Thursday, 16 February 2017

Krobo-Odumase market/ traditional bead making workshop



Last Wednesday I went on a short trip to Krobo-Odumase to visit the local market which is known for it's amazing traditional, handcrafted bead stalls. The bead market area is open only on Wednesdays and Saturdays but, after doing some research online, I found out that on Saturdays there are a lot of funerals and so sometimes the stalls are empty. We arrived around 2.30pm after setting off from Cape Coast at 7am, travelling firstly to Accra then onwards to Madina where we changed onto a Tro-tro heading towards Somanya. 

Upon arrival we had to walk through the bustling Krobo-Odumase market, I had expected the bead market to be in a separate location to the rest of the stalls but it was nestled in the centre in an open brick area, like a small bead island. The surrounding market sold everything from wax print fabric and traditional batik to vegetables, spices, smoked fish and even chicken feet. Everything was packed so tightly together that, to the untrained eye of a tourist, the stalls were almost indistinguishable from each other. At one point we got so lost trying to get back from the bead market that our only point of reference was a woman who kept calling "Jackie Chan" after us...because evidently we look Asian and male...

Krobo, Ghanaian life, life in Ghana, Ghana travel, African market
Krobo-Odumase market
The market so much of a sensory assault (not necessarily in a bad way) that I found it extremely hard to process all of the new information my brain was receiving. When there are so many new sensory experiences coming at you from every angle it becomes very hard to decipher which information you need to pay attention to. There are new smells, many of them verging on unpleasant(smoked fish, open sewer, dust), new visual experiences including all of the women carrying an assortment of objects on their heads and all of the colourful garments you are walking past, there are people surrounding you on all sides and cars squeezing past you through impossibly small gaps while young boys with wheelbarrows hurry along next to you. All the while you are being exposed to so much noise; market traders selling their wares, Ghanaian music, car horns,and small children constantly greeting you because of your skin colour.

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A few photos of me shopping for beads and negotiating prices in the market.
It sounds like I'm complaining with the description I gave above, but I actually absolutely loved it. Bartering with the traders on the price of a string of beads and envisaging what I could turn each of them into. They were so colourful and some of them were so very old, "older than my grandmother" as one trader proudly told us! I ended up getting quite carried away and buying quite a lot .....however I still came away feeling like I didn't quite get enough. 

In the future I hope to have my own business, perhaps part of that will involve selling jewellery, I would love to come back to Ghana and visit Krobo-Odumase bead market once again with a bigger spending budget!

Here are the beads I ended up buying:



On the Thursday we had arranged to go to a bead workshop run by Moses and Grace, two bead makers employed by Global Mamas. They were both such lovely, gentle people and seemed to really love what they do- Moses told me he has been making beads for 14 years, making him a true artisan.

Despite the lack of iphone, I have managed to compile enough photos to show you the whole bead making process- YAY!

There are very few adjectives strong enough to describe how amazing watching this process was. It is so artisanal and there are so many complex stages, I also didn't realise how laborious bead making actually is!

Bead making workshop, handmade beads, handcrafted, Ghana craft
Moses and Grace, their bead kiln and workshop.
The workshop was located in the most peaceful area, shaded by mango trees and banana palms, there was one bamboo thatched structure housing the kiln and another used for grinding/shaping and smoothing/polishing the beads.

While at the workshop I saw the full extent to which everything in Ghana is recycled and how all raw materials are produced locally- it's so resourceful. I wish we were more like this in the UK, instead of our throwaway society where most things are sent to the dustbin instead of being fixed or up-cycled.

Recycling, glass bottle recycling, Krobo beads, fairtrade, bead making workshop, Global Mamas
The glass grinding process, from the gathered glass bottles to the fine glass powder produced at the end.

Recycled glass bottles are separated by colour and then ground down with a large pestle and mortar type of equipment until they become a fine glass powder. The powder is then sieved to separate the larger pieces from the finer grains, the larger pieces are then re-ground. 

I even gave the glass pounding a go and after a few minutes I was extremely sweaty and tired, it is so impressive how Moses manages to do that on a daily basis. I asked him how long he pounds glass each day and he said 4 hrs.... I couldn't even keep it up for 4 minutes!

The clay molds used to make the beads.
The beads are made using these clay molds, holes have been carved out of the clay and a small hole indented into the bottom of each hole. Stems from the locally grown Cassava plant are poked into the holes and cut down (with a razor blade attached to a stick) so that they don't rise above the surface level of the clay. These are to create the holes in the glass beads-as the beads are put into the hot kiln the cassava stem burns and disintegrates leaving a hole in the bead. 

It's quite an amazing process with minimal wastage. The clay molds are then used until they break, they are then ground down and the clay re-used to make new molds.


The next step is to add the glass to the mold to make the beads. Dye powder is mixed with the fine glass powder to create a coloured glass powder mixture. The powder is then used to fill in the holes of the clay mold and then a feather is used to brush down the mold, ensuring no powder is wasted or left on the exterior of the mold. See what I mean about being resourceful- they used A FEATHER to brush off the excess powder....it's just WOW!

