Tucked away in the rolling hills of Kenya, Susan Lady Wood continues to be remembered as a visionary of our time. She was born on African soil with a deep love for her country and was always driven to help the lives of the people in Kenya. Susan Lady Wood was recognized as the "unsung hero” and founder of Kazuri Beads, a social enterprise that continues to empower over 300 women artisans. Paulette Walther, U.S. Distributor, says, “She was ahead of her time with regard to women’s rights and in ways of making a true and sustainable difference. Today it is fashionable to give back, Lady Wood was doing this thirty-eight years ago.”
The life of Lady Wood was a romantic one. She lived on the picturesque Karen Blixon plantation, where the famed movie Out of Africa was filmed. Born in 1918, in a mud hut in the Belgian Congo, she was raised by her missionary parents who eventually sent her to England to receive her education. During this time, she met her husband and together decided to move back to Africa were they lived on their beautiful coffee plantation.
In 1975, Lady Wood founded Kazuri Beads, named for the swahili word "small and beautiful." She had a vision and started out small, with only the help of two women, a kiln, and the use of a small shed in her back garden. She began by working with these women to create clay beads, which soon developed into a collection of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. She was inspired to start this enterprise when she saw a few women trying to sell their beads in exchange for food. It was then that she took some of these ladies off the street and offered them a place to work on her plantation. At this time, it was socially unacceptable for women to be a part of the workforce, therefore Kazuri Beads has been monumental in its impact, giving single mothers and widows means to support as well as access to free health care and other educational opportunities.
Golden tones and textured swirls touch upon the aesthetic of these finely crafted clay beads. They are elegant in their earthly colors with designs of simple stripes, dots, swirls, and hints of gold and platinum. The collection reflects the colors and culture of Kenya, painted in a kaleidoscope of African colors, such as greens, browns, grays, ochres, yellows, reds, and blues. Kazuri Beads are inspired by Kenya's magical land of fiery skies and sunsets, natural imagery, and reflecting beauty.
All beads are entirely molded by hand and are sourced from clay which is collected from the nearby Mt. Kenya. Traditionally, clay beads were sun dried, but to improve strength and durability all pieces are fired, glazed, and then painted. The women alternate between duties, to keep their eyes and mind engaged. They work as a community, humming sweet tunes throughout the day, evoking a sense of joy and happiness for the work that they do.
To learn more about kazuri beads, please visit http://www.kazuribeadsusa.com.