clay.
Inspirational Beading: What is your favorite thing about working with a team?
Desiree: I enjoy listening to the bead makers stories and I learn so much from them about life in general. Despite their circumstances (they are single moms with little support) they always see humour in life and make the best of what they have.
Inspirational Beading: Has outsourcing some of the process changed your designs?
Desiree: Yes, definitely. I get bored doing the same thing over and over again and then loose interest. The bead ladies roll the beads by hand, make holes and tidy them up before they’re fired in my pottery studio. I do the decorating of the beads which is the part I’m enjoying and good at. I have lots of ideas for special art beads with a distinctive African flair which I’ll do in the near future.
Inspirational Beading: What’s the most interesting or unique thing about the bead making process?
Desiree: For me the magic starts when a piece of clay is shaped by hand into a perfectly round bead without the use of a mold.
Inspirational Beading: How long does it usually take to make each bead?
Desiree: The bead ladies can roll a lot of beads quickly but firing and glazing is very time consuming. Once the beads are bone dry, they’re fired to remove all moisture, thereafter painted with underglaze, fired again and painted once more with transparent glaze before it goes into the kiln for the third firing. From start to finish it takes about 10 – 14 days.
Inspirational Beading: Do you have a favorite color to work with?
Desiree: I absolutely LOVE turquoise but are also keen on bright orange and cherry red.
Inspirational Beading: What is the most exciting bead design in stock right now?
Desiree: Difficult to say as I’m in love with all our beads…but probably the turquoise raku beads.
Inspirational Beading: Who do you hope to inspire with your work?
Desiree: I hope to inspire the bead makers to make the most of life for them and their children despite their difficult circumstances. It gives them so much pleasure and hope when they hear that people from faraway places are buying the beads they’ve made here in South Africa.
You can learn more about Desiree and the bead makers behind her fabulous ceramic creations on the Earthbutter Beads blog. Handmade ceramic beads are also available on Etsy. To see the latest creations and get news about upcoming designs, follow Earthbutter Beads on Facebook.
Copyright 2012 Inspirational Beading and Earthbutter Beads
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