Music Days 8 and 9 (Catching up!)

I had intended to write of the joys of community today. And in particular, South Africa being the village that it is, of how few degrees of separation there are between myself and the artists I adore. It’s amazing to be able to convey my thanks for music I have loved via friends, rather than anonymous social media platforms.

Like I said, I was going to write of the joys of community today. But I find myself instead a little exhausted by community! The ties that bind us so closely together can also tie us down, and a couple of conversations recently have reminded me of some of the pitfalls of heightened interdependence. We feel those pressures keenly during the intense festive season, and I find myself longing for some quiet calm, for myself, and for the people I care about.

I guess to that end, some gentle music is appropriate.

Music Day 2 - Don't Leave Me

I drove more than 100km today! It was worth it. Goddaughters happily dropped off at school with a kiss on the forehead, and then driving on the N1 towards a beautifully lit mountain. It rained last night. The soil smelled fresh and rich this morning, and waterfalls adorned Hoerikwaggo. I passed cattle, goats and sheep, large patches of open land, tightly packed houses, large factories and shopping malls. It is hard not to be struck by the grandeur of this city when driving through so much of it in one day.

I’ve shared this video before, but it bears repeating. The aesthetic is so wonderfully reflective of South African material culture. I happen to be a particularly big fan of the singer, who I know to be incredibly kind. Enjoy it as you head into the weekend.

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Music with which to end the year

This year has been a full one for me, and probably for you too! I don’t know many people who aren’t feeling overwhelmed and heartsore at the end of 2018.

For Beloved it has been a year of highs and lows. Some of our teams’ families have grown, and other team members have been seriously ill. For a while it looked like Cape Town was heading for ‘Day Zero’, the day the water would run out, only for abundant rain to fall in the winter. We moved studio, went to Zurich and Paris, finished a commissioned artwork and published a new catalogue. Just when I was really starting to enjoy making some shop improvements with my own hands this November, and really loving becoming physically strong with the help of an amazing body engineer, I was hit with appendicitis and emergency surgery! I am readying myself for more applications to Home Affairs next year, and praying that my permanent residency comes soon so that I can finally call this place my home for sure. And in general, it feels like South Africa is having some tough conversations with itself, and recognising the need to grieve and to address monumental injustices. This city, and this country, continue to be one of the most deeply beautiful and terrifyingly painful places to live in.

In the midst of all this, I find myself turning to music for solace and comfort, and in doing so I am reminded of the overflowing cup that is South African music and culture. I am not exaggerating when I say this country is absolutely oozing with talent. So I thought I would share some of the music that is ‘giving me life’, as the lovely people over at Code Switch would say, for the last few days of the year.

I recently attended the final performance of the year by Sky Dladla, a postgraduate music student at UCT. I knew it was going to be good, but wow! She reminded me, so powerfully, of the potential music offers for healing. It felt like the room was shaking. The audience couldn’t help but make noise, weep, move, whoop for joy, and generally revel in the beauty of what Sky was doing. I sat there, in a small university room, marveling that I get to witness such a gift.

The first song I want to share, therefore, is Sky’s piece iFele, which she recently released on SoundCloud. I can’t get it out of my head, and keep finding myself singing it out loud as I walk through car parks, sit at my desk, or wonder round shops! I’d highly recommend following her career.

There will be more music to follow in the next few days and weeks. If you would like these to land in your email inbox, please use the sign up form below. I’ll delete the list once the series is over. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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The New Catalogue

I realise this is not something I’m supposed to say, but I’m not in love with our new catalogue.

Don’t get me wrong, it is full of utterly beautiful objects made and sold by my phenomenal colleagues. I am so proud of us.

But there aren’t enough hours in the year for me to do visual justice to what we do. Honestly I could spend double, triple, quadruple the amount of time photographing, editing, styling our work, and I still don’t think I’d be happy.

