It seems in the many years I have been working with artisans all over the world, that there is something magical that happens when a thing of beauty is made.
I have sat beside men and women in so many places – from mud huts in Kibera, the massive slum in Nairobi, to sitting under a slow fan on the floor of a blue washed room in the old city of Jaipur, the shipping container turned workshop in Kabul, a room in Mokattam village on the outskirts of Cairo with the girls of the Zabaleen surrounded by the stench of rubbish, the woven hut of the Kuna Indians on a tiny island in Panama, to sitting with a group of San Bushman under a thorny tree in the Kalahari.
When humans create they are happy. There is a chatter and laughter, singing, even dancing. There is a focus and concentration, a natural being in the moment. There is the gentle sound of hammering, of grinding, of filing.
I think something rather extraordinary happens when working in a group or even alone, using the eye and the mind to imagine, to visualise how something will work, how pieces will fit together, the best part of the stone to set, how the light filters through it, how the gold will wrap itself around. You need to coordinate your hand, have a vital sense of timing, knowledge of temperatures, the material, the tools.
Some of the artisans I have been lucky enough to work with come from long lines of generations of goldsmiths, others are new to the skills and just learning – but the sense of pride and achievement when something beautiful is made is universal.
A piece of jewellery has been made that will outlive the maker, that will be valued and cherished by generations to come.