Fair Trade Glass Beads from West Africa- Directly Imported (by us!). Beads from the crafter's hands to yours
We are very proud to be importing these beautifully handcrafted glass beads from West Africa. Our Mhai O Mhai team is on the ground in Africa 12 months a year- facilitating the sourcing of beads right through to exporting to North America.
A bit about these traditional beads:
No machinery has been used in their creation... and the hand crafted workmanship is just stunning. We often see folks in store just standing in front of the 16 foot African Bead Wall- taking it all in. You want to hold them- feel them.... and certainly wear them.
- the glass used in the beads is recycled
- each individual bead is painted by hand (those that are embellished)
- beads are cured in clay ovens (twice- once to form the bead and a second time following the hand embellishing to cure the paint)
- Powder glass beads are made from finely ground glass, the main source being broken and unusable bottles and a great variety of other scrap glasses. Special glasses such as old cobalt medicine bottles, cold cream jars, and many other types of glasses from plates, ashtrays, window panes.... Up-Cycling at its best!
- Pulverized or merely fragmented, and made into beads, these glasses yield particularly bright colors and shiny surfaces. Modern ceramic colorants, finely ground broken beads, or shards of different coloured glasses from various sources can be added to create a great variety of styles, designs and decorative patterns in many different colours.
- Krobo powder glass beads are made in vertical molds fashioned out of a special, locally dug clay. Most molds have a number of depressions, designed to hold one bead each, and each of these depressions, in turn, has a small central depression to hold the stem of a cassava leaf.
- The mold is filled with finely ground glass that can be built up in layers in order to form sequences and patterns of different shapes and colors. The technique could be described as being somewhat similar to creating a sand "painting" or to filling a bottle with different colored sands and is called the "vertical - mold dry power glass technique". When cassava leaf stems are used, these will burn away during firing and leave the bead perforation. Certain powder glass bead variants, however, receive their perforations after firing, by piercing the still hot and pliable glass with a hand-made, pointed metal tool. Firing takes place in clay kilns until the glass fuses.
- There are three distinct styles of modern Krobo powder glass beads:
Fused glass fragment beads which are being made by fusing together fairly large bottle glass or glass bead fragments. These beads are translucent or semi-translucent or semi-translucent and receive their perforations, as well as their final shapes, after firing.
Beads composed of two halves (usually bicones, occasionally spheres), that are being created from pulverized glass. The two halves are being joined together in a second, short firing process.
The "Mue Ne Angma" or "Writing Beads", conventional powder glass beads made from finely ground glass, with glass slurry decorations that are being "written" and fused in a second firing.
The Beads are Fair Trade
Fair Trade (also known as "fair trade" or "fairly traded") refers to the broader concept of fairness and decency in the marketplace.
Fair Trade is a different way of doing business. It's about making principles of fairness and decency mean something in the marketplace. It seeks to change the terms of trade for the products we buy - to ensure the farmers and artisans behind those products get a better deal.
Most often this is understood to mean better prices for producers, but it often means longer-term and more meaningful trading relationships as well.
For consumers and businesses, it's also about information. Fair Trade is a way for all of us to identify products that meet our values so we can make choices that have a positive impact on the world.
We are the importer (and exporter!)
Mhai O Mhai is on the ground in Africa- 12 months a year. Our growing team facilitates the sourcing of beads from various crafters right through to the exporting process in Africa to North America. This means to our consumers in North America- the lowest prices and most efficient supply chain available to you!
Drop in to see our fabulous selection!
Our selection of beads are line-priced, which means we have assigned one price to each cluster of beads, no matter which cluster you choose.