So it’s with a caveat that I share our new catalogue with you:

Here’s our new, beautiful catalogue, I’m really proud of us, but please know that however good the beadwork looks on the page, it looks and feels even more beautiful in real life!

Bead Art from Africa - In Switzerland!

As anyone who has received the current auto-reply on my email will know, the last few weeks have been very busy at Beloved. At the end of May we relocated our studio space back to Montebello. We have very much missed our two colleagues who have been on maternity leave (and fallen in love with their gorgeous babies, who thankfully are doing very well). Mado is back with us, and Esther will follow in July. Plans are afoot for our next catalogue, about which we are very excited. And, last but by no means least, Laurence and I went to Switzerland!


It was a trip of a lifetime for us. The Rietberg Museum in Zurich received the extraordinary gift of a large and varied beadwork collection, the Mottas Collection, and this has formed the basis of their current Perlkunst Aus Afrika (Bead Art from Africa) exhibition. To our great joy, they have also included our large beaded world map, Who Is The Artist?, in the exhibition, alongside work by two of our favourite South African artists - Ladumo Ngxokolo and Andrew Putter. 

As well as being invited to attend the official opening and press meeting, we also had the privilege of conducting a workshop for the museum staff and a practical class for eight members of the public. I think it's fair to say that our participants left their class with a newfound admiration for bead artists. Learning beadwork is very taxing on your memory, fine motor, spacial reasoning and mathematical skills. We had a lot of fun introducing a lovely room of people to the brick stitch method, which is a very popular method in South Africa.

workshop at Rietberg.jpg

Entering the museum on the first day was an incredible experience. We completed our artwork last year in August, and since September 2017 it has been living in France, so we hadn't seen it for eight months. Imagine my joy, then, at descending the staircase at the Rietberg, and seeing our work hanging front and centre, and beautifully lit!

Beloved Beadwork at the Rietberg Museum.jpg

I would highly recommend a visit to the Rietberg website, or if you're lucky enough to be in Switzerland, to the museum itself! (You might even find some Beloved pieces for sale in the shop.) We were so warmly and kindly welcomed by the museum, and being there was an enormous honour.

The Night Garden at Montebello

We have had space at Montebello Design Centre for nine years now! It is our first home, the place where our business enjoyed a well-supported infancy and adolescence. It is also an incredibly beautiful place to spend our time at. Verdant, full of trees, and full of creative people making, and teaching others how to make gorgeous artworks, objects, gardens, fragrances and food.

Once in a while we open up in the evenings. It's a particularly special atmosphere, full of music, twinkling lights, and good food. Please put our next event in your calendar and consider joining us. I'll be in our Beloved space, working on a commissioned artwork.

Montebello Night Garden.jpg

In Defense of Women of ‘Childbearing Age’

A lot of our time at Beloved involves intricate, hours-long work weaving tiny beads together, or organising our ridiculously abundant bead collection. That work requires vast amounts of visual attention, but since it has become so routine to us, our brains can get a little bored. Podcasts and audiobooks, therefore, often save the day. I have a number of favourites, but one particular podcast that has me clicking the ‘refresh’ button on the podcast app every day at lunch time is BBC Woman’s Hour. It is a fantastically wide-ranging programme, covering very serious issues as well as quite fun, frivolous ones, and everything in between.

Today I caught up on Friday’s episode, and I was a little disappointed. Not for the first time, the subject of discrimination against women of ‘childbearing age’ during job interviews in the UK was discussed, owing to new findings released by a YouGov study commissioned by the Young Women’s Trust.  I would recommend listening to it here:

My disappointment was in the comments read out after the piece. It seems to have become standard practise that the comments of a small business owner will be broadcast in response, in which said small business owner will talk of how difficult it is when staff need maternity leave, and how much their business suffers as a consequence. What angers me is that the voices of the small business owners who believe in maternity leave provision never seem to be heard.

