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Tuesday, April 26, 2011


(Pic by Anna Lönnerstam: Story Vases from Siyazama)

Last month, Editions in Craft presented the Story Vases by Front and the Siyazama Project at Spazio Rossana Orlandi during the Salone Internazionale del Mobile / Milan Design Week 2011.

The Story Vases tells the personal stories of five women, Beauty Ndlovu, Thokozani Sibisi, Kishwepi Sitole, Tholiwe Sitole and Lobolile Ximba, living in remote villages in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. They are all members of the Siyazama Project, a collective of women who work with traditional beadcraft.

Recorded by the Swedish design collective Front, the stories are a unique documentation of the daily life of women in rural post-apartheid South Africa. They are stories that are rarely told and seldom heard.

“Together we created a project in which the women’s personal stories decorate the vases. Beauty, Kishwepi, Lobolile, Tholiwe and Thokozani told us about their everyday lives, their dreams, their finances, about what they wanted and what they would do, or buy, if they could afford it. We talked about family, love, life and death. They also talked about the Siyazama Project and what beadwork means to them,” says Sofia Lagerkvist of Front.

After Front and the women together selected the parts of conversations to work with, each woman formed their own story into text by threading glass beads on to metal wires. These wires were made into vase-shaped moulds, into which glass was blown. The glass process was then completed in Stockholm by master glassblower Reino Björk.

Bead craft is an important part of Zulu tradition, not only as a way of expression, but also as a means of communication and storytelling. In the past, patterns and colours were woven into beadwork, symbolizing feelings and ideas to lovers and friends, in a way almost similar to written language.

With the Story Vases, Front combines its conceptual approach to design, material and narrative to explore new ways of working with bead craft, as well as to provide an opportunity for the woman of the Siyazama Project to have their stories heard.

The Story Vases was conceived during a workshop held in Durban in November 2010 with Front and the five members of the Siyazama project. The vision was to develop a new product together by sharing techniques and exchanging ideas. The workshop was initiated and organised by Editions in Craft. The Story Vases is an ongoing series and each vase is available in a limited edition produced by Editions in Craft.

More information at