Saturday, December 5, 2015

Get inspired by Mzuribeads on your next creations!!!

Think Mzuribeads 
Think Colours, Forms, Sizes and Textures!

It's early December and the weather in Edinburgh has reached its proper winter looks! 
With Christmas round the corner, I see many of you are looking at your stash of Mzuribeads to make your special handmade gifts for your loved ones. So I thought why not share a few ideas on how to use these amazing super hybrid beads and get the inspiration going! 

First rule. There is no rules on how to use your Mzuribeads. Really, sky and your imagination is the limit and I'm hoping some of you who are reading this blog to surprise and impress us with your creations and start posting them on our Facebook Mzuribeads making jewellery  group.

Second rule. Go mental with colours, shapes, volumes, forms, combos and textures!
Really with Mzuribeads you can create a million and 1 styles just by picking and trying different combinations of all the different colour, size, shape, texture beads. 

Many times I got comments that my recycled paper bead necklace looked like ceramic beads! 
Recycled paper beads have got a shiny and smooth finish due to years of quality control that we in Mzuribeads think takes our beads to the next level. At the same time they are classic and so deliciously colourful that there is no piece of jewellery they don't fit in. Plus, Mzuribeads has developed seven (7!!!) sizes from short to long and slim, small round to large, to larger and chunkier; really you can't go wrong. You can use them in your creation as the main body and colour theme or they can feature as a sneaky peek or you can mix them with other textures and shapes, according to your taste. 

The barkcloth bead will bring a very earthy feel to your creations. They are very tangible and warm. 
As a beginner in beading, it took me a while to warm to them as I felt threatened by their size. But once I went barkcloth I never went back. 
The large barkcloth beads are an absolute statement and they are ideal for big and bold creations! I just love them! The smaller sizes are fantastic to mix with paper or cow horn for earrings or smaller pieces as they bring that colour and texture balance and you just won't find them elsewhere! 

What can I say about the cow horn bead. 
The cow horn beads are Vincent's babies (see previous blog on Vincent's work and our visit in Uganda) and we take great pride in them. 

 

They are shiny and tough, they are hand-selected, hand-cut and hand-polished; unique from the moment they are naturally created as a "single cow's horn" to the moment they arrive to your post box. 
At the moment we have about twelve different sizes and shapes to choose from and they are going to be one of the most elegant yet curious features on your jewellery! Warning: people like to "feel" them in their hands so get prepared to be asked a lot!


The banana leaf bead is what we call 
"the epitome of green!"
      
Because it probably IS the least processed bead of all; comes straight off the tree, dries through the season in the wind and atmosphere oxygen, then hand-cut and hand-rolled in three different sizes. You can read Angus' blog on the importance of banana in Ugandan nutrition and cuisine on the "home of the banana"
It works beautifully in a small and elegant bracelet or as a discrete ending on the edges of your necklace or earrings. No matter how you use the banana leaf, one thing to remember, you can't go greener than this!

Last but not least, the glass beads. 
  
Who said you only recycle glass in the factory? Mzuribeads recycle local glass waste into beads of various shapes and colours -as many as the coloured glass bottles you find in the recycle- light and dark blue, green, transparent white, sand and brown. You can go creative with these from stunning summer creations with turquoise blues or deeper winter themed necklaces. Think contrast is the key!

And as a last tip, also know that Mzuribeads are highly social which means...
...they love to MINGLE! 
Put them together with the rest of your bead collection, ceramics, wood, wool, new materials, mix them up and try them out. They'll do fantastic in your pluralistic and diverse creations as well as on their own, if you just only give them a chance!
Happy beading! :)

Eleni@mzuribeads







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Monday, November 30, 2015

Going Places

Going Places


It was a shock, my first visit for 4 years. Traveling to and from  Kampala from Ndejje in 2014 was a nightmare.  it was December and I had already been warned regarding the christmas rush. But the sheer volume of traffic and people were overwhelming.




First you had to fight your way to the bus stop at the taxi park. Passing all the sellers of chinese clothes and plastic toys, thousands of individuals are on the move.  To keep focus, and to stay calm was a real test. Once you found the stop, you were faced with up to 50 others waiting for the same bus that fits 14. There is no queing, its a physical and emotional battle . If you are lucky to get on the bus, a four mile traffic jam awaited you. You arrived home knackered. 






