Embroidery is a profound and timeless art form. Its magic lies in its ability to merge beauty and hospitality in a most tangible way. Madonna&Child, a business established by mother-daughter duo Bea and Jeanne Emslie, has captured this classic combination, and infused it with South African passion and a desire to empower women in the local community.
“I got a passion for linen and vintage handwork from my mother, who learned it from her grandmother. She was a hostess for an English family in the Midlands as a young girl,” Jeanne says. “We have always slept on the most amazing Irish cotton and embroidered bedding.”
The idea to start a business was inspired by the wonderful embroidery of their domestic worker, Aggie. “When we saw Aggie’s hand embroidery, we knew it is a talent that cannot go to waste. Aggie, and what she represents as a South African woman who works full-time and supports a family, was the inspiration behind our product and business.” Jeanne and Bea started selling hand embroidered products and vintage linen at markets and saw almost immediate success. Soon they were able to open their own shop at Duncan Yard in Pretoria.
Madonna&Child is best described as a social entrepreneurship – their goal is to help working women earn an extra income. Their items are cut, sewn and hand embroidered or hand printed by women in the Bela Bela Township. With a range that includes authentic vintage linen and machine embroidered bedding and tableware, they produce products that beautify every room in the house.
Jeanne and Bea chose the name Madonna&Child because of their shared obsession with mother and child paintings and religious art. It also describes their partnership as mother and daughter, and captures the inspiring stories of the women who make the products – working tirelessly to support their families.
The business is a hope-filled celebration of the vital role and the strength of women in South African communities. Bea herself clearly does not stand back from a challenge. “Aside from two businesses, my mom is co-owner and manager at Die Pos newspaper. She is also very involved in charity in Bela Bela. She is a multi-tasker like you’ve never seen before!” Jeanne says.
We are very excited about Madonna&Child’s first appearance at our KAMERS/Makers Joburg show 24-28 April. They will be presenting an expanded range of embroidered products including duvet covers, serviettes, tea towels and more. Their products are also available brand new in the KAMERS/Makers Online Marketplace.