Since Laurence and I opened Beloved nine years ago, at least twelve babies have been born to members of our staff team, meaning that at least half of our team have had maternity leave. All bar one of our team are of ‘childbearing age’. I simply cannot imagine employing anyone but the fine, intelligent, capable women who make Beloved. It is true, we are lucky that the work we do is compatible with children accompanying their parent to work. For our at-home staff the work set up is ideal, but even for our shop and management team we make provision for babies to accompany our team for at least the first year of their lives. Nevertheless, it is not without cost to us. Although in theory it is possible to collect three months of pay from the Unemployment Insurance Fund, in reality the system is horrid and disciminatory, so we offer three months of fully paid leave ourselves and flexible working after that. So when I hear employers complaining in the UK, employers who are reimbursed by the government for their maternity leave pay costs, you can imagine that it gets on my nerves.

My motivations for offering such a workplace are two-fold. The first is ideological. I’m a feminist, I believe in paid maternity and paternity leave. The second is purely selfish. The thing that no one mentions is that, as a general rule, members of staff who feel fully supported when pregnant and caring for small children are some of the most loyal employees you will ever have. Our staff turnover is very low. Yes we have to make sacrifices when key members of staff are away, but it is made up for by how little we have to invest in training. And the joy of visiting colleagues in hospital when their babies are just a few hours old (or in one case, assisting a delivery in the back of my car!) is beyond description.

My colleague's lovely baby, who spent many days of her first year in our shop. The toys we keep in our workshop to entertain our team's kids. Another colleague's daughter, born in my car six years ago, now a big fan of swings!

My colleague's lovely baby, who spent many days of her first year in our shop.
The toys we keep in our workshop to entertain our team's kids.
Another colleague's daughter, born in my car six years ago, now a big fan of swings!

I truly understood the value of such a policy when I was diagnosed with early breast cancer in 2014. I was devastated, and decided on major surgery. This meant that I needed four months of leave, and a slow return to work thereafter. I didn’t need to worry about my business, though, because it was in the safe hands of my amazing colleagues. Truly, the business was in better shape when I returned than it was when I left. My team offered me the same support that they had received when pregnant or caring for small children.

This is what we need to remember as small business owners. Yes, we carry a lot on our shoulders. Yes, making ends meet is really hard. But we, like our staff, are human beings. The more we treat our staff like they are deserving of consideration and support, the more likely we will receive the same. Ultimately our businesses will be better for it.

In Craft There Is Neither Male Nor Female

When I was a child, my mum and I would meander around the shops, and I would point to clothing I liked. More often than not she would say ‘It’s lovely, but we can make something like that’. By the time I was thirteen I had caught on to the way that popular accessory shops dressed up very basic materials, simply assembled, as luxury items, and begun to make and sell my own. I remember my dad taking me to buy my first plier set in an antique tool shop. I thought I was in heaven! I still have those pliers.

‘We can make that ourselves’ has become a family mantra, and has subtly and unexpectedly informed my career ever since. I’m rarely happy buying off-the-shelf display solutions, for example (with the exception of De Steyl’s furniture, which we use in abundance in our shops because it is so versatile and beautiful). I far rather repurpose something obscure, or make a system from scratch.

My lovely mum painting our new earring display!

My lovely mum painting our new earring display!

We were recently faced with a dilemma in our workshop. There are lots of dividing walls, and we needed space to display and store finished pieces and our burgeoning sample bead collection. The dividing walls, however, were not the kind that one could drill shelf brackets into. They are made of light plaster and paper with a few supporting pillars inside them, and have a habit of releasing a wallplug along with chalky dust every time any weight is placed on them. Eventually though, equipped with a long 8mm drill bit, some clothing eyelets sourced from Prime Fastener, pretty paperclips, tiny clothes pegs, and some really great cord from Kwaai Lappies, we used weaving to solve the problem.

I think this is one of the things I love about Cape Town the most. This really is a manufacturing city. If there is an obscure part or fitting you need, you’ll find it here. More importantly, smaller stores are often staffed extremely well. In my local hardware store, Mica, I can go with bizarre requests and rough sketches, and they’ll help me find the part that will make the project come together. The paint department know what I’m going to ask for before I even say it (that’s because it’s always dark grey!).

