Recently Mountain Shiba® was approached by a well-known pet professional who was blown away by our Kenyan Collection beaded dog products. Rebecca Sanchez is a published author, and nationally recognized leader in the pet industry.
Known as The Pet Lifestyle Guru™ Rebecca firmly believes “we need animals as much as they need us!” You can see more from Rebecca on her site here: The Pet Lifestyle Guru. While Rebecca specializes in researching and writing about holistic dog health and nutrition, she offered to provide us with her thoughts on this much sought after line.
“In my line of work, I come across dog products with regular frequency. As a dog blogger and author, as well as an editor for a dog magazine, I am often given products to assess for publication. This time however, I did the asking! I had to get my hands on The Kenyan Collection® Beaded Dog Collar and lead. Truth be told, I’m a real sucker for artistic, hand-tooled leather with interwoven beading. Something about it just speaks to me. So, I was crushing on the Kenyan Collection!”
Beautiful and Durable
These truly stunning dog collars and leads are hand-beaded, individually, by the talented artisans of the Maasai tribe in Kenya, Africa. Each collar and lead is a unique, one-of-a-kind artistic treasure. They’re available in softer earth-tones, rich jewel hues, as well as vivid swaths of color. While it’s true that The Kenyan Collection® is amazingly glorious, with colorful beads that span the spectrum of the rainbow – the entire line is both beautiful and rugged. The more I studied the Kenyan Collection collars and leads I knew I had to understand their origins in order to fully appreciate them.
The Maasai Beadwork History
The Maasai have historically been sheep or cattle farmers, dedicated to maintaining their culturally-rich, traditional way of life. One of these ways includes the custom of beading. The Maasai women (“mamas”) have a history of weaving and beading jewelry pieces. The beads themselves provide a great deal of information about each female, and while there are variations in the meaning for each color of bead, generally white indicates peace, blue infers water, and red stands for bravery. Beadwork, done by the Maasai women, has a long history, eventually becoming what it is today: elaborate color schemes made from dense, opaque glass beads with a smooth finish.
How The Kenyan Collection Is Made
With guidance provided by a talented leather designer, the mamas responded to an opportunity to use their talents to the western market. This allowed the mamas to creatively make a living while remaining local, surrounded by their children. The Kenyan Collection® dog accessories are handmade by the mamas as a means of support. There are six (6) communities of Maasai women of which 50 mamas bead exclusively for The Kenyan Collection. This company is working hard to double the number of participating mamas. In order to participate in the program each mama has to pass a quality and consistency test to assure premium products.
Truly the mamas in The Kenyan Collection® program create luxury pieces of artwork that are made for everyday use.
But how are these collars and leads made?
The first step of The Kenyan Collection® starts with leather selection. The tannery is quite a distance away, and the workshop staff make their way there to bring the hides back to the workshop. The next step is for Sam, a workshop employee to cut the hide into individual pieces, marking the areas that will receive the bead application. While this is happening, Hellen, one of the mamas counts out the beads that are to be woven, artistically, onto the leather pieces. As you can imagine, a time-consuming endeavor. The workshop staff make this trip, two to three hours each way, every two weeks.
The leather pieces used in The Kenyan Collection® dog collars and leads are made from solid, thick, yet flexible and smooth pieces of leather. While it will soften the more it’s used, it’s clear the leather used comes from an expert tannery specializing in durability to minimize any decomposition.
Lining and Buckle Process
Once the mamas complete their beaded leather work, the pieces are then transported about 30 minutes away for the time-consuming lining process. Once the backing is on, they measure each collar and lead to determine where to put the buckle, punch the hole, shave off the end of the leather to make the backside lay smooth, glue and attach the buckle. Then they stitch each piece to secure the buckle and D ring.
From there, the pieces are taken to another location for a final polishing on the buckle and D ring. George, the artisan who makes the buckle pieces pours melted material, made from recycled material (old water faucets and plumbing fixtures) into the clay molds. This final location is also where the pieces go through their final review, assuring all materials are smooth, sewn properly, and polished, and finally packaged for shipping.
[Images courtesy of The Kenyan Collection®. (1) scrap metal that "George" the buckle guy will melt to make the buckles (2) actual mold that George makes from a resin]
The use of a “D” ring on the dog collar is a welcome piece of solid material. Its size, weight, and stoutness makes for an even balance with the durable leather. A perfect match. The final product is akin to artisan jewelry! I am very finicky when it comes to perfect weighting of accessories. I’m that one person you know who gets cranky by picking up an unevenly weighted fork, knife, or spoon… I know, I know. But, you absolutely do not have to worry about this with The Kenyan Collection! A perfectly balanced piece of beauty. The beads are sewn in with exactness, and thick upholstery-quality thread. You cannot overlook the sewing that the mamas use – the tension is perfection. The beads lay seamlessly against the smooth, tanned leather.
[Image: Mountain Shiba - finished buckle, D-ring, beading and threading]
In a League of Its Own
The Kenyan Collection takes great pride in bringing the mamas treasures to us. And for this, I am so thankful. While there have been many attempts to replicate the Maasai mamas’ artistry, there is simply no comparison. The Kenyan Collection’s collars and leads made of real leather and brass are clearly made for your dog’s comfort as well as your aesthetic comfort. Also, they are clearly made for the long haul. The collars come in a variety of sizes that fit a variety of breeds, from Chihuahua to Wolf Hound.
Selecting the perfect collar, or collars, seems like a simple thing. But it really should be given a great deal of thought. The perfect collar for your dog will depend on several factors:
- Easy to Clean – the sturdy leather used by The Kenyan Collection is easy to wipe clean, dry off after a swim in a lake, and durable enough for your dog to wear on a hike in the snow.
- Made for Adventures – the collar’s D ring, combined with the solid use of leather, makes for a tough piece of equipment. Not only beautiful but able to withstand a small to mid-size dog’s outdoor adventures.
- Long Lasting – the leather in this collection is clearly designed to withstand anything you or your dog can throw at it, as it will just get soft through time and use. Just like your favorite belt or pair of cowboy boots.
- Fashionable – your dog’s collar and lead are things you will use at least once a day. It’s psychologically important to have things that please you visually, bring you joy.
The mamas have made some beautiful handmade and tooled collars! Best of all, they use the best control process to reach The Kenyan Collection’s high-quality standards. They showcase a combination of skills that make the most eye-dazzling, quality collars and leads that are super stylish as well as outdoor-inspired for any breed of dog.
In a nutshell, your dog will be the envy of all of the dogs in your neighborhood with a collar and lead made by the mamas and The Kenyan Collection!
Our beaded products from The Kenyan Collection® include Collars, Lurchers and Leads that are available in a range of sizes and designs. We developed a passion and appreciation for The Kenyan Collection before Mountain Shiba was ever created. You see, our own Shiba Inu’s have been wearing Kenyan Collection collars since they were puppies. Learn more about our discovery of The Kenyan Collection® and why these collars are not only unique, but also designed with a purpose.
We offer our sincere thank you to Rebecca Sanchez (The Pet Lifestyle Guru) for sharing and contributing her thoughts on our Kenyan Collection products. To learn more, please connect with Rebecca on Facebook or Instagram @thepetlifestyleguru or visit her website at thepetlifestyleguru.com
See our entire Kenyan Collection beaded collars and leads or visit us at mountainshiba.com
On a recent trip to Kenya, The Kenyan Collection® owner, Cindy Lay had an opportunity to interact with the Maasai Mamas as they beaded their beautiful creations for The Kenyan Collection®. Watch this short video of the Maasai Mamas in action.