Dezeen Magazine

Dezeen: Story Vases by Front

Story Vases by Front

Milan 2011: Swedish collective Front will present a series of vases that tell the stories of five women living in remote villages in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Dezeen: Story Vases by Front

Called Story Vases, the objects record the testimonies of the women in glass beads threaded onto wire - a traditional Zulu craft technique that provides work for many women in South Africa.

Dezeen: Story Vases by Front

Glass is then blown into the wire frame to complete the vase.

Dezeen: Story Vases by Front

The project will be presented at Spazio Rosanna Orlandi in Milan from 12-17 April.

Dezeen: Story Vases by Front

Here's some text from Front:

Story Vases

By Front and the Siyazama Project for Editions in Craft

The Story Vases tell the personal stories of Beauty Ndlovu, Thokozani Sibisi, Kishwepi Sitole, Tholiwe Sitole and Lobolile Ximba, five South African women. Living in remote villages in KwaZulu-Natal, they are members of the Siyazama Project, a collective of women who work with traditional bead craft.

Recorded by the Swedish designers Front, the stories are the unique documentation of the daily life of women in rural, post apartheid, South Africa. They are stories that are rarely told and seldom heard.

The project began with a series of conversations in Durban between Anna, Sofia and Charlotte from Front and Beauty, Thokozani, Kishwepi, Tholiwe, Lobolile. They talked about their daily lives, their husbands and children. They shared their
hopes and dreams, and talked about love, life and death. Their stories also touch on such serious subjects as the effect of HIV on their society, gender, poverty and unemployment. They talked about their businesses , what beadwork meant to them
and what they would do, or buy, if they could afford to.

After Front and the women together selected the parts of conversations to work with, each woman formed their own story into text by threading glass beads on to metal wires. These wires were made into vase-shaped moulds, into which glass was blown.

Bead craft is an important part of Zulu tradition, not only as a means of expression, but also of communication and telling stories. In the past, patterns and colours were woven into beadwork, symbolising feelings and ideas to lovers and friends, in a way similar to written language.

With the Story Vases, Front used its conceptual approach to design, material and narrative to explore new ways of working with Zulu bead craft in collaboration with the Siyazama. This long-term project aims to broaden the market for the women’s craft and to let their stories be heard by more people.

The Story Vases was conceived during a workshop held in Durban that aimed to develop a new product by sharing techniques and exchanging ideas. It was initiated and organized by Editions in Craft. The Story Vases is an ongoing series and is available in a limited edition produced by Editions in Craft.


Front is a design collective of three, Sofia Lagerkvist, Charlotte von der Lancken and Anna Lindgren. Cooperation is a prerequisite of their work, in which no idea or object can be separated from the collective. Their work is often story based and often arises in collaboration with complementary forms of expertise, such as different craftsmen, robot technicians, pyro technicians, animators or magicians. The final product often communicates to the observer or the user about the process.

The Siyazama Project

The Siyazama Project (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa) was founded in 1999 by Dr Kate Wells, professor at the Durban University of Technology as part of "Design Education for Sustainable Development". It was initiated in order to inform and
educate a small group of rural traditional bead dollmakers on the concerns and taboos surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The aim of the research is to better understand the effect of beadwork craft as a visual metaphoric expression, and seeks to promote the role of design as a means to spread information about HIV/AIDS. Today, the Siyazama Project functions as a beadcraft collective. Their beadwork is mainly made for the souvenir market and it is the primary source of income for many of the collective’s members.

Editions in Craft

Editions in Craft is a production platform that invites designers and craftspeople to work on projects together. Its objective is to help preserve local traditional crafts by joining forces and exchanging skills and ideas. Through merging traditional
techniques and knowledge with contemporary practice, Editions in Craft seeks to develop new cross-cultural models of equitable design and to explore new strategies for the production and distribution of craft and design.

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