As a young man, David Karitha used to watch his uncle create beautiful traditional glassware. This sparked his interest in learning the craft. In 2006, he began etching glass, initially as a hobby while honing his skills. In 2008, he sold his first piece, a salad bowl, for Ksh 2,500.
To this day, materials such as plastic, wood, glass, and leather can be transformed to showcase artwork, and sometimes intricate designs. For the past 11 years, David and his wife, Ruth Karimi, have been etching patterns and words onto glass, turning weathered glass into luxurious products.
With a capital of Ksh 70,000 borrowed from a bank, the couple established Elegance Simplified in 2017. This capital was used to purchase carving machines, tools, and raw materials.
“Elegance Simplified specializes in glass art. We carve different glass products, including drinking glasses, wall hangings, glass doors, and wall décor. Additionally, we create banners that can be used for signs of appreciation, awards, and accolades,” explains David. They primarily use processed glass for their work.
Glass etching is an elegant and durable way to create designs on a smooth glass surface. The designs remain permanent.
Carved glass products have gained immense popularity, adorning high-end restaurants, hotels, banks, cinemas, and homes.
“Even a wine bottle can be used to make drinking glasses, medium-sized salad bowls, bulb holders, and much more,” he adds.
Ruth pursued a business management degree, while David became a master craftsman. They source some of their glass locally and some from international suppliers, and for processed glass, they rely on glass collectors.
“We begin by identifying the products we want to create. Then, we select the bottles to work with. We clean them, cut them, and polish them. For the carved ones, we work on designs or artistic work, and after completion, we package and prepare them for sale.”
David employs image tracing for most of the artistic work, ensuring precision, while Ruth adds elegant beads to glass knobs.
Elegance Simplified utilizes marketing strategies tailored to their customers, using various platforms to reach their target audience.
They display their work in their store located at The Waterfront, Karen. Besides using their social media platforms to sell their products, they also participate in various craft markets and sell their pieces to other retailers.
Their clients include Ahadi Kenya Trust, The Nairobi Japanese School, Full of Africa Safaris, Top Guide Safaris in Tanzania, Windsor Golf Club, among many others.
“We have more than 25 products, and prices may vary depending on size, design, and the quantity of ordered items. The minimum price we charge per piece is Ksh 1,000, while the most expensive piece can reach Ksh 250,000.”
In a day, they can carve between 8 to 10 sets, with each set containing 6 pieces.
Apart from being a significant source of income for the couple, Elegance Simplified has also created jobs by involving other carvers, cleaners, and contract workers.
However, their journey hasn’t been without its challenges.
“Our business is seasonal, so we must find the right market for our products. For our international clients, we have to deal with the high cost of shipping abroad.”
Despite these challenges, David believes that his business, born out of a love for glass art, has not only contributed significantly to Kenya’s economy but also to environmental conservation.
Elegance Simplified is working towards expanding into international markets. They recently signed a contract with an E-commerce ecosystem agency to sell their products in the United States and Canada.
Their goal is to broaden their product range and increase their market share, ensuring the sustainability of their business in a growing market and appealing to both their customers and the community. This, he believes, will be vital for the company’s expansion.
“We plan to establish a glass etching art school for young people in the future,” he concludes.