The new stock and bead storage system on our ubiquitous grey walls!

The new stock and bead storage system on our ubiquitous grey walls!

Our primary work at Beloved is very light on tools. We need beads, needles, thread, some scissors, pliers, and small metal hooks, chains or clasps. That’s it. Building the display systems and doing special projects, however, uses multiple tools. For the world map called Who Is The Artist that we made recently, I used:

A hammer
A cordless drill
A sewing machine
Zips and fabric
Electricians wire cutters
Strong construction wire and large crimps
Curtain rail brackets
Felt tip pens
Copper pipe and wooden dowling
A pipe cutter and a hacksaw
A sharp knife
Lots of needles
30kg of glass
1.5km of multi-filament thread

Our beaded map of the world bead trade, 'Who Is The Artist?', hanging in the gorgeous shop window at the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris, France.

Our beaded map of the world bead trade, 'Who Is The Artist?', hanging in the gorgeous shop window at the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris, France.

We tend to think of craft as split up into traditionally male and female domains. Carpentry for men, sewing for women etc. Truly good craft practise, though, requires comfort and a can-do attitude with all kinds of tools, and a toolkit which completely ignores patriarchal gender binaries.

Beaded World Map of the World Bead Trade!

(We will think of a better name for it before we finish making it!)

There's a conversation we find ourselves repeatedly having in our shops. We'll brag to a visitor about the amazing Japanese glass seed beads we use in our work, and they'll say 'oh, why don't you use South African ones?'. We'll explain that South Africa doesn't have, and never has had, a glass seed bead factory. All of the beads that have ever been used in South African beadwork have been imported. At this point we discover quite how Eurocentric many of our education systems are, because many people's next assumption is that glass seed beads must therefore have arrived with European sailors and colonisers. 

The world trade in small glass beads is, in fact, at least three centuries older than Christianity. Britain was busy being invaded by the Belgics and Julius Caesar when the trade was getting underway in the pacific. As Peter Francis Jr. states in his book 'Asia's Maritime Bead Trade, 300BC to the Present':

"The Indo-Pacific bead industry produced one of, if not the, most widespread and ubiquitous trade items of all time, surviving well over 2000 years... The study of these small beads may furnish clues to wider questions being asked by scholars about the past. They have the potential to generate hypotheses about the historical relations between people."

Laurence and I decided that we needed to create a piece of art that could communicate the incredible history of glass seed beads and their trade. We began the planning a few weeks ago and we are finally ready to start stringing it. All 560 lines of it!

A few years ago we developed a system for making enormous beaded artworks using 5mm glass seed beads, which make a solid, yet transparent image. The largest we ever made was nine metres wide and three metres tall. It features in this video about the commissioning artist, Bili Bidjocka:

Our current, self-commissioned piece, is in one way less ambitious - it'll only be 2.8 metres wide. What is lacks in width, however, it more than makes up for in complexity!

When we embarked upon this project, I rather naively assumed that someone would have already made a visual representation of the history of the glass bead trade. Ha! I have searched high and low and am yet to find such a map! So what began as a visual arts project has now also become an academic exercise in trying to get my hands on as much data as possible. This project has reminded me of a feeling I had long forgotten. Whilst researching essays on exchange at the University of British Columbia I would find that every piece of work threatened to become a thesis. Every text referenced in another was available to me in the absurdly well stocked library or online. (This was never a problem at the University of Glasgow, where every book I wanted had to be brought up from London at considerable expense!)

This project too is threatening to become a thesis. I had no idea of the extent of industry and trade in the Pacific for the past few thousand years! We kept saying to ourselves 'well, if we begin on the eastern side of the map, we can keep researching as we work, because trans-Pacific bead trading only began relatively recently', so we can be sure we know all the trade routes we need to indicate there at least until we get to the Philippines'. How wrong we were. The Chinese were exporting beads to Manila in the 16th century which were then taken to Mexico by the Spanish, and in the 18th century "The Russians, who were barred from using Chinese ports, bought beads along the Mongolian border and took them during their first expedition to Alaska" (Francis Jr, 2002, p67). 

