Artisans of Kibera: Fiona, jewellery artisan

In Part 2 of a series presented by Nairobi Design Week, we meet Fiona – a young social entrepreneur from Kibera, Kenya's largest informal settlement.

When books and magazines pile up in your space, they become a nuisance. You may not want to throw them away, but don’t have any more use for them. Although mostly made of paper, books and magazines are difficult to recycle because of the adhesives used inside them. Hardbacks with spines need to have them removed prior to being recycled due to their stiff composition and the glue that holds them together.

Fiona, an artisan from Kibera, saw a rare opportunity in the old magazines. She uses them to make beautiful products; among them are necklaces, bangles and earrings. We caught up with her to talk about her work and her plans for the future. 

My customers are usually those who appreciate local stuff.

She collects old magazines from friends who have no use for them and also buys from stores. From there, she is able to sort them by colour depending on the color of product she wants to make, be it the earrings or necklaces.

She then cuts the magazines diagonally, into small slices. The size of the pieces cut depends on the size of paper beads to be made. She then rolls the paper pieces on a  small metal rod or stick, until  a ball like shape in obtained. Office glue is used to ensure that the rolled paper pieces do not fall apart. It is then left to dry for about five minutes.

Once the beads are dry, she applies wood varnish to obtain a fine reflective surface. The rolled paper beads are then assembled to make necklaces, or used on elastic thread to make bracelets.

“We not only deal with paper beads, we also deal with pearls.”

She sells her products to locals and also exports to Finland.

“In two years, I want to have a big storehouse... where I can employ ten ladies and empower them so that I can create job opportunities.”

This series is being released as part of Nairobi Design Week 2015. Article by Rina Waligo. "Artisan Kibera Series" credits: Humphrey Gateri (@iamhumphrey2) , funky industries (@fnky_ind) and Fredrick Bary, NDW Field Research Assistant.