Meet the Maker: Klaylife
Tell us about Klaylife. Where is it from? Who makes it? And who designs it?
Klaylife is a Melbourne Based business, owned by Father and Daughter Duo (Phillip Jones + Kerri Wallace). We are originally from South Africa and have always had a huge love for Africa and its people. We work with a team of very talented artisans in Kwazulu Natal to create clay beaded lighting and sell them all over the globe. Each clay bead is hand rolled by a beautiful community of women. They are then sun dried, kiln fired and hand strung meaning no two lights will ever be the same. The community who create the lights are HIV impacted - they either have it themselves or look after family members who are suffering. Getting work is not easy so through Klaylife, we have created much needed Trade, not Aid, which this community so desperately need.
Where is the business based at the moment?
We have just joined forces with our manufacturer meaning we are one business servicing the globe. Sales, marketing and product development happen out of Melbourne. We also have a warehouse here with lighting available. The pieces are entirely made by hand in South Africa and we often dispatch from our warehouse there all over the world.
What is unique about Klaylife?
Unlike so many products that come off the factory line, we have a human story. Each clay bead is as unique as the person who created it. They're different in shape, size and texture and if you look closely, you can often see the finger prints of the person who made it. The lights are made by a group of women who laugh, share stories and sing all day. Here's a 2 min video which helps tell the story of why we are unique: https://klaylife.com/pages/about-us
Where did the inspiration come from to these chandeliers?
The craft of rolling clay beads has been entrenched in Africa culture for centuries. From jewellery to headwear, using natural materials to create functional items is what Africa is all about. When the business originally started, our South African partner was creating clay beaded jewellery and started employing people from the local HIV centre to help roll the beads. She then asked herself, what else could we create using clay beads and the light bulb went on in her head (mind the pun).
What are the processes behind creating one of the chandeliers?
Drawing on African heritage and craftsmanship, each clay bead is hand rolled using raw clay. They are then sun dried, kiln fired and dip-dyed and in the case of our lights, masterfully strung onto its unique iron frame. This handmade process ensures that no two pieces will ever be the same.
Where does the inspiration come from when conceptualizing new products?
We are a rare business who don't work to any major timeline when it comes to New Product Development. We aren't mass produced, or mass marketed so when we are inspired to create something new, we do it. We don't force ourselves to meet up with the demand of retail and fashion. Also, there are some realities of working with Africa that slow everything down - often there is no electricity due to load shedding plus a lot of our team can't read or write. So, creating new products is slow and often takes a few goes before we get it right.
Colour is something we love to play around with. Because the clay beads are porous, some beads pick up the dye more than others creating a textured look no wooden replica could ever produce. We are also playing around with different coloured frames at the moment - hello matte gold!
How important is lighting in a home?
Lighting is critical! It really sets the mood and creates comfort in a living space. So many people focus on furniture, cabinetry and walls and lighting can become a bit of an afterthought. Natural light is of course the dream but those who don't have the luxury of huge windows and high ceilings may need to find other ways to bring lightness and brightness into their space.
What are the biggest trends when it comes to chandeliers in 2019?
Is it bad that I don't have the answer? We don't really watch trends in chandeliers but what we do know is that people are connecting with handmade products that have a purpose and a story more than ever. Maybe it's because the world has gone crazy, but we are seeing a big trend in the slow movement and sustainability and finding people are happier to spend more money on a piece that is full of love and quality rather than the cheap copy (which no doubt are still firing off the factory line!)
What are some creative ways for people to add some Klaylife to their interior?
The beauty of our range is that there is something for everyone. From more traditional styles to minimal and modern, we can cater for any interior. We also have some styles which are better suited for smaller spaces with lower ceilings. And then of course the epic pieces for the double voids and hotel foyers. If you want to add some texture and interest to your space, it's worth considering a Klaylife as it almost doubles as a piece of art. It is the ultimate statement light!