How did Wires make friends in Zimbabwe? Q&A with co-founder Jimmy Saruchera.

We spoke to co-founder of Wires Jimmy Saruchera about his role in making Wires Glasses a reality.

Jimmy, who is now based in Australia, is from Zimbabwe and was a key player in helping Impossible establish a supply chain in Zimbabwe by finding a workshop and talented artisans in Harare. He works on the development of the brand and is passionate about social enterprise and good craftsmanship in Zimbabwe.

Ancient Zimbabwean wirecraft is at the core of Wires Glasses as the copper or brass wire coiled round the lenses is made in Harare. Where did the connection to Zimbabwe come from?

I think the connection unwittingly started many years ago, when a 15 year old Yair Neuman received a wire guitar as a present from a friend who had visited Zimbabwe. In the absence of the likes of Hamleys toy shops, wire is the material that children in Zimbabwe use to craft their own toys. This stems from a centuries old tradition in Zimbabwe of handcrafted artistry using copper and brass wire. 

Years later in 2015, I met Yair in London after an exhibition I was curating that featured fine art made from wire from Zimbabwe. I loved the early Wires prototypes he had been working on and he invited me back to the studio and we delved into combining the tradition of wire artistry in Zimbabwe and 3D printing.

How did you make the connection with Mako, the artisan who works with designer Yair Neuman to create Wires?

This was easy. I was already working with Mako as part of an artists’ studio in Harare. He has a very special connection with that material that allows him to morph wire to his will with engineering precision. In his studio, you can see examples of large scale and incredibly intricate wire constructions, some of which take several months to finish using different gauges of wire.   

Has Wires come across any challenges in the production of the copper and brass wires?

Industry has suffered from years of economic turmoil, so it can be a struggle to find the special enamel coated wire that we need because some companies are not producing any more.  Hopefully we can stimulate more local production of this wire.

Can you recommend some other social enterprises to check out in Zimbabwe?

I particularly like what French designer Matali Crasset did with her range of woven home accessories.  It was beautiful human exchange where she learnt a lot of techniques from the indigenous knowledge of rural women and they learnt from her design sensibilities to create something special and desired across the world.  

Are specific issues in Zimbabwe that you think need tackling through social enterprise? 

Tackling unemployment is a big one. Sometimes the 'social' in social enterprise is over emphasized at the expense of the enterprise. The enterprise is just as important and you need scale to spread the social benefits and provide more livelihoods. The quality of employment is also important. You can’t pay someone peanuts just because they're desperate, it is important to pay them well and fairly so they can uplift themselves and others in their community.

What would be your advice to someone who wanted to start a social enterprise in Zimbabwe? 

It's important be clear about why you're doing it. It has be something you deeply believe in rather than a whimsical desire to do something nice for the 'poor'. This will keep you going for the long haul through the inevitable ups and downs, frustrations and false starts.  Listen more and talk less, it’s amazing what you'll learn from people along the way.

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