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Africa is a treasure trove of beads
I went to Africa with a passion for textiles. As I travel, learn more and discover more, that passion has grown to encompass other traditions, such as bead making.
When I first went to Ghana and met long-time resident and beaded jewellery artist Trish Graham, I discovered the incredible bead culture there. And so, I became hooked on beads as well.
Now, where ever Trish and I travel together in West Africa, I spend almost as much time hunting for beads as I do for fabric!
Recycled glass beads from Ghana
Nothing gets wasted in Africa! Ghanaian bead artists transform recycled glass - including bottle glass! - into colourful beads. Some beads are simply polished, others are painted with intricate patterns.
In Ghana, beads have been an important part of the culture for centuries. Today, these modern recycled beads help keep the culture alive by replicating old designs first seen when traders arrived from Europe.
Recycled brass beads from Ghana
These amazing brass beads are hand-made in Ghana using the ancient "lost wax" method.
This is the same technique that was used to cast the famous Benin Bronzes, now in the British Museum.
Recycled bone beads from Kenya
All across Africa, bone has been carved into beads for centuries.
The tradition continues to this day. In Kenya, skilled craftsmen carve and shape cow bone recycled from local abbatoires, then use a wax-resist batik process to create wonderful African designs.
Pata Pata: Recycled flip flop beads from Kenya
Yes, these colourful, multi-layered beads really are made from recycled flip flops that wash up onto the beaches of the 'Swahili coast'.
Shells and other natural beads from West Africa
Africans have always used shells and other natural beads as adornment and that tradition is still strong today.
Take the cowrie shell. It's used in jewellery and as an embellishment on textiles. Historically, it's been used as money. In fact, the Ghanaian currency, the Cedi, actually translates as "cowrie".
Treasure Bags of African beads
"What's a treasure bag," you might wonder.
Well, it's a mixed bag of hand-made African beads - a great way to taste Africa's amazing and varied bead culture.