Because we are desperate to start work, and if we waited until I was sure I had read everything on the subject it would take years, we have had to accept that this artwork will not be a definitive academic data source, but rather a beautiful representation of some of the many, many trade routes of glass beads across the globe across time.

I'll be posting lots of photographs and intriguing findings from my research as time goes on. For now, here are a few pictures of Laurence and I setting up our paper map which will guide our stringing. When we finish we'll have a time-lapse video of the whole piece being made. And if you happen to be in Newlands, Cape Town in the next few weeks, please pop in to Montebello, and you'll be able to see it in progress for yourself!

Time For Some Colour

It is difficult to overstate the degree of adoration I hold for Laura Mvula. Not only is she an incredibly talented, insightful and compassionate person, she also brings together my two worlds! Like me she is from the UK Midlands, and like me she is madly in love with South Africa. The first time I saw one of her videos I couldn't believe the way she had captured the beauty of this country, and I was assuming that she was South African. When I found out that we are from the same place I could barely believe it. 

This video is set in the Bo Kaap, and area of Cape Town only a few kilometres from both of our shops. Enjoy!

Beautiful Women of JL Zwane

I often feel torn in my writing here. I want to write of the wonders of Cape Town, to act as unofficial tourist guide and tell you of all the amazing things to be found here. Nowhere on earth have I witnessed such scenery, such incredible food and wine, such culture and such a vibrant creative economy. It is important to talk about these things; to bring to light the layers of beauty and nuance of this place. Doing so, however, always makes me feel like I am betraying the people I love. Much as this is, in so many ways, an astonishingly beautiful place, it is also terribly, terribly ugly. 

Last night I dreamed of a massacre. Humans flung over walls, body parts littering the streets. Such dreams aren't unusual for me. They are my subconscious' desperate attempt to process the absurdities of life here. People I love dearly have daily experiences of systemic exclusion and discrimination, which not only damage their souls but also leave them in physical danger. Whether it is doctors who are not held to account when a colleague's baby's heart defect is undetected ('you mustn't worry so much Mummy, he is just chesty because it is winter'), leading to his profound disability and eventual painful death, or police who aren't even called when a child goes missing or someone narrowly escapes gang rape because it is pointless to try. There is the terrible, soul-destroying, life limiting slow burn of daily micro-aggressions, and the shocking degree of violence facilitated by centuries of theft and murder. My British compatriots who look back nostalgically upon the days of colonialism are incomprehensible to me. To live in South Africa with your eyes opened is to understand the true depth of inhumanity perpetrated under that system in the past, and which continues to be perpetrated in today's proto-colonial environment. All this in a city full of mansions and expensive cars.

I need to add a very large caveat here. I only experience these things by proxy. The daily micro-aggressions are not aimed at me. I do not fear the police. I watch beautiful, talented, black friend after friend move to Johannesburg or overseas because Cape Town's economy does not serve them, refuses, in fact, to do so. The pain of losing them is terrible, but it is nothing compared to feeling so unwelcome and alienated in one's own country. I have never felt that alienation. Not at home, and not here either. I watch as kind, atrociously underpaid women work together to emotionally comfort and ease the physical pain of a profoundly disabled young woman. I watch them in awe, but I am not the one who has to do that daily work, and travel home on unsafe transport to inadequate housing. It is only through the eyes of others that I am able to see these things, only because they have honoured me with their trust.

So it is that the experience of living in this city is one of profound cognitive dissonance. It is possibly the world's most beautiful and the world's ugliest city. The ugliness comes not only from the atrocities against people's bodies and souls, but from the fact that this city genuinely has the resources to overcome these things. There is wealth here beyond my wildest imaginings. The poverty is one of willingness, imagination, kindness and courage, not money.

