Beadwork is Bilha’s forte
Bilha Maina and Judith Ngereso met two years ago while decorating wedding gowns using beads.
“We used to get contracts to bead wedding gowns together,” said Bilha.
The two now stitch beads on shoes, bags and clothes aside from exhibiting their products at trade fairs.
Bilha ventured into beadwork three years ago, and recalled her first product; using golden sequins and brown glass beads, she embellished a yellow vest to have a drawing of a girl’s face wearing a hat.
On the other hand, Judith, whose love for fashion started about five years ago, wanted to apply her knowledge in art to make unique products.
To diversify their work, Bilha and Judith started beading wall hangings last year.
“I realised that some of my ideas wouldn’t look good on clothes,” said Bilha.
The smallest wall hanging which measures six by six inches takes one and half days to complete, while the biggest, 20’’ by 12,’’ takes about three to five weeks.
“The small Maasai beads take time. Also, cut glass and stones are very delicate and brittle so you must be careful when working with them.
Also, if the picture is colourful, you will need more time to chose which beads to blend with.
On a bad day the thread will just keep tangling and so you have to be patient,” said Bilha.
The two artists plan to make even smaller but more affordable wall hangings.
To hone her skills, Bilha is pursuing a clothing design course at a city college to complement her undergraduate studies in art and philosophy.
Apart from the exhibitions, they sell their artwork through their Facebook page; Shie Chic, and blog kichaza.wordpress.com.
Other customers on their watch list include hotels and restaurants.
“Marketing is our biggest challenge. The local market is skeptical about handmade products and so it is a challenge making headway but once you find a niche, you are good to go,” said Bilha.
She terms her work as being contemporary.
Other challenges include access to capital and infringement on copyright.
“Some of the fake products are made using cheaper materials,” said Judith.
“I would like people to feel like my beaded work is the missing piece. The last touch that brings everything together – both utilitarian and aesthetic functions,” said Judith who is motivated by the desire to become successful.