Prior to embarking on my professional modeling adventures, I did not understand why on earth so many staff were necessary at photoshoots; you would think that just the photographer, model, and makeup person would suffice? As I learnt from putting together this tiny photoshoot for Anam’s Vault, it is not so. At my first ever casting call, I was taken aback to find multiple people in the room — as I have come to appreciate with time, friends, advertisements that we often consume in mere seconds took a village, and then some, to come together. It’s incredible. But I digress!
I arrived raring to go with my bag of outfits selected to suit the accessories Patricia, the craftswoman behind Anam’s Vault, had shown me in advance; photographer Kumby was ready with his gear. We chose which pieces to focus on, I applied some quick makeup, and we began. Three hours later, we were all heaving and sweating profusely. How?! Well, first there was the task of selecting the accessory pairings — and then making sure nothing got mixed up during transport to the shooting location. Then there was deciding on the sequence of outfits, for maximum efficiency in the makeshift changing room (i.e. Patricia holding up a sheet). Then there was modifying makeup as needed. There was identifying optimal poses, not to mention props which we completely forgot about. There was lugging everything back and forth. Not to mention Kumby behind the lens, constantly trying to adjust for light and contorting himself to get as many money shots as possible. And, at the end of aaaaaall this, only a tiny fraction of the photos were actually viable! Friends, I cannot even imagine what goes into making each issue of Vogue look the way it does. And they publish monthly? Hats. Off.
I wanted to do this because Patricia is a long-time friend of mine and I remember when she first started making jewelry casually. Never having heard the story behind Anam’s Vault, named after her mother, I had a chat with her about the brand and what it stood for. As it turns out, Patricia began began making her own accessories out of frustration at not being able to easily find anything to her taste here in the U.S. — further fueled by the drabness of her workplace, which struck her when she returned with eyes refreshed from a trip home to Kenya. Self-taught, her first products were earrings, then bracelets, and now wire rings (of which I myself own two — below). She credits her mother as being her biggest push, encouraging her and sending materials from home.
The pieces are unisex and versatile, intended to pair smoothly with conventional office wear. Patricia describes the essence of Anam’s Vault jewelry as “bold and courageous”, inviting one to reimagine how they accessorise outfits for the typical work environment that can often be stiff and formal.
Beyond the surface value of creating colourful pieces, Anam’s Vault also seeks the reshape the perception of African crafts outside the continent. She herself has been asked many a time at fairs which women’s groups her sales are supporting, a question that is revealing of how African crafts in non-native markets are too often attached to fundraising for a cause. While this is not necessarily negative, it does lead to purchases driven by pity/compulsion/guilt which should not be the default mode by which traditional accessories are consumed. Patricia would like to see the African artisanal industry flourish separately from that charity mindset, and have people buy African accessories purely for the sake of it as would be the case with other jewelry.
In answering my final question about where she would like her enterprise to go, Patricia expressed desire for the brand to reach mainstream status while retaining its authentic feel…a tactfully vague response that leaves all avenues open ;).
I’m so thankful to Patricia for trusting to me to write this piece and show off some of her wares — the small selection that we managed to capture, that is! Swing by the Anam’s Vault website and see what more is there, and if there’s something you’re imagining that isn’t online just feel free to inquire with Patricia directly. In her words, “Just because you don’t see your style in magazines doesn’t mean it’s not okay.”
Until next time,