In the midst of this dissonance I sought comfort in the familiar, in music and community. When I was growing up I was incredibly lucky to be exposed, via the Iona Community, to Xhosa music. I could sing pretty accurately in Xhosa long before I lived here. (A privilege that is not extended even to children in Cape Town's wealthy schools!) The Iona Community maintained a connection with a church nearby my home, JL Zwane Presbyterian, so once I finally obtained my driver's license seven years ago, I began to attend.

My relationship with religion is a complicated one, and I won't elaborate on that for now. What I wish to speak about today is the coping skills I have learned through being welcomed into the community of JL Zwane. The importance of the routine of meeting weekly to sing, dance, cry, laugh and think together cannot be overstated. It is a group of people who understand the importance of action as well as words. It is, in short, the tradition I grew up in; one which marries good music and supportive community with the imperative of working for social justice.

Within JL Zwane there are many clubs and societies, one of which is Young Women. A supportive, committed group of women, who have taught me the importance of straight talking self expression, and the most radical act of self love.

Last year we decided to celebrate our beauty with a photoshoot. I was honoured to be the photographer. We used Beloved's vast studio space and spent a few hours having a lot of fun. We took hundreds of photos, and choosing between them hasn't been easy. Nevertheless, here are a few of my favourites. 


I'll be posting more images on our Instagram account over the next couple of months.

I wish a peaceful, kind, good week to my friends at JL Zwane, and to all our Beloved family, especially those whose daily work involves fighting structural injustice. You are the visionaries this city desperately needs.

The Beloved Body

There is an enormous amount of insight to be gained from watching people try on jewellery. Sometimes it is just joyful. A visitor will put on a pair of earrings, lift the mirror, and smile at her reflection. The earrings bring out something in her face that she has always liked. Or they compliment the colour of her eyes, and she remembers her mother saying what a deep blue her eyes are, how special they are. Or the earrings express a part of her personality that her face alone cannot, and she is excited, as all humans are upon such a discovery, that she has found a means through material culture to show the world a little of her identity. 

The latter is always the greatest joy to me. Over eight years I've had the privilege of customers, and friends, and customers who have become friends, telling me of the conversations they have had whilst wearing their Beloved pieces. People on the street, on buses, on trains, senior colleagues who haven't previously noticed them, or the cleaner on their floor who they have always wanted to engage but never knew how, these people will stop them and say ‘those earrings’ or ‘that necklace’, ‘I have never seen anything like it. Where did you find it, who made it, what is it made from?’

This, you see, was my dream in creating Beloved. I grew up in a deeply egalitarian household. My father, an Anglican vicar, had a congregation whose circumstances spanned the spectrum of human experience. Whether a judge, a struggling artist, a banker, a school teacher, a refugee fleeing torture, a person who could not find employment or love, my father would do his level best to make you welcome in our church and in our home. With this in mind, I never wanted to create cultural artefacts that enabled or exacerbated socio-economic divides. I never wanted someone to look at a person wearing one of our pieces and think ‘that person is too fancy, they would never want to speak to me’. The feedback I receive tells me that we have managed to avoid that trap, and I am extremely grateful for this.

The purpose of this post, however, is to talk about the people, mostly women, whose faces do not light up when they try on a piece that they love. From afar they spot our work, see something in it that expresses something of who they are, and make their way to our stand to look, touch, and try. I know they love it before they put it on. Eight years in this business has taught me to see the glint in someone's eye that betrays their desire for a piece. I am so happy when I see that. They put it on, lift the mirror to their face, and an instant sadness hits them. Quickly they take it off. ‘I don't have a nice enough neck for those. It is made for those young women with tall necks.’ Or ‘If I wear this it will draw attention to my scars’. Some are in so much pain over the way they feel about their body that they don't even notice the jewellery when they lift that mirror.

