Maiyet co-founder Kristy Caylor takes the term frequent flier to a whole new level. Not long ago, she spent half a year criss-crossing the globe in search of artisans to work on Maiyet’s exquisitely crafted collection of clothing, handbags, jewelry and shoes. By now, it’s safe to say that she has perfected the art of carry-on luggage, customs forms and kissing giraffes (we’ll get to that later).
We recently caught up with Kristy during one of her trips to Kenya, where much of Maiyet’s jewelry hails from. Read on to find out about her must-see spots there, her travel essentials and the local artisans with which Maiyet partners. (After all, it isn’t everyday that you can name the person whose hands made the necklace you’re wearing.)
Tell us about some of the artisans you work with in Kenya.
We work with three different types of artisans here. There’s a workshop headed by a man named Anton, who does hand-poured brass. He uses sand and sugar molds, melts the brass over a fire, and then pours it into the mold. After the metal sets into the mold, they polish the pieces by hand into finished product. We then plate the brass pieces in 18K gold for a finer finish. Anton has a very big family—10 kids—and he works and lives in a small space. We are working with him to upgrade his workshop and machinery so that he can be more efficient, more precise and work in a better environment. We also work with an artisan named Dragon, who does all of the carved bone and horn. I love his name. And finally, another group makes all of the chain by hand.
How do you find these artisans?
We initially worked with consultants in each region to find the artisans. We would review a large list of options (approximately 50 companies at a time), narrow that list to 12, visit those 12, and ultimately choose two to three to work with.
How many hours of work go into a piece of jewelry?
Once the mold is complete, the brass pieces take an entire day to make; the carving of the chain and fish also takes a day. The chain is the last part to be completed, which takes a few hours. We take all of the brass pieces, re-polish them and plate them in 18K gold. The entire process takes about 20 hours for one necklace.
What are some of your favorite spots in Kenya?
1. The David Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary
2. The Giraffe Centre (where you can get giraffe kisses!)
3. Kitengela Glass (a family-run glass-blowing studio outside Nairobi)
4. Africana House
5. Nairobi’s City Market
What are your travel essentials?
I always travel with my Maiyet signature bangles and fish necklace, which look chic with any outfit. And I can’t get on the plane without one of our scarves from Kashmir India. Flats are a must, and I have a collection of handwoven cotton shirts which are perfect for the warm climates we visit. I throw everything into one of our large bags, and I’m off.
What are some of your most memorable moments from your travels through Kenya?
My most memorable moments in Kenya are working with the people, when we travel to their workshops. I recall sitting outside at Anton’s as chickens ran around and we were trying to get the shape of the signature bangle right. Gabriella (Maiyet’s creative director) and I were making models out of red Silly Putty that kept coming off on our hands. By the end we were totally dyed red…but the shape was understood and the resulting bracelet is beautiful!
All images courtesy of Maiyet.