When “Out of Kenya Art,” a collective of artists working in Kenya to support themselves with their handiwork, needed funds to compete in the world market, JMS Ventures of Virginia stepped up to provide the capital and distribution power they needed, and The Kenyan Collection was born.
Much of the Kenyan population lives below the international poverty line, and besides agricultural employment (which not everyone is suited for) the only work available in most areas is in the informal sector — that is, people must work for themselves, and sell or trade things directly to one another.
When Joan Schultz was living in Kenya in 2002, she met Mercy Mahiani. The two women founded the company as a for profit business — “for the profit of Kenyans” explains Shultz. The two have been working together ever since, Schultz now stateside in Virginia, and Mahiani in Kenya, to locate high quality African beadwork, help distribute it to customers in wealthier areas, and even provide consult on new designs and materials. Their efforts have helped the Maasai tribe of Kenya to become a viable player in the world market, relying only on the work of their own hands.
The Kenyan Collection includes products such as equestrian accessories and fishing boxes, but their bread and butter is dog collars. It seems that dog owners make a very personal investment when they choose a collar for their best friends, and this kind of personal stake in a product goes a long way in creating a meaningful relationship between the customer and the producers of his or her handmade collar. Every collar is unique and completely artisanal. Many collars can be completely quickly, but some take up to eight weeks to bead, cast hardware for, and ship to the states. These works of art are well worth the wait.
This spring, Dog Collar Boutique started carrying two new lines of The Kenyan Collection’s dog collars. The Meadow Stripe Collar and the Sunshine Collar both evoke images of warm days, flowers and sun, and are as durable as they are beautiful. Visit the boutique to view all of the unique bead patterns and read more about the quality and details that go into each line.