Story Vase

Notice of Upcoming Content and Access Change

The Museum is working on the future of our online collections access. A new version will be available later in 2023. During this transition period, the current version of the Collections Browser may have reduced functionality and data may be not be updated. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. For any questions or concerns, please contact us.

What is AAT?

The Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) (r) is a structured vocabulary for generic concepts related to art and architecture. It was developed by The Getty Research Institute to help research institutions become consistent in the terminology they use.Learn More

Object Name: 
Story Vase
Accession Number: 
Overall H: 31 cm, Diam (max): 21.4 cm
Not on Display
designed in 2010
made in 2011-2012
Web Description: 
Story Vases tell the personal stories of five Zulu women living in remote villages in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. They are members of the Siyazama Project, a collective of women who make traditional beadwork. Founded in 1999, the Siyazama Project promotes indigenous craft by using design to make use of indigenous knowledge and skills. The objects created are used as a means to disseminate information to and by rural women about their lives. These women are among the most marginalized and vulnerable people in South Africa. Editions in Craft, based in Stockholm, Sweden, is a production platform that invites artists, designers, and craftspeople around the world to collaborate on projects. Through sharing techniques and exchanging ideas, new products are developed that link traditional skills with contemporary design practice. In 2009, Editions in Craft began a collaboration with the Siyazama Project. The Zulu women’s stories that are the basis of the Story Vases were recorded by the Swedish design collective Front during a workshop held by Editions in Craft in November, 2010. The workshop was hosted by Kate Wells of the Durban University of Technology, founder of the Siyazama Project. A series of conversations, enabled by Zulu-English interpreters, took place between Anna Lindgren, Sofia Lagerkvist, and Charlotte von der Lancken of Front, and Beauty Ndlovu, Thokozani Sibisi, Khishwepi Sithole, Tholiwe Sitole, and Lobolile Ximba of the Siyazama Project. They talked about their daily lives, their husbands and children. They shared their hopes and dreams, and talked about love, life and death. They talked about what beadwork meant to them and what they would do, or buy, if they could afford to. Their stories also touched on the effect of HIV/ AIDS on their society, gender inequalities, poverty, and unemployment. After these conversations, Front and the Siyazama Project women selected the parts of their stories to work with. Each Zulu woman then formed her story into text by threading Czech glass beads onto metal wires around a wood form. The beaded wires were made into vase-shaped molds and were then sent to Stockholm where molten glass was blown into the molds by glassblower Reino Björk. Beadwork is an important part of Zulu tradition, not only as a means of artistic expression, but as a way of communication. Traditional Zulu beadwork involves weaving colors into patterns that convey feelings and tell stories in a way similar to written language. Formerly imported from Venice, Italy, the beads now come primarily from the Czech Republic and India. Today, Zulu beadwork is still exclusively made by women, and it is the main source of income for many of them. With the Story Vases, Front combines its conceptual approach to design, material, and narrative to explore new ways of working with beads, in addition to empowering the women of the Siyazama Project to share their stories through traditional beadwork. The Story Vases illustrate diverse cultures, histories, traditions, and social issues. This black Story Vase, beaded in 2011 by Khishwepi Shithole, relates the following story in English: I believe my beadwork can get the message across. Some of my dolls tell old Zulu stories others tell their own personal story. I once made a doll of a mother beating up her child because she had HIV. This doll was to tell people not to hit people who have HIV.
Editions in Craft, Source
EC 2012
Scratched on base
Front / Siyazama / Reino Björk / No. 5
Scratched on base
Primary Description: 
Vase, "Story Vase". Colorless glass, black glass seed beads, wire; assembled, blown. Black beads strung on metal wire to create letters and words. Beads and wire create a vase-form into which colorless glass was blown.
Contemporary Glass Vessels: Selections from the Corning Museum of Glass (2015) illustrated, p. 42, 202-203 (fig. 94, plate 78); BIB# 149403
The Corning Museum of Glass Annual Report 2012 (2013) illustrated, pp. 9, 44; BIB# AI94590
The Corning Museum of Glass: Notable Acquisitions 2012 (2013) illustrated, p. 59, #41; BIB# AI95675