The Four Key Kora Materials
Get down with Maxandra Short’s essential components.
For Kora, it’s all about sustainability. Maxandra Short, the talented, continent-hopping designer, and all of the based-in-Africa artisans behind the jewelry line have become pros at making necklaces and cuffs from repurposed goods. From shattered glass to old pans, she gives us a start-to-finish guide to how Kora shape-shifts these once-discarded materials. —carlye wisel
"Horn is byproduct of the food industry. Beef is a staple of Kenyan diets, and all the cows have these massive horns. When we started about three years ago, the horns were being burnt, just like trash, but then the butchers realized they could start selling the horns. They’re a real pleasure to work with because there are just these beautiful natural variations."
"The Of a Kind edition is a new version of our Polychrome Ruma Bangles, in which we combine Greek leather and brass wrapping with horn. For this, we wanted colors that felt really fresh—the mint is my favorite thus far."
"We actually use brass two different ways: We cast in it, out of recycled scrap metal sourced from around Tigoni—a semi-rural area outside of Nairobi. We also use sheet brass that is hammered and texturized to create wide cuffs and, most recently, chain links that are new to our fall 2012 collection."
"Our wide brass cuffs have been a big hit. I designed them to be worn in a pair, one on each wrist, for a Diana Vreeland-meets-Wonder Woman look. What’s great about the hammered brass is that it’s really lightweight, allowing for a lot of flexibility in designing. And this piece, the Chevron Brass Cuff, is one of my favorites."
"The aluminum is cast by that same workshop in Tigoni, also from recycled scrap metal, often old pots and pans and junked car parts. The advantage of aluminum is that it’s really lightweight, so I can design bigger pieces like cuffs out of it. "
"Our Tri Wrap Aluminum Lily Cuff is a great example of our aluminum use. What I particularly love about this cuff is the contrast between the aluminum and brass. It seemed to be a bit of a taboo, mixing silver and gold, but I decided to chuck that aside because they really are so beautiful together. "
"The glass is hand-fired—it’s all made from broken, recycled glass shards. The glass is best for smaller shapes, like beads, so we started with amorphous, tear-like shapes and moved into more geometric shapes. One thing we’ve just begun experimenting with is color. I love the light aqua, natural color of glass, but it’s always good to be ever-evolving."
"With the Aztec Tetra Necklace, we were shooting for a high-impact statement necklace, and I love the contrast between the translucence of the glass and the rawness and solidity of the brass."