Thursday, January 6, 2011

"Are you at all 'creative?'"

On the first morning of my internship, I was just clearing off some desk space in the large one-room office of Global Mamas in Accra, and firing up my scrappy Gateway lap top when my supervisor asked me, “Are you at all 'creative?'” She asked as if it was a shot in the dark; as if creativity were some rare genetic trait that she definitely doesn't possess. If you know me at all, you can imagine my elation upon hearing her question. I imagine my mom and dad grinning as they read this while they remember the countless hours I've spent in the craft room since I was old enough to cut and glue.

I didn't really hesitate with fabricated modesty—I've finally learned to identify creativity as one of my strengths in interviews and personal statements—I just said, “Yeah, I am.” She responded by pulling out some newly-designed beads and explained that the beads are great, but they need a solid design for a set of jewelry using them. Beading! I couldn't believe my great fortune! Sometime during 6th grade, I picked up beading as my niche hobby. Since then I've vacillated between an avid and an occasional jewelry maker; with all due modesty, I've learned a thing or two about the assembly and craft-person-ship of beaded jewelry.

So in the first three days of my internship, I have spent a great deal of time creating beaded items. It began with that great new set of beads, and they're such a great material I have to describe them. One of Global Mamas' beadmakers recently discovered that she could make these almost-iridescent tube-beads by cutting, coloring, and rolling recycled water bottles. The result are electric teal and indigo blue beads roughly a half an inch in length. My first jewelry designs caught the attention of my immediate supervisor as well as the other three deciding voices (in Minneapolis, Michigan, and Spain), but the designs were pretty plain and conservative and they encouraged me to keep working with the beads. So today (Thursday) I tried again and this is what I came up with—a wrap-around bracelet and some matching earrings. Tomorrow morning I'll get to work on a necklace!

What's even more exciting is that all of these beads (even the glass ones) are hand-made AND RECYCLED. And... what's BEST about this project is that my supervisor said, verbatim, “I am so glad you're working on this. This just means that the women can start earning money a whole year sooner.” Wow, what an amazing feeling I had as I continued stringing beads! I've worked on some other creative projects this week such as re-designing the 'Sister to Sister' ornament, 'Eco' ornament, and developing a new ornament design. The pressure is on this month because all the photos, measurements, and descriptions of merchandise need to go to the catalog to be printed before the end of January. I also had the chance to write creatively. See if these descriptions make you want to buy the products without even seeing them? ;)

This bold jewelry will stand out on your wrist for its rich shade of teal and for the mesmerizing shape of these elliptical beads.

The beads on this ornament tell a story of Sisters Uniting and Transforming to Prosper in a New Day. This hand-crafted item makes a meaningful gift or keepsake.

You'll really feel down-to-earth with a necklace of African bauxite stones and hand-made blue glass beads.

In case you get the feeling that my internship is illegitimate or un-academic, (which I don't really expect many of you to think, nonetheless...) I have also been reading the last few annual reports for Global Mamas and a collection of documents from a previous intern who interviewed many women who work within Global Mamas, and wrote about their opinions and experiences with the organization. During my time here, I will also be a part of developing the 2010 Annual Report and potentially compiling the important findings of the previous intern.

Basically, so far, I love my internship! I've been putting in much more than 8 hours of work; honestly, I'm mentally engaged as intensely as I am at Olaf! But it doesn't feel like it! At the end of every day I feel tired and accomplished. The fact is, I know that what I'm doing supports the hard work of so many women who have to be responsible for their families' and their own livelihoods. It also helps to have a supportive supervisor who is encouraging me to do what I do best... to be creative!


  1. how flipping cool is that?! of course, i wish i were right next to you creating!!! i am soooo curious about the recycling of the beads....rolling? you must fill me in on this sometime!

    too bad about your pictures....glad you were able to share these two!



  2. The jewelry is beautiful, Lizzy! I'm so glad to hear you made it there safely and are exploring your temporary home. I can't wait to hear more about your adventures!


  3. I am smiling from ear to ear, with tears in my eyes!! how awesome that you can share your creativity for the promotion of the those women. I LOVE the colors of the beads. Was soem heating process used to make the recyled bottles more pliable? I love you, Ibby!! Mama

  4. Thanks for the comments everyone!

    Ang, I'd love to tell you more about these beads when I get back. I believe I'll be meeting the women that makes them later this week. I can totally see you helping Global Mamas out with jewelry design/product development... fancy a trip to Ghana?!


  5. Thanks for sharing this great post, Liz. Sometimes our hobbies, no matter how insignificant they may seem to us, can make a world of difference in a different context. And, although it may be "just beading" in the United States, it's almost like you've been preparing for this internship since the 6th grade.