In my last blog I talked about water and electricity in Uganda, this one is about roads and the countries infrastructure. 
Uganda is no different to other third world countries that are facing an increasing migration from rural to urban settings.  With no jobs or space,  the young especially,  are forced into overcrowding dangerous living conditions.  If they are lucky to get work,  its for peanuts.

The roads had not changed, neither a growing network or the quality of the roads. Entering Ndejje was still a bumpy ride as the buses navigated the pot holes, the flooded areas and other obstacles. There is an ever increasing pressure on the  infrastructure, and it came to a head in 2011. 





The walk to work protests in 2011 happened not because of opportunistic groups that wanted to take advantage of the Arab Spring. It was not led by civil society.  It was ordinary Ugandans, with no health or employment rights, coming out on the street, protesting their own living conditions. Due to the rising costs and the difficulties of getting about, the mood and energy of the people created the atmosphere.  

Museveni and his government knew there was a real threat from below. With civil society ( NGO'S, labour groups etc) Museveni would be able to passify, but with the ordinary citizens with nothing to lose, the threat was real. 

The government shot, fired tear gas, attacked and brutally cracked down on the thousands and thousands of protesters.  Thousands were arrested, TV stations were shut down.  The people faced a brick wall, if they continued,  they would be starved or killed. Slowly, people went back to their daily grind. 



To operate a small business. To face the nightmares of getting about, the increasing food and water prices. Its a daily struggle. Mzuribeads are in solidarity with the struggle, giving a voice to the artisans that make beads to send their children off to school and to buy the next meal.

Mzuribeads, beads, Africa, Uganda, Walk to work protests , 2011 protest, rising fuel costs, Food increases, Ugandan roads, artisans, fair trade, overcrowding, Police violence, Schools, education, Ugandan transport , Matatoo, Ndejje 


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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Matatu for Dummies (part 2)


Helloo!! This is me again Eleni at Mzuribeads, coming back with my next four and last lessons I learned in last year's December during my trip to Uganda in Entebbe. If you haven't read the first three or want to enjoy reading it altogether, do scroll down and visit my previous post in September the 10th.

<<<.........................................>>>

Lesson no 4
The Tetris effect. Matatu is not just a money value local transportation. It's also fun! If your seated in one of the front or middle seating, at any point the person(s) behind you or next to you will want to get out. So, you and anyone else who block their exit will have to get out at the next stop, let them out and get back in. Now! You need to quickly develop your strategy! There are only few seats situated in the 3 corners of the vehicle and by the window on the driver's side that don't block anyone's seat! Are you fast enough to get one of those for the rest of your trip? Are you bold enough to challenge your luck?

Lesson no 5
Information processing. For the matatu experience, information processing is very important! Who do I pay the fare to? Oh! He must be the conductor! I'll give it to him. (I gave him a big note and I'm getting my change at the end of my ride, after everyone else got theirs. Anxiety over). Where am I? Where am I going? How do I tell that's my stop? No idea! Thank luck, Angus knows. No, no, no I'm not ready for my first trip on the matatu by myself..Oh my gosh!! Are these storks?! Babies must weigh way too much here! Hmm...I kinda like these clothes boutiques along the side of the road. If my clothes weren't merging in with my skin from the sweat, I might have tried something on sometime. Traffic...okay, that's the same everywhere. Let's moan. What!? Am I getting off here? Like now? Oh okay okay, thanks!

Lesson no 6
Reunite with your body's moving parts. When you get out of the matatu is not just the relief that you reached the right destination. It's not just the first deep yoga breath that you take in. It's not just stretching your legs and arms in a sun salutation. It's an experience to not brush off quickly but take a short moment to cherish and appreciate in every bit of your bodily and mind experiencing. 

Lesson no 7 and last
A scope for return. If you're contemplating re-attempting taking the matatu, do it! Yes, it will


challenge your senses, your personal space availability, your stereotypes and your culture conditioned attitudes. But! It will be fun and it can inspire you to blog! And like many other things
...you can master it!

