I went to Africa in 1995 and spent a summer living with a family in Eshisiru, Kenya, while volunteering at a school. My childhood best friend, Christi, had spent a few months in the same program and wrote me a letter about the family she lived with and the chicken that kept laying eggs on her pillow. It all sounded so magical that I decided to follow in her footsteps.
Living in Eshisiru was so different from the life I had experienced up until that point. I am a city girl but I loved the simplicity of the life I lead there––no electricity or running water, no appliances, just the bare necessities. It taught me how little you really need to live happily.
I loved learning Swahili and went on to study it further in university after I returned to the US. I still sing a few of the songs in Swahili that I learned from my students.
I was taught to cook ugali and sukuma wiki––the staple foods of the western region of Kenya made with ground corn and collard greens. Toward the end of my stay, I made a meal for 10 people to eat and my host "mom" told me I was now ready to be married!
While I source beads for my jewelry from small vendors all across the continent of Africa, my time there was spent in the east. I would like to visit the west coast when we can travel again to experience the differences of each culture. I use many Ghanaian beads in my designs and love their brightly colored textiles and gorgeous fabrics. I also would love to visit a Francophone country to use the French I learned in my international high school.
I have a small wooden chair, only a foot high and decorated with hammered nails, that I bought in Kakamega, Kenya and still use today. Visiting markets and bazaars off the beaten path is one of my favorite things about traveling. It inspired me to create the Found section of our site and store, full of treasures sourced from places I love, like the beautiful African textile face masks and coin purses made for us by a woman in Nairobi.
So much of the jewelry I create has Africa woven into the design, including Ghanaian lost wax beads, Ethiopian brass and white metal and Malian glass. The AFRICAN DANCER necklace is regal, strong, and beautiful–––like the lovely mama I had in Eshisiru.