A New Era for Bahari Blu
In the sand dunes near Shela village.
I have always loved making jewellery. From a young age I had fun experimenting with simple beaded designs, and as I grew up I became more confident using the different types of pliers, wire, and fastenings. These jewellery skills have got Bahari Blu to where it is today, and I have loved the journey so far.
But it is time for something new, and more challenging. Up until now I have taken pieces of sea glass and broken ceramic to be edged in silver by skilled silversmiths in Lamu, Northern Kenya. This is where my mother's family are based, and ever since I visited the silversmith's workshop five years ago I have longed to learn the techniques myself.
So, in the first slightly nerve-wracking year after graduating university, before the grips of 'real life' firmly take a hold, I jumped at the opportunity to finally spend an extended period of time learning, experimenting, and pushing myself as a jewellery maker.
A view of Shela village, located on an estuary on the Northern coast of Kenya
I moved to Lamu in early 2022, in tow with a makeshift silversmith's studio in my suitcase. I had spent a few months researching what I would need, reading blog posts and watching many an hour of Youtube tutorials uploaded by self-taught silversmiths. Lamu is a remote island on the Northern coast of Kenya, so I knew that whatever tools I would need - would have to arrive with me in that one suitcase.
Accompanied by my boyfriend (who conveniently can work remotely), we set our selves up in a little flat in the village of Shela, which is just a 40 minute walk from Lamu town. In the mornings I work remotely for a company back in Europe, looking forward to the afternoons where I am able to sit at my make-shift little studio bench, and continue learning the ropes of silversmithing.
The make-shift studio, featuring the make-shift wind break for breezy afternoons!
There has been a lot of trial and error, frustrating moments, and the realisation that this type of jewellery making takes a lot more time and thinking than the more simple techniques I had used to date. To help the learning process, every Monday I hop on the back of a motor bike (or 'boda boda' as they are called here), and head to Lamu town to spend the day in the silversmith workshop. I watch and learn, and ask any questions about things I have been struggling with.
Monday morning commute to the workshop in Lamu.
Omari (the head artisan) does not speak English, and so it is a case of sketching and symboling the questions I have. Once there is understanding, Omari patiently demonstrates the techniques that I should follow, generously sharing the knowledge he has gained after years of working with silver.
I have loved spending time in the workshop, watching how Omari and his team create the ceramic pendants and rings. This is where I have sourced the Up-Cycled Ceramic pendants that have been on the website for a few years, and I am excited to continue commissioning beautiful work from this family run silversmithing business, along side my own designs.
Omari showing me how to solder pieces of silver together in the workshop.
Donkey traffic jam in the street outside the Lamu workshop. There are no cars on Lamu island, and donkeys are used as the main form of transportation.