I hope you you enjoyed reading and learning Ugandan every day life basics with me and you got your curiosity awaken! 

As very wisely put by the ancient philosopher, I learn as I age! 

Until the next blog,

Eleni@mzuribeads

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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Community changes




Community changes 


I have been visiting Ndejje  and the Mzuri artisans in Uganda for 11 years and its very interesting to see what community services have changed and other aspects that have stayed the same. There is the electricity supply, the water and waste disposal services, the access through roads and paths. And also the health clinics and schools. 







Ndejje is an urban village, 8 km away from the capital city of Kampala. In the last few years, I have seen it grow and expand in all directions. Areas that were just fields and bushes are now populated with houses and families. The demand for water has rapidly increased and also the factor of good sanitation has put a pressure on government services. The Ugandan government since 1998 has been put under pressure to hand over its responsibility to supply safe water to communities to the private sector. Edith, the manager of Mzuribeads Uganda, in the last few years has managed to buy land and build a house for her family. She had to pay a substantial fee to get a tap built within her compound. The tap has a meter and she is responsible for paying the water charges. She also charges the neighbours if they use her water. 





In Ndejje, there is still no waste or bin services, as rubbish is either, recycled, burned or composted. What has changed drastically is the electricity supply. Back in 2004, it was a daily assurance that power went off for at least two hours a day. Now, in the 2015, power failures are a rarity. In 2012, the Bujagali hydropower dam was commissioned, it cost nearly $900 million. On the positive side, it has led to many more families having power, on the other side, the cost of power for consumers has rapidly increased. The Government paid 10.1 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour, financed by the World Bank, and several European development finance agencies. 



The big question is, with all the privatisation, the olive branch offered for increase in water supply and electricity, is it worth the huge  debt  and increasing costs the country face for many years ahead?

What is the right path to develop? To enable  access to safe water and electricity but still giving people a hold on their own land and resources. 



I will talk later about road and other developments, effecting millions of people in cities and rural areas. 


Uganda, development, beads, Ugandan beads, World bank, debt, electricity, Water, third world, Ugandan dams, Africa, environment, power prices, Ugandan government, Mzuribeads

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

So what's it really like to work or volunteer at mzuribeads?

What is it like to work and volunteer for Mzuribeads?
What could you be doing and what skills could you learn ?

As one of the founders, I am going to tell you a little about what I have learned at Mzuribeads, and what you could also gain from working or volunteering with us.

(Me with the Mzuribeads women)

ONLINE BEAD STORE / SALES 

From 2009 - 2010 I set up and managed the first online bead store for Mzuribeads.  At first I thought this would be quite simple, but things got interesting after getting into it, and when consistent sales began. Some of the valuable things I picked up were around stock management, effective listings and sales formulas, all of which, by the end of my role, I swore by.  All of the knowledge I and others have accumulated, will be shared with you, as we mentor and advise you along the way... should you decide to set up your own store selling Mzuribeads.

The other way I have worked form Mzuribead is through commission on wholesale.  Although often challenging, I found this extremely rewarding.  As, not only did I feel responsible for sending Mzuribeads to countries I hadn't even imagined, but I also saw a significant amount of money reaching the women in Uganda, and each sale called for a mini celebration (:

GRAPHICS DESIGN / BRANDING / DIGITAL MARKETING / PROJECT MANAGEMENT 

Before starting Mzuribeads alongside my brother and the initial four beaders, I would never have thought how much I could self learn from the internet.  I owe my most of my recent and current professional positions to my volunteer posts at Mzuribeads.  Getting to know the women and becoming passionate about such amazing, natural, recycled and handmade beads, motivated me to help.  
At the time I started to volunteer, ecommerce was just starting to become mainstream, and I was faced with all sorts of issues as website, logo, and all the online branding and presence which had to be designed.  Mzuribeads supported me to learn how to use Adobe Creative Suite, basic HTML, and so much more.  And has resulted to my current professional position as a graphic designer, working with all sorts of interesting small charities, organisations and businesses around London.

