Years ago, before the internet, before the time of faxing (is that even a word?), the founders of Vitamin Bead Adrienne and Uli were wandering in the old markets of Mombasa in Kenya. We came across a old shop, ceiling dripping with beads dusty and linked together with cobwebs. Old antique African trade beads, antique chunks of amber, sand cast beads, ostrich egg shell beads. Colours, stories, history and dust.
The beads resonated with Adrienne and Uli. Adrienne had studied anthropology at Auckland university and although she did not finish her degree, the beads struck a chord. Beads that have been traded for 100’s, 1000’s of years helping create our society to emerge to what it was in those days….and here were tiny pieces of evidence that could be bought and sold now for coin, but still true to the old trading ways.
They were there in Mombassa by sailing yacht, it was a great opportunity to fill up the boat with carved masks, hand woven baskets and beads of course. The beginning of what was to become “Vitamin Bead”.
Trade routes were carved out by Adrienne and Uli, they found that South Africans could not travel to the rest of Africa so they traded the woven baskets and traditional Kenyan sarongs for Zulu baskets and bead works. Sailing onto Madagascar and the trade continued, it was like the beads had given them a different kind of direction, not just a endless sailing journey, but that of a trading journey. A great way of meeting with the locals and carrying on traditions.
Many moons passed and the pair came back to Australia, built a house to lock up stage and took themselves off to America. The pair travelled, painted houses, worked on boats. Their paths traversed the USA from San Francisco up to Idaho, over to Florida checking out bead stores long the way using a small book they had picked up called the “Bead Directory”. They eventually ended up camped next to a stream with a little money and not sure what to do.
The problem was solved when they went to a local flea market with a lot of African vendors who were selling beads- yes Beads! Old antique trade beads, Millifiori, glass, amber, wood, bone, shell. Bead heaven.
Money well spent, they headed back to Australia with 2 suitcases full of beads which was to be turned into “Vitamin Bead”
What’s a “Vitamin Bead”? It’s a play on words, Beads are bright and vital, bringing vitality and excitement to life- just like vitamins. Except in bead form.
Beads allow the wearer to express themselves through individuality, meanings, symbols, colour, brightness. They allow the wearer to dress a casual outfit up …and that’s where fashion has crept in.