This past Friday our art class took a trip to Cedi’s Bead Village, which was about a 2 hour drive from our hotel in Accra. It was a pretty uneventful drive, that is until we got to the last 10 or so minutes which consisted of driving along a rocky dirt road which felt similar to what I would imagine driving through a giant ball pit at Chuck E Cheese’s would feel like. Apparently this is what the whole 8 hour drive to Mole, Ghana (where we’re going on our safari in a couple weeks) is like. But we’ll deal with that when that comes.
This particular place is where all the beads in the Accra area are made. When we arrived, Cedi (the man who owns the place) showed us how to make beads out of sand grains. To break it down, we each got two clay molds in which to put the sand. We placed a stick in the middle to be the hole of the bead, and then using little funnels, slowly and gently poured sand into our mold, using different colors and stripes to create a design. It was similar to making sand art as a kid. Those were then taken to the kiln to bake for a few hours.
Then we went and made glass beads. For this, we used similar clay molds, but this time, we took little broken pieces of glass (mostly from various bottles) and put them in the mold, combining whatever colors we wanted. This took a lot less time and precision than trying to manage the sand. These too were taken to be fired in the kiln for a couple hours.
We then had the chance to roam around the village–many of us took full advantage of the gift shop, perusing the many and varied beads that were for sale. We were also showed the ‘lamping’ technique by Cedi, which is similar to glass blowing. He had sticks of glass (which looked like straws) that he heated in a torch-like flame until it started to melt. Then he wrapped the melting glass around another stick in various fashions until he had a satisfactorily designed bead. It was very neat.
Later in the day, Professor Rowen bought us all another two beads from the gift shop so that we could paint them and fire those as well, so we could have two more beads using a different technique. These only took about 15 minutes to fire, but then of course they had to cool. After cooling, all of the beads had to be polished, a process which consisted of rubbing them in dirt and water on a flat rock and then using a polishing cloth of some sort to finish the job. So at the end of the day, we all walked away with 6 beads that we made ourselves–quite a unique experience.