Bead-Making in Ghana

Let me start by saying, if someone were to ask me the biggest difference between Ghana and Ethiopia, I would have to say the heat. I’m sure that sounds clichéd, the climate in Ethiopia was almost always so comfortable, but I’ve only experienced heat like Ghana in SE Asia (and they seemed to have much more reliable electricity and air).

Most days, this heat is totally manageable. The school has generators and so does our apartment. The only time we’re without air is in our taxi rides to get groceries each Sunday. But this past Saturday was brutal.

After an hour and a half on a bus, we arrived at TK Beads and immediately experienced scorching heat. We were shown how local powder glass beads are made. No part of them is made indoors.

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The first thing we encountered was heaps of glass bottles. Those are broken down, smashed with a crudely made giant mortar and pestle. Once the glass has become dust, it’s mixed with various ceramic dyes to achieve the desired color. It’s then poured into molds.

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Inside each mold is a straight twig from a special kind of tree (and of course I’ve forgotten the name of this special tree!). This tree has been chosen because once the molds are filled, they are placed inside a furnace and the twigs burn out at the precisely right time – not too soon and the bead hasn’t formed and not too late that part of the twig remains in the bead. You then have a perfect hole.

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The next step is decoration. They use the same ceramic dyes, mixed with water, to decorate the beads. In order to set the designs, the beads are then placed back into the furnace one last time. The end result is a dozen, painstakingly created, beads.

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Almost all of the materials used in bead making at TK Beads are either natural or recycled. The glass comes from bottles, the paint dispensers from bicycle spokes, the molds are used over and over again, with new twigs inside, and the stands are made from wood.

The end result is one-of-a-kind beads. They make other kinds of beads as well, using methods that involved fires way too hot for me to want to stand around to find out more information. This glass mixed and melted together to form swirls of color in the beads.

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These beads are polished with mud, before being rinsed clean.

Inside their shop are beads of all different shapes, colors, and sizes. I couldn’t help myself…for absolutely no other reason than I liked the way they looked, I now own a ton of beads : ) Plus, I couldn’t have stood outside in all that heat for nothing!

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