It is this reaction that breaks my heart. Not because of the lost sale, but because I can all too readily identify with their fear. We are taught to embody the hatred levelled at us. When we say ‘I'm too x’ (x= fat/thin/tall/short/wrinkly) what we are often really saying is ‘I am not good enough’. In a patriarchal, ageist, racist, heteronormative, aesthetically obsessed culture, there are negative messages coming at us from every angle to keep us hungry for products to ‘fix’ us, and to ensure that women have an extra barrier to self acceptance and growth. These messages are absorbed into our skin like cocoa butter, into our minds like song lyrics, they are there ready and waiting to be used by our hearts to explain why we cannot find the loving acceptance that we seek, to make us acquiesce to the idea that we are not good enough, to make us endlessly strive for acceptance in a society that has no intention of fully validating us.

I am writing this on the third anniversary of my double mastectomy. It is not an easy thing to write about, and it is tempting to preserve a self-protective silence. Yet, I am also driven to speak because the experience taught me, and continues to teach me, so much about the messages I have absorbed about my body.

One of the means by which I told myself I was not good enough in the past was to point to my stomach. Even when I lost a lot of weight my tummy was stubborn. It remained to taunt me. I strove constantly to hide it, to manage it. I am not alone in this; there is a reason that spanks have been so successful! I wished, I prayed it would be flat and tiny, resented its presence daily. Then in February 2014 I was diagnosed with an early form of breast cancer. 

The early days were dominated by discussions of risk, cause, treatment options, recurrence rates, genetic testing, and frantic calls to my medical insurance company. As that noise died down, as the path became clear to me, we turned to reconstruction options. 

Imagine my utter shock when I learned that my long-hated tummy was to be my salvation. The most recent development in breast reconstructive surgery involves taking a person’s outer stomach tissue, and using it to make new breasts. Breasts that are warm, soft, that age with the rest of you. The operation can only be done if you have ‘enough’ tissue to spare.

So this time three years ago I was saying goodbye to a part of myself that I had always hated, and now was so utterly grateful for. I had wasted years disparaging my saving grace.

I cannot say this to the stranger at my shop who picks up our mirror and recoils. Yet I am desperate to. I want to grab them by the shoulders and say ‘you are perfect, you belong, you are beautiful just the way you are and you deserve to express yourself like anyone else’. Instead I have to watch them walk away deflated.

I'm writing this in the hope that if you are one of the people who owns our pieces, and there are days when you dare not wear it for fear of drawing attention to yourself, or if you ever wonder ‘Was this really made for young/pretty/skinny/*insert label here* women? Am I really their target audience?’, you will know that you are the person we had in mind when we made your piece. We had in mind your scars, your ‘short’ neck, your ‘thick’ wrist, your ‘dry’ skin, and we don't care for the excuses society has used to put you down. We care about the content of your character, and if you have chosen to express that character through wearing Beloved then we could not be more honoured.

Music and Taxes

I sometimes have a rather interesting conversation in one of my shops. A visitor will look at our work, ask if I am the designer, and say 'it must be lovely to work with beads all day'. Yah, I can imagine it would be! The thing you're warned of continually when you begin a business based on your passion is that you'll only get to spend about 10% of your time exploring that passion, and the other 90% will be strategic planning, spreadsheets, procurement headaches, and taxes. It's still worth it though. Lucky for me I really love the people I get to work with every day. The Beloved team is a group of incredibly dedicated, kind and intelligent women, so whenever I'm tempted to moan about the spreadsheets or tax paperwork, I am reminded that it is work worth doing.

The other day I sat down to do a day of financial statements (we grew again, yeay!), and thought that I would treat myself to a new album to listen to while I did so. By complete chance I came across Zaneliza: How The Water Moves by Msaki. What a treat! She's so amazing she's competing for space in my heart with Simphiwe Dana, Thandiswa Mazwai and Laura Mvula (it's ok, I'll just have to make some extra room). 

So if you're faced with a boring work task today, I would highly recommend this album to get you through the day!