Nothing gets wasted in Africa and these beads made from recycled bottle glass are the perfect example. Made by our friend Oklah Tetteh, they have a wonderful, semi-translucent appearance.
As these beads are handmade, sizes and colours are not exact - all part of their rustic appeal.
We buy all of our recycled bottle glass beads from our friend Oklah Tetteh in Koforidua, Ghana. We've known Oklah for many years and support whole-heartedly his entrepreneural zeal to turn all sorts of broken bottles into beads.
Oklah begins by scouring the environment for both whole and broken bottles. In his outdoor workshop you'll find piles of beer, wine and other assorted bottles sorted by colour and just waiting to become beads.
Oklah and his team of apprentices smash the bottles into small, sharp shards of glass about the size of jagged peppercorns. Their tools are simple: a concave rock to spread the glass out and another rock to smash it with.
Next, they fill the many holes of their clay moulds with the broken glass shards. Oklah has many different moulds to choose from to make beads of different sizes and shapes, such as round, square, tubular and star.
When the moulds are ready, they are fired in a basic kiln. The kiln is a hollow mound of mud containing old car springs which form a 'grill' to support the moulds. Below the springs is a blazing wood fire: fire wood is the beadmakers' most expensive material.
The intense heat of the fire fuses the glass shards into beads, still glowing orange as the mould comes out of the kiln. Oklah uses a pair of awls to rotate and manipulate each bead in the mould, refining its shape and creating a hole for stringing.
After the beads cool, they are polished in a concave stone using a light mix of sand and water. Finally, Oklah finishes his beads with a dab of Vaseline to give a lustre.
Over time your recycled glass beads may get a little dull. Don't worry.
You can restore their initial lustre very easily. Simply rub a little Vaseline into your hands. Then roll your beads around in your hands. Now you've got nice shiny beads again. And, your hands are nice and soft as well!
One of Oklah's most beautiful and popular colours is Bombay Blue, which he makes from - you guessed it - Bombay Sapphire gin bottles. But Oklah has a problem. As not many Ghanaians drink Bombay Sapphire, raw material is hard to come by.
Can you help Oklah? If you have any old Bombay Sapphire bottles in your recycling bin, please bring then to us at the shop or at an event. We'll take them to Oklah on our next trip to Ghana.
Meda ase - thank you - from Oklah Tetteh.
Any 6 for the price of 5
Applies to all £2.25 packs of Bottle Glass, Powder Glass, Ntaka Glass, Plastic, Shell and Bone beads.