High-profile charity events have become just a little more glamorous with Layla Mañasco’s handmade pink bead-and-charm bracelets. They are on sale throughout August and September to fundraise towards the purchase of cold caps for the local chemo suite at St. Bernard’s Hospital.
“Cold caps help prevent patients’ hair from falling during chemotherapy. An estimated £15,000 is needed for this new project. Every penny helps, and I will donate my contribution (£1.50 from each bracelet sold) to the Gibraltar Breast Cancer Support charity on 18th October during their Flag Day,” Layla says.
In the build-up to the Lunar Walk last June, and on the night of the event, Layla managed to raise a whopping £400, almost single-handed, with a little help of some local pharmacies and her friends and relatives, and donated her full profits to cancer-related charities.
And after a busy summer at the Ocean Village Sunday Artisan Market, Calentita and a week of Summer Nights, Layla is ‘setting up shop’ at the Relay for Life event in aid of Cancer research on 21st and 22nd September, hoping to donate profits from the weekend to this cause.
It has become an emotionally positive way to cope with personal loss.
“It all started when my daughter was given a large box of beads for Christmas and we wondered how we could make good use of it, after making fashion jewellery for the whole family, and still left with many to spare,” Layla told me how she discovered her penchant for what she describes as a hobby, but has in reality fast become a passion and a lifestyle, as well as an emotionally positive way to cope with personal loss.
“I thought to string them in bracelets and sell them to raise money for GBC Open Day, which I did for many years. However, after my mother passed away last September from ovarian cancer, I decided to focus on fundraising for Cancer Relief and help raise awareness on female cancers.”
Layla praises the services that the South Barracks’ Cancer Relief Centre offered to her mum: “She attended quite regularly and received various complementary therapies, and all in all this was boosting her wellbeing.”
The long days spent at Calpe House, when she accompanied her mother to London for treatment, prompted Layla to find something constructive to do while she watched over her mother resting and in between medical appointments: “Stringing beads gave me a reason to keep my hands busy, and stopped me from fiddling aimlessly while I sat around knowing there was nothing else I could do for her. If I went shopping in London, I would buy more supplies to string there, or bring back to Gib. Once, my suitcase was inspected at the airport because customs officers could hardly believe that such a commercial quantity was just for personal use, for me to make friendship bracelets for my acquaintances.”
Of course, as soon as word spread around, Layla’s colourful wearable art became more and more in demand, especially because she can fully personalise them as a memento of your celebration. She is becoming quite popular at weddings, for which she strings beads in the bridal colour combinations, adding a different charm and detail for each member of the party. They are especially popular for bridesmaids’ gifts and flower girls’ tags, but mothers of the bride and groom don’t shun wearing one of her pieces on their children’s big day – nor does the bride herself sometimes, with her ‘bride-to-be’ heart-shaped charm.
I am happy to take ideas on board for a limited-edition production.
“I carry a wide selection of colours, and brides are able to pick their favourite one. I don’t limit myself to jewellery for party decorations though; when someone asks me to give shape to their ideas, I try to accommodate it as much as I can. I once ended up creating a balloon arch for a milestone birthday party, beaded photo frames as table centrepieces, and even up-cycling glass bottles, painting and decorating them with rope and beads.”
Surely she is up to the challenge, and knows how to exceed her customers’ expectations with shrewd crafting that turns everyday objects into art: “My customers give me good ideas, and I am happy to take them on board for a limited-edition production. Hen nights’ favours are growing in demand, and so are Mother’s Day or Teacher’s gifts.”
Men can pick their leather band and have it decorated in a variety of nautical or sports themes, while prospective fiancés may skip the awkward down-to-one-knee routine and replace it with the presentation of a self-explanatory ‘will you marry me?’ beaded stretch bracelet!
“Not all proceedings from all my jewellery go to charity,” Layla points out, “but I always inform my customers about which ones do. At the moment, I am offering the pink ones in many shades, all featuring the cancer ribbon charm.”
She is expanding into semi-precious stone beading, with malachite, agate, citrine, amethyst and other crystals believed to carry healing properties. Layla says: “There is no conclusive scientific evidence about the benefits of wearing stones or crystals on your skin, but some people swear by it, while most customers would buy them just because they are decorative.”
One word of warning: “If you are wearing my stone bracelets because you believe in their healing powers, soak them in salted water overnight after purchase before wearing them for the first time, to cleanse them from the energy imbalance of a stranger’s touch i.e. me, when I handled them to string them, so they will be purified as if they’d been mined out of Earth that very day.”
Like the Relay for Life Gibraltar page on Facebook for information on how to sign your team up. Layla’s jewellery can be viewed and pre-ordered from ‘Personalised Charms for any Occasion’.
Layla would like to thank SM Seruya, Maxstead Holdings, Hairspray and Valmar, Omega and Calpe pharmacies for stocking her bracelets.