It is hard to imagine a more idyllic place to live and work than the Maasai Mara. Here, surrounded by the bush and occasionally waking up to an elephant outside her tent, Kaila Fusco crafts her handmade jewellery.
Born in Toronto to a Canadian mother and a Mexican father, Kaila moved to Kenya, with her mother, when she was five years old. Kaila grew up in Nairobi and only moved to the Mara a few years ago to manage Richard’s River Camp with her boyfriend.
Kaila made her jewellery in her free time and sold it in the camp. But after two years she really wanted to make jewellery full-time. Luckily her boyfriend found another job in the Mara, quite near to Richard’s River Camp, and he converted a container into the studio where Kaila now works.
This silver armband with a beautiful chalcedony stone was hand-fabricated by Kaila. The drop piece with the texture was created using the cuttlefish bone casting method. Kaila collects the cuttlefish bones from the Kenyan coast and uses a technique she learnt while studying jewellery design in Mexico.
Kaila had planned to go to college in Toronto after a gap year travelling through Mexico with her friend Rosie Sharp. This changed when Kaila’s mother discovered a jewellery school called Sterling Quest in the Mexican city of San Miguel de Allende. Kaila and Rosie already loved the city, having spent some time there studying Spanish and painting. They immediately enrolled at Sterling Quest. “We learnt so much, so quickly! We rented a space from him so that when we were not in class we were making jewellery. It was so great. So inspiring. He played Led Zeppelin all day – loud!”
Kaila’s mum and Rosie have used the cuttlefish casting method in the past but very few other jewellery designers in Kenya do – probably because this casting method is really unpredictable and inconsistent. But for Kaila it is perfect. “My jewellery is not ‘perfect’…so if I cast a piece and it comes out as something else … I actually love that. I put it aside and make something of it later.”
Like for this one-off design: “I just loved the cuttlefish piece and I loved the stone and I thought it would make a wicked armband!”
Photograph courtesy of Kaila Fusco.