Bangladesh Artisans

gha2013_cm_1076My third grade teacher once said, “Learn one new thing each day.” Many years later, I can still hear her words in the back of my mind, and I often ask myself: “What did I learn today?”

In my role at Ten Thousand Villages, I not only have the privilege of working with our artisan partners every day, but I often get to learn something new from them as well.

As I began to learn about one of our new partners, Ele Agbe from Ghana in West Africa, I was immediately intrigued. I was impressed by their unique production processes and the beautiful products they create – in many cases, using what we would consider everyday trash. Ele Agbe uses items we would generally carry to the curb on recycling day to create Ten Thousand Villages’ newest recycled glass necklace.

Coloured glass bottles are collected from the streets, and then sorted and cleaned. They are melted down and made into beautiful glass beads in moulds made from termite clay. Termite clay is used because the artisans believe it holds up to the heat of the kiln better than other options available – something I never would have guessed!

Once the beads come out of the kiln, melted and very hot, a tiny stick or piece of grass is inserted in the centre of the mold. This creates a hole for the string of the necklace to pass through.

These beads are common in Ghana, which is home to West Africa’s largest bead market. But to me, they are pieces of art – each one looking a bit different. It’s a beautiful example of how one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

Not only is working with this new group teaching me new processes, but it also reminds me to look at things in a different light. Bottles thrown to the side of the road as trash can become products that are appreciated for their originality on the other side of the globe.

Each bead tells its own story, and they’re all strung together to form beautiful pieces of wearable art.


embroidered-teardrop-earrings Background short ghana-glass-necklace Background short mustard-seed-earrings
Embroidered Teardrop Earrings Ghana Glass Necklace Mustard Seed Earrings

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