Perspectives - A Conversation with Nyumbani Design

This week, Perspectives talks to Kerry Glanfield of Nyumbani Design. Nyumbani design is a Tanzanian-based jewellery brand which believes in creating simple yet distinctively desirable pieces of wearable art that are handcrafted and shaped by skilled artisans throughout Tanzania using locally sourced wood. 

 

1. Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up working in Dar-es-Salaam.

After graduating with a Fashion and Textiles design degree in Bristol, I went to work for high-end fashion brands in London specializing in production and development. Before I embarked on my big move to Tanzania in 2010, I was working for London-based German designer Markus Lupfer. It was a very exciting time to be involved with a company that grew so quickly. I gained invaluable experience working with smaller companies as they allowed me to be a part of all aspects of the business as well as understanding the importance of creating high quality commercial design at affordable price points. 

I visited Tanzania for the first time in 2009 and was immediately drawn to the culture and colours. Sensing there was an opportunity for a new challenge in a developing country, the following year I relocated and began working within the retail industry collaborating with local artists and designers. From there, my business grew organically. 

 

2. Why did you decide to launch Nyumbani design?

Over time I noticed that while wooden sculptures were commonplace in Tanzania, there was an absence in the market for crafting indigenous woods in a more contemporary fashion. 

Sensing there was an opportunity to experiment with a material I hadn’t explored before, I sampled a few pieces with local wood artisans to create wearable pieces of art that I would want to wear. I was excited about how well the designs were received in both Tanzania and abroad. I continued to develop and experiment with locally sourced trees considering structure, colour and texture. As I did this, the reality of my business started to take shape.

 

3. Through your brand, I've learnt to identify the different types of wood simply from their grain. How did you end up using cypress, blackwood and bloodwood?

I design using woods that are indigenous to Tanzania. In the early stages of developing a new collection, we source a variety of local trees and select them based on their colour and individual markings. 

 

4. What's your favourite type of wood to work with?

My favourite wood to work with is African Blackwood due to its darkly striking colour and its durability. As a hardwood, it is dense and resistant allowing us to sculpt strong structural shapes. 

 

5. Tell us a bit more about your collaboration with "Trees for the Future”

Over the last three years, Nyumbani Design has supported the work of Trees for the Future, a non- governmental organization that has planted trees around the world since 1989. Together we have planted over 5000 trees as well as supporting tree planting and soil-restoration projects globally.

Our newest partnership is with a conservation organization in Tanzania. Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative assists communities to generate ethical and sustainable forest-based income by selling responsibly harvested FSC certified timber. 

As we are a Tanzanian-based company, it was important to us to support the surrounding communities. 

 

6. What are your favourite Nyumbani pieces that are featured on the site and why?

My favourite neckpiece is the “Sehemu” from the Spring / Summer Architectural Shadows collection. I love its beautifully bold femininity created from the angular contrasting combination of the two woods.

For a ring, I always wear the ‘Kufuli’ in Blackwood. I have a few in various sizes so I can wear on different fingers. I like its bold simplicity and versatility especially having the option of being able to stack a few together.

 

7. What does 2016 hold for Nyumbani?

We will be exhibiting our latest collection at Pulse in London next month as well as showcasing at TENT, London design festival for their 10th Anniversary in September. It is an amazing and exciting experience to take part in shows and meet designers at different stages in their business lifecycle by sharing ideas and suggestions. It is also a place where the brand can showcase the collection to a multitude of buyers and gain international exposure – it is always rewarding meeting supporters of your designs.

 

Thank you to Kerry for speaking to Ichyulu!

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