I love welcoming people to our shop and telling the Mulberry Mongoose story. Our passion for creating a positive story with each piece we craft. It’s easy to forget, when dealing with a daily and ever growing to do list, the impact we make just through sourcing local materials. We source feathers from rural farmers, vegetable ivory seeds from local carvers and old Zambian coins from local markets. In our quest to make our jewellery meaningful we are able to support people on the bread line by giving them work and money.
I have always had a passion for guinea fowl feathers. During a party here in the bush a friend asked ‘are guinea fowl feather earrings uniform’?! But why wouldn’t you wear them, guinea fowl have the most extraordinarily beautiful feathers. I am always struck by how cool and edgy there are and yet classic. It’s like Chanel meets Victoria Beckham or Audrey Hepburn hanging out with Rita Ora. Our ladies take hours pairing feathers as each is unique and yet needs to be matched to make earrings. It also feels good as these feathers are bought from local farmers. Not farmers with acres of crops and combine harvesters to manage them, but local farmers with a few birds, a few 100 metres of cotton and a small field where they grow rice. It’s a privilege to help farmers like the lovely and ever smiling Evans whilst making something that we love.
Another project that fills me with pride is training our ladies to handle the woodwork and snare wire coiling themselves. We used to employ men to hand carve our wooden beads and coil the thick snare wire set by poachers. Strength is crucial for this task. However, one day it struck me that these ladies carry wood for miles on their heads, tend their fields from six in the morning till late afternoon and collect water from the well, not to mention carrying children on their backs at the same time! So we bought our woodwork tools, hired our local carpenter for training and set to work. Cutting logs with a cross saw, hacking off smaller pieces with an axe and aze, sawing, sanding and chiselling. They did it all and with pride; it was revelatory that they could learn this skill and see their work keep improving. As Miriam explained ‘I thought it was men’s work, I feel so proud that I can do it’. Now it’s our lovely Mulberry Mongoose ladies who create our hand carved wooden beads.
It all motivates me to continue looking for unique, local materials to create jewellery with. To do something good through the act of creating something we love.