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  » Process: Powder Glass Bead making
PROCESS: A powder glass bead workshop
  The powder glass technique of making beads is highly developed in West Africa where it's been in use for centuries. Glass is ground into a powder, poured into moulds and baked in kilns. Often recycled glass is used or old, broken beads are ground down and used again. See how it's done below. These beads are avaialable in the Powdered Glass Beads section of our online shop. Contact us for special orders.
 
   
  Making the moulds
 
 
Making the moulds
  Balls of pounded clay are flattened and cut to the right circumference using a pot lid for a template. Size and thickness depends on the size and style of the bead being made.
 
 
Making the moulds
  These wooden templates are marked to show the depth of the bead. The small point on the end makes the deeper hole where the cassava stalk sits. The cassava stalk will burn out in the firing to leave a hole in the bead. The hole must be made very smooth for the bead to release easily.
 
 
Moulds are made in a great variety of shapes and sizes.
  Moulds are made in a great variety of shapes and sizes. On the larger moulds here you can see the placement of the center hole.
 
 
  Moulds are made in a great variety of shapes and sizes. Moulds are made in a great variety of shapes and sizes.
  Sometimes larger beads are made by having the mould lengthwise. A stalk from a cassava plant is placed sideways and the powder is mounded up over it. This creates a bead with one smooth side and one rough one. Often the smooth side has fine detailed stripes and the rough side has less stripes. The bead is then ground down leaving a slightly oval shape. This shape is unique to these beads.
 
  When the moulds are finished they are baked in a kiln
  After the moulds dry, they are baked in the kiln.
 
 
  Preparing the glass
  Preparing the glass
  For powder glass beads you need powdered glass! Here some glass is being pounded to a fine powder using a pipe with a metal bottom welded on. An iron rod is used as the pestle.
 
  Preparing the glass
  After pounding the glass is sifted to remove any larger pieces. Only a very fine powder is used.
 
  Preparing the glass
  Different colored dyes are added to the powder. Washing blue is used for blue beads.
 
 
  Preparing the glass
  Chemical dyes are purchased in the marketplace for other colours - these beads are going to be orange!
 
  Filling the moulds
  Filling the moulds
  Before the mould is filled, it is dipped in a fine solution of kaolin clay and water, this coats the mould and acts as a release. Cassava stalks are put in the center of each hole in the mould and the powdered glass is carefully put into the hole around the stalk. One color will make a plain bead. different colors in layers make striped beds. Think of the sand pictures in bottles and you will get the idea.
 
  Filling the moulds
  Trays of bead mould which have been filled with powder glass and are ready for the kiln.
 
  Filling the moulds Filling the moulds
   
 
  Filling the moulds Filling the moulds
  Great skills is needed for this fine work. These photos show a series of beads that a customer has specially ordered. The beadmakers are always happy to produce new designs and shapes.
 
  Firing and finishing
 
Firing and finishing
  A kiln is prepared - the temperature does not have to be so high for powder glass as the powder fuses together rather than melts. The temperature of the kiln is judged by the color of the flame. Firing is a highly skilled job.
 
 
Firing and finishing
  The filled moulds are put into the kiln to bake. This process takes between 20 minutes to three quarters of an hour depending on the temperature of the kiln and the size of the bead being made.
 
 
Firing and finishing
  When the beads come out of the mould they have rough edges and there are traces of the kaolin which stopped them sticking in the mould. They are polished on a stone using sand and water. This grinds down the rough edges and removes the kaolin
 
 
The finished beads
  And look at the stunning results - an almost endless variety of completely unique hand made beads.
 
  Oiling beads Stringing beads
  Beads are oiled to bring out their natural shine. Some people use a light grade of machine oil. Here they are using cooking oil. Beads are strung on cotton thread. Mostly the beads are strung into a pair of bracelets. Women usually do this work. It is traditional among the Krobo people that men make the beads and women string and sell them.
 
 
Off to the bead market in Kofridua!
 
And then off to the bead market!
 
 
Florence Teiko Martey making beads
  Here is Florence Teiko Martey making beads. Florence is unique among bead producers in that she makes her own beads and has built up a profitable business herself. Now her husband is also working with the business. Florence makes beautiful special beads using her unique color sense. Her beads can be purchased in the bead section of our online shop
 
 
  Find out more about beads...
If you would like to find out more about beads we recommend bead-database.org. As well as bead related news you can also consult the online bead database that has been put together by some of the top bead experts in the world or if you have a bead question you can post it to the forum. A truly great resource for anyone interested in beads.
 
See these hand made beads in our shop:
 
powder glass beads
powder glass beads
 
 
painted glass beads
painted glass beads
 
 
powder glass beads
powder glass beads
 
 
recycled glass beads
recycled glass beads
 
 
painted glass beads
painted glass beads
 
 
powder glass beads
powder glass beads
 
 
painted glass beads
painted glass beads
 
 
powder glass beads
powder glass beads
 
 
painted glass beads
painted glass beads
 
 
powder glass beads
powder glass beads
 
 
brass boxes
painted glass beads
 
 
recycled glass beads
recycled glass beads
 
 
painted glass beads
painted glass beads
 
 
recycled glass beads
recycled glass beads
 
 
painted glass beads
painted glass beads
 
 
recycled glass beads
recycled glass beads
 
 
painted glass beads
painted glass beads
 
 
painted glass beads
painted glass beads
 
 
recycled glass beads
recycled glass beads
 
 
powder glass beads
powder glass beads
 
 
painted glass beads
painted glass beads
 
 
powder glass beads
powder glass beads
 
 
recycled glass beads
recycled glass beads
 
 
painted glass beads
painted glass beads
 
 
powder glass beads
powder glass beads
 
 
painted glass beads
painted glass beads
 
 
powder glass beads
powder glass beads
 
 
painted glass beads
painted glass beads
 
 
powder glass beads
powder glass beads
 
 
brass boxes
painted glass beads
 
 
recycled glass beads
recycled glass beads
 
 
painted glass beads
painted glass beads
 
 
recycled glass beads
recycled glass beads
 
 
painted glass beads
painted glass beads
 
 
recycled glass beads
recycled glass beads
 
 
painted glass beads
painted glass beads
 
 
painted glass beads
painted glass beads
 
 
recycled glass beads
recycled glass beads
 
 
 
 
powder glass beads
powder glass beads
 
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