Today we're featuring Nyumbani Design based in Tanzania! Nyumbani Design's artisans carve geometrically abstract jewelry from locally sourced wood. We spoke with Kerry Glanfield about the struggles and ultimate triumphs of setting up a design studio in Dar es Salaam on the Swahili coast.
Can you tell us about your experience living in Tanzania?
Kerry: I moved to Tanzania in 2010 to escape British grey skies and the cold climate. Originally from the Caribbean, I grew up needing sunshine and after visiting Tanzania in 2009, I instantly knew I wanted to move here. I was immediately visually and creatively inspired by the diverse culture, colours and striking prints.
The ultimate challenges you face living here are the continual power cuts, the heat, communicating in another language and realizing that things will eventually get done in their own time – “pole pole” (“slowly, slowly” in Kiswahili). But all these things are a part of the adventure and waking up to beautiful blue skies and sunshine every morning makes it all worth it.
What inspired the shapes and design of your jewelry?
I am continually inspired by mankind’s desire to reconnect to surroundings through nature and the developing built environment. I design wooden pieces of Art that become a wearable extension of the body through strong geometric shapes and surface experimentation that are intrinsically inspired by architectural structures, natural formations and the balance between the two.
Tanzania is known for it’s stunning scenery, breathtaking beaches and thriving game reserves. As the country continues to grow, so does the effort in creating structural entities that act as a temporary home allowing tourists and residents to experience the enchantment of Tanzania. Each sound, view, object has inspired each piece, all a part of a continual evolving cycle where nature meets architecture.
Do you have any stories about the artisans you work with to make these signature pieces?
Tanzania is undeniably a home for local skilled artisans and when I started my venture, I began the task of locating craftsmen to assist with my vision. Clearly I have had my challenges along the way, namely my workers running away from me when they haven’t completed the job on time!
My jewellery artisans speak no English and so everyday is a learning curve in communicating with them in my basic Ki-swahili. Funnily enough, this week I received a hand-written formal letter from them so that I could ask a friend to translate for me. They amusingly address me as “Boss Kerry”.
Can you tell us more about your partnership with Trees for the Future?
When designing, it was important for me to experiment with local African materials to create with sustainable living in mind. As many know, sculpting wooden carvings is a renowned profession in Tanzania. I felt that in order to support wooden artisans in their professions but at the same time helping to restore the environment was key in contributing to Tanzania’s continual growth. Our partnership with the environmental project, Trees for the Future offered me the opportunity to assist in the plantation of trees in developing countries. With the help of Trees for the Future, for every wooden piece sold, a seed will be planted in Tanzania.
Finally, what advice would you give aspiring designers?
For me, I believe in people’s dedication to their vision. As a designer, there will always be new challenges that should be embraced. I believe that devotion and perseverance will ultimately drive you forward to achieving your vision.
Thanks, Kerry, for taking the time to talk about your work! For more information about Nyumbani Design and to view their products here.