(The women opening their first bank account 2006)

Overseeing the production of the beads in Uganda, and designing alongside the artists new products, has brought on an array of challenges, especially structurally and financially.  Amazing transferable skills, which I am delighted to use in my current role of Project Coordinator, establishing a new art studio and store for people with enduring mental health issues in South London. 

This was just a little brief insight into my time at Mzuribeads.  For now, I have a wonderful position, volunteering my time towards advising the team, because now I'm an older timer, who has seen and struggled through many ups and downs, but never gave in.  For Mzuribeads is a truly inspiring initiative... working with women who are much need of income... in a respectful, creative and enterprising way.  I am so proud to be one of it's members and hope that you may consider to join, work, volunteer and support, and learn a range of skills you never thought you would... 

Volunteer Uganda, work Uganda, Start an online bead store, Make a difference, help women in Uganda, Fair trade beads, Sell ethical products, Learn skills by volunteering, African beads, Ethical beads, Recycled beads, Natural beads, Sell beads, Social enterprise

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Friday, October 9, 2015

the home of the banana


Mzuribeads...the home of the banana leaf bead

Bananas do not grow from seeds but from bulbs and it takes between 9 to 12 months from planting to harvesting.



They dont have a havesting season



Banana's are grown in tropical regions like Uganda and Ndejje where the Mzuribeads artisans live.

The banana is a edible fruit, as most people know, and they grow in bunches. Mostly people in the UK are aware of the yellow, soft, sweet dessert banana. In Uganda, a different variety of banana is mostly grown. Plantains are harvested when green, firm and more starchier. The local name of this food in Uganda is called Matoke.





Matoke is peeled plantain, either boiled or softened in the oven. They are then usually mashed or used in stews.

In Uganda, the matoke is often cooked or steamed rapped in banana leaves




The banana leaf is very important in Ugandan cooking as it gives so much flavour to the Matoke or meat that is cooking.


So how can the natural little oval beads come from the leaf? They are rolled from actual dried banana leaves and weaved and varnished for a smooth and professional finish.

Mzuribeads, ethical, natural,  recycled

African, ART UGANDA beads, BANANA LEAF, BEADING, BEADS, BEADS UGANDA, big beads, business, bead making, banana growing, african beads, recycled, RECYCLED BEADS, Uganda food, Ugandan community, ethical, 



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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Proud to be Part of the Ethical Fashion Revolution

Proud to be Part of the Ethical Fashion Revolution

I think I can probably speak for everyone when I say, none of us wants to be wearing clothes and accessories made by children in sweatshops; or in factories where workers risk their lives everyday due to poor health and safety standards as a result of greedy owners or retailers cutting corners to save money and line their own pockets; or where the cotton farming or production process is wreaking havoc on our environment and endangering the lives of the communities living nearby. But in today's fashion industry, these unethical practices are prolific, and when we buy products on the high street, we are given so little information about where our purchases have come from, that the chances are we are unwittingly making purchases that support these practices. 



In recent years, an ethical fashion movement has emerged. This has led to a wave of ethical fashion brands offering consumers products that have been made by workers who are paid fairly and who work in safe and healthy working environments; and in a way that is sensitive to the environment and minimises environmental footprint in the production, packaging and transportation of goods.



At Mzuribeads, we are proud to be part of this ethical fashion revolution. Designers using our beads in their creations have chosen a bead that is ethical and life changing to the women who make them. The Mzuribeads co-operative of Ugandan women are running their own social enterprise to build a sustainable income that is transforming their lives and helping them to move out of poverty. Through this business model, our Artisans feel empowered, which brings with it huge psychological benefits. And by making our beads from recycled materials - recycled paper, recycled glass, and cowhorn (which is a by-product of the meat industry) - and natural materials - banana leaf and barkcloth, our beads have a very small environmental footprint too. 

If you're a designer looking for fabulous, yet ethical beads for your next creations, why not give Mzuribeads a try. You won't be disappointed!

Sharon     

African Jewellery, African Beads, Ethical Beads, Ethical Fashion, barkcloth beads, African fashion, cooperative, cowhorn beads, design jewelry, eco beads, eco friendly beads, ethical design, fair trade jewellery, RECYCLED BEADS, UNIQUE BEADS, Designer Beads

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