Bordering the Nairobi National Park, on the cusp of a ridge called Kiserian (“The Blessed” in Maa, the Maasai language), Kitengela Hot Glass was started and is owned by Anselm Croze. In 1991, he trained in Holland with glass masters Willem & Bernard Heesen. Dubbed a “dream merchant” for his creations, Anselm now employs 35 people full time. The red-brick dome, the heart of Kitengela Hot Glass, is the core of Anselm’s studio. It was inspired by 15th century Flemish furnace design and by old English beehive glass houses. “It’s where the magic happens. Our dome has more than 1,000 glass stars inset into the ceiling in an accurate rendition of the night sky,” Anselm explains.
“It’s a real planetarium.” Hundreds of different objects designed by Anselm are made here by his skilled team of artisans, from individual glass artworks to entire collections custom designed for restaurants, hotels, lodges, camps and other corporate clients throughout Africa.
Some of Kitengela Hot Glass’s more prestigious clients include the Tamarind and Carnivore, Fairmont, Sarova, Serena, Safari Park Hotel, Cheli & Peacock, Abercrombie & Kent, Hotel Intercontinental, Hilton, & Beyond, Kempinsky, Sankara, Ole Sereni, Crowne Plaza, Asilia Lodges, Peponi Hotel, Sheraton and others too numerous to mention. Flexibility and innovation have been key to Kitengela Hot Glass’s success.
“Our approach is very can-do. To make everything work both as a craft and a business, we’ve had to be very flexible in the things that we do, building it all up from scratch,” says Anselm. “Educating customers what blown glass is all about, even as we educate ourselves about it.”
Inspired by the pragmatism of the Kenyan ‘jua kali’ (literally ‘hot sun’) artisans, Anselm elaborates: “They make shoes from tires, stoves and lamps from old cans, using discarded items to make needed objects. That’s ingrained in our ethos here. We’ve just taken it a step further.”