Perspective is borne of experience.
I recently spent a day at the Jacaranda Workshop in Nairobi. The workshop produces beautiful handicrafts, mainly jewelry made of ceramic beads and brass pieces. I've bought their goods in the past, and often seen them on sale at the "Maasai Market". Though it has nothing to do with the Maasai, this roving market in Nairobi is where to find any locally made in Kenya handicraft. Goods at the Maasai Market aren't expensive, usually the equivalent of less than a dollar to five or a few more. Nevertheless, I always haggle with the stall owners, wanting to get a better price.
Spending a day at Jacaranda learning how to make said jewelry was a lesson in humility.
The employees of the Jacaranda workshop are all cognitively disabled. They take pride in their ability to hold down a meaningful job. The work is repetitive, but requires skill and strength as I learnt.
The brass wire is the beginning of the journey. It is wound by hand into a tight coil. Over and over one has turn the basic winch-like handle to build the brass coil.
Seems simple but maintaining constant pressure to make sure the coils are evenly spaced starts becoming difficult after about twenty turns – and that's only about a third of the way.
From there the coil moves into a vice where it is filed. Filing cuts the coil into little connectors – pieces which are essential for all jewelry pieces – earrings, necklaces, bracelets.
The little pieces then need to be flattened, each tiny piece individually hammered.
Meanwhile the earrings are beginning their journey when flattered brass is wound onto intricate molds. From there, each piece is drilled with a small hole for the first connector.
Onto the buffing, as each piece is transformed from dull to shiny.
Next step is a basic wash – simple soap and a toothbrush ensures that all the black waste from the buffing is removed as the earrings move to the final piece.
Tiny pliers are used to loop each connector into the next.
Finally – we are done. The lesson was humbling as I came to understand how long and how much strength and purpose it took to build each piece. The production process is time consuming, and requires tenacity. The employees of Jacaranda have a lot to be proud of.
The pieces are beautiful, intricately made, and each one a reflection of time, strength, focus and purpose.
Armed with what I now know – I will haggle no more.