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Lost in Nairobi - Searching for West African Beads

Beading is where my love of jewellery making started.


An early beaded necklace at my Aunt's wedding!


At the end of my time learning to Silversmith in Lamu, I spent some time with my aunt who lives in the capital city Nairobi.


Nairobi is a huge, bustling and rapidly developing city. I had once heard of a street deep in downtown Nairobi that was bead heaven - shops selling beautiful beads from all over Africa. I set off to look for it with my Aunt (a fellow creative), and we were soon in the thick of the hustle and bustle.


We approached a stall in a market selling beautiful handmade jewellery, and met Eric - a Nairobi local who had been taught the trade of making jewellery through generations of the trade in his family.


Eric kindly showed us where the heart of the bead trading was. We followed him down narrow streets, through markets and finally up to the top of an apartment building.



Walking with Eric through the streets of Nairobi


Here there was a group of bead merchants sorting deliveries of handmade beads recently delivered from West African countries such as Ghana, Ethiopia and Nigeria. It felt like walking into Aladdin's Cave...



Lost in creative heaven...

Eric and Johnson - Bead Traders


It was fascinating to hear the history and origins of the different types of beads. All were handmade, mostly using glass, and each so intricately painted they were like little works of art.


As usual I was drawn like a magnet to my favourite blues, and came away with a beautiful selection of ocean inspired colours.




Since being back in the UK I have been having fun creating designs with the beautiful beads. Below is an example of a small Operculum shell which I found, set in sterling silver and finally hung on a string of the gentle pale green beads I found on that exciting day in the depths of Nairobi.


West African Beads and Operculum Shell necklace.