Bead making in Ghana

A few years ago some friends of ours lived and worked in Ghana for a couple of years and Tom and I took advantage of having friends in such an unusual location by popping over for a visit! We had such a great time seeing a country so unlike anywhere we’d been before (well, Tom went to Tanzania when he was quite young but he doesn’t really remember it) and seeing how our friends lived out there. I have a lot of respect for them, it was so much more of a lifestyle change for them compared to us moving to Hong Kong!

Our friends worked for an organisation called Global Mamas. The aim of the organisation is to employ local women to make handicrafts which can then be sold abroad, mainly in the US, at a profit to maintain the business. The idea behind it was to empower women to generate their own income as the male incomes are often unreliable. Our friends set up a new site for Global Mamas on the edge of a village called PramPram near Accra. They learned the process for batiking fabric and sewing clothes and then turned an abandoned site into a workshop and employed local women to create Global Mamas garments. Impressive stuff!

This is where our friends lived (by the sea – beautiful!). They had to make the house habitable before they could live there, it looked like really hard work!

Our friends house

While we were staying with them, we visited another Global Mamas site and my friend and I did a bead making workshop. It was such fun! We made very simple one-colour beads, although they make much more complicated ones there as well. So this is how you make beads:

1. Crush glass with a weighted pole (very heavy!) until it resembles a fine powder

1 Glass crushing

2. Sieve the glass to get out any large particles

2 Sieving glass powder

3. Take your moulds, which have holes in the bottom. Place a stick into the hole and cut with the blade so that the end of the stick is level with the top of the mould

3 Putting sticks in bead mould

4. Mix dye of your chosen colour into your glass powder

4 Mix glass powder with coloured dye

5. Fill your mould with the glass powder

5 Fill bead mould with glass powder

6. Put your mould into a kiln and leave for 15-20 minutes. The stick burns away leaving a hole in the middle of the bead! (clever!)

6 Put bead moulds in kiln

7. Remove the mould from the kiln and leave to cool

7 Cooling handmade beads

8. Tip the beads out of the mould and make a bracelet or necklace!

8 Finished handmade beads!

I have to admit I’d never given much thought before before to how beads are made. It was really interesting and the guy who showed us how to do it was lovely. He does this all day long, hot work in a hot country. Here are some of the other beads he makes:

Global Mamas handmade beads

You can buy jewellery made from Global Mamas handmade beads online, just click here to have a look!

Ghana was a lovely country to visit, full of very friendly people. It’s quite poor though, and people live pretty simple lives. It’s also very un-touristy so I think it would be a difficult country to visit if you didn’t know anyone there. I feel very privileged that we had the opportunity to see it.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

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