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Alternative Giving for the Holidays

Alternative giving is catching on. With frustration over the increasing commercialization of the holidays, the public is looking for alternatives to “shop-to-you-drop” consumerism in an attempt to get back to the true spirit of giving. So I’m continuing my annual round up of alternative giving that I started last year. Whether you tire of buying

Is It Spring Yet???

It’s mid-March and still snowing. Which prompts the question, “Is is spring yet?” We don’t know what the weather has in store, but while it’s getting it’s act together, here is a preview of the makings of my spring collection. More in the slideshow (below) Let me know what you think. ShareDelicious

Etsy Success: 3 Things You Need to Know – Part 2

In part one of this post, we asked Etsy artisans three essential questions about their strategies that contributed to the success of their shops: 1. What marketing or sales strategy do you attribute to your volume of sales? 2. Is there anything that you changed since you began your shop that resulted in increased sales?

Etsy Success: 3 Things You Need to Know

Have you ever wondered why some Etsy sellers flounder while others seem to flourish? I have. So I asked several dynamic Etsy sellers three essential questions: 1. What marketing or sales strategy do you attribute to your volume of sales? 2. Is there anything that you changed since you began your shop that resulted in

What Do You Have to Be Thankful For in 2013?

Today means different things to different people. For many, it is a reminder of Native American hospitality that was repaid with genocide. Ironically, it is also Native American Heritage Month. For others (I’d dare say most), it’s the day that precedes Black Friday and the advent of the commercialism we have grown to associate with

Alternative Giving for the Holidays

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or something else, the season of gift-giving is upon us. If you’re socially conscious, are fed up with the commercialism of the season, or just want to explore alternative gift-giving, here are some of my favorite causes that you can use for inspiration.

  • Heifer International provides livestock and training to people in developing communities so that they can feed themselves. They have a special gift-giving brochure to help gift-givers with ideas during the holiday season.
  • Women for Women International provides women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency.
  • Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) provides emergency medical care to millions of people caught in crises in more than 60 countries around the world.

In addition to the international agencies mentioned above, there are also a number of local causes worth giving to – either for yourself or on behalf of others as a gift:

  • Central Union Mission provides food, clothing and shelter to the homeless in the DC area. They run a Thanksgiving Food Drive and are in need of different types of donations. For a full list, .
  • The House of Ruth helps women, children and families in greatest need with an emphasis on ending homelessness and chronic abuse.
  • Outreach International has an online catalog of sustainable gifts in a variety of categories and price points to satisfy the fashion-conscious as well as the socially-conscious. The organization’s mission is to provide sustainable solutions to help end extreme poverty around the world.

If you are so-inclined to give gifts for the holiday or are looking for a gift that keeps on giving, you have plenty to choose from. What are you giving for the holidays? Comment below and let me know.

African “Trade Beads” – Meaning Behind the Name

“Fake trade beads.” That is how I heard an artist friend refer to recycled glass beads. There is some truth there in that some recycled glass is made to look like Venetian glass beads. But though the Venetian glass beads that made their way to Africa and were traded for a variety of goods, including slaves (hence, the name “trade beads”) are beautiful, people often don’t understand what they are getting when they covet them.

The slave trade trade involved a triangular system (by which manufactured goods, such as jewelry, guns, liquor, etc., were transported to Africa; African slaves were exchanged for the European imports; slaves transported to the Americas were exchanged for goods produced in the New World (cotton tobacco, sugar, etc., which were then sent back to Europe to begin the process all over again). Though the origin of the jewelry transported to Africa came from many sources, it was the Venetian beads – particularly the millefiori (literally one thousand flowers) that were highly sought in Africa. Given their popularity as well as the object of their destination, these beads came to be known as African Trade Beads (sometimes known as slave beads). But they were not fabricated in Africa. In fact, it is most likely that Venetian glass arrived in Africa as a result of someone having been traded for them – or as a part of a deal that included, slaves as well as other goods.

Don’t get me wrong. I possess “trade beads” and find them beautiful. But I wear them fully conscious that the beads are part of the legacy of the slave trade. Though we may choose to wear clothing made in sweatshops and sold in big box stores because they are a “bargain,” I think we should make conscious choices. Same goes for what we choose to adorn ourselves with.

That’s why I am excited about sandcast, recycled glass beads. Recycled glass, primarily fabricated in West Africa, notably in Ghana, are more affordable, are made from reused materials and provide income to communities that have thrived on this craft which has been handed down to generations for centuries.

African Recycled Glass, Powder Glass Beads

African Powder Glass “Bodum” Beads

African Trade Beads

Venetian glass “trade beads”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more on African recycled glass beads and how they are made, see my previous blog post on this subject. You can also find jewelry made with recycled glass on my Etsy site or my Web site.

Evolution of a Style

I was looking through my designs and thought it interesting how they’ve evolved over time. Here’s a glimpse:

First I was focused on beads, beads, beads. I still am to a large degree. But then my focus was beading, pure and simple:

Turquoise Blue Necklace

Turquoise Blue Necklace – Handmade turquoise-colored 10mm recycled glass beads from Ghana

Desert Flower Necklace

Desert Flower Necklace – Fulani wedding beads, trade beads, seed beads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I started varying my techniques with beads by using waxed cord, knotting and playing with a variety of closures.
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Recycled Glass Knotted Bracelet Recycled Glass Knotted Bracelet
Suncast recycled glass necklace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suncast recycled glass necklace

I started to get bored with just beading and wanted to take my craft to another level so I started dabbling in metalwork and wire wrapping.

Trapezoid copper and recycled vinyl earrings

Trapezoid copper and recycled vinyl earrings

Trade bead hoop earrings

Trade bead hoop earrings

Copper wrapped swirls and Fulani wedding bead earrings

Copper wrapped swirls and Fulani wedding bead earrings

Variegated oval hoops

Variegated oval hoops

metal clay pendant

metal clay pendant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I still have a passion for beads, but I’ve grown from just beading to incorporating metal work and wire into my creations. Learning new techniques keeps me fresh and keeps the work interesting. It’s all a part of my journey and …..Who knows where it will go from here?

Tell me what you think about how my style has evolved as well as how your own creative journey has evolved.

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