Adding the dye to colour the glass powder
After preparing the molds and filling them with glass powder they are ready to put in the kiln.
The kiln is heated by wooden poles and palm trunks inserted into the back which are then pushed further into the oven as they burn. It was so hot around the kiln that it almost made the African weather feel cool.....almost! 

handmade beads, glass kiln, bead baking
Moses placing the clay molds into the kiln.
After around 30 minutes the beads were ready to be removed from the kiln, in the absence of a thermometer or any way of telling the exact temperature of the kiln, the bead makers really need to know their craft well to get the timings right. It was amazing to see how the beads had changed colour in the heat, they became so much brighter than the powder had been.

The final beads
The beads were dropped into a bucket of cold water to be cleaned and then palm oil was added to make the beads nice and glossy.

Me trying to poke some of the beads out of the molds and onto the wire string for them to be shipped.
We also had the opportunity to see how some of the more complicated beads are created and how they are ground down from being a rough almost cube shape to being rounded with smoother edges. 

bead making, handmade beads, African craft, Krobo beads
The bead grinding and polishing process.
I think my favourite part of the whole process had to be watching the beads being cleaned/polished- they are placed on a big smooth grinding rock that has had its centre smoothed with the constant grinding. Water and sand is added and the beads are repeatedly rolled around until all of the excess hardened glass is removed from the surface of the beads leaving a smooth exterior. The noise the beads make as they are being rolled around in the water was so relaxing.

I managed to use the animoto website once again to marge all of my photos and video clips into a video showing the krobo bead market and then the bead workshop. As with the batik video, the animoto watermark is still on the link but this will be removed once I commit to upgrading my subscription!

video

I hope you've all enjoyed watching this video/reading this post as much as I enjoyed taking part in the workshop! :)

P.S The song in the video is one of my new favourites! It's a Ghanaian dancehall artist called Shatta Wale who I will hopefully be seeing perfom this Saturday ;)

Phone loss, Birthday and African mask carving

Generally I’m a relatively calm person but last week I felt like Ghana was really trying to push me to my breaking point. Since arriving here my laptop has broken once(after becoming waterlogged in a tropical storm that leaked through my window) and my phone has had to be repaired twice, each incurring unplanned expenditure. My phone has now completely self destructed by bouncing into a fan and being sliced into pieces, if you were ever curious to know the cross sectional segments of an iphone see the photo below.


 Although it’s just a phone I can’t begin to explain how irritated I am by the fact that it has now broken. I had memories on there that I can now never get back, and photos from this trip along with the promise of being able to get more photos while in Ghana. Now I have to rely on other people for more photos. I’m in a really inspirational place with so many colours and patterns in contrasting combinations and I can’t document any of it. I can’t begin to explain how frustrating this is for me, especially seeing as I wanted to document my travels on my blog…..without photos it seems a bit pointless. I have a temporary camera phone while I’m here but it functions so slowly that no spontaneous shots can be taken and the colours are all a little off. It’s just so frustrating. Combine that to the fact that I have had severe travellers stomach since I arrived here and I’m not exactly in a happy state right now. That’s 3 weeks of having a grim stomach… 3 WEEKS!!! Every few hrs in the night I am woken up by some new and odd noise- the 3.30am sound of the nearby mosque(why 3.30 am I will never know), the cockerel that has no concept of time and crows from 4 am onwards, and the preacher/furniture seller that goes by the house at 5.40am every single morning screaming down a megaphone….I am very close to running after him with a carefully selected Bible quote…


In other news…I have now had my 26th Birthday. In true Ghanaian style I was forced to celebrate by being doused repeatedly in water and made to dance around the office. The soaking continued when we went across the road to Peace ghetto ‘spot’ for a Birthday shot of the local liquor. Here the wetting got worse as one of the locals found out and ran to the back room, returning with a giant bucket full to the brim with water. My friend/colleague caught the moment on his camera….


Needless to say after being soaked to that extent I definitely needed the shot….they gave me a double…I spent the day wet and intoxicated….

 Last Saturday we continued with some Birthday celebrations, by going to an African mask carving workshop at Stumble Inn. It was amazing!!!I had taken a lot of really great photos to show a step by step process on the blog, including a pretty amazing timelapse video but my phone evidently had other ideas. ANYWAY…here are a few photos I did manage to salvage from other people’s cameras.


The wood we were carving from was soft mahogany and it had been pre-shaped by Malik(the workshop man and mask master)into a pointed, stretched oval shape. We had originally been led to believe we would be doing the decorating and polishing of the mask but, upon arrival, realised we would be carving them ourselves too. I couldn’t have been more excited at the prospect of this, as you can plainly see in the photos.

It was amazing watching Malik at work, he was so fast and skilled with the carving tools, except for the part where one rolled off the bench and dropped onto my foot…that was slightly less skillful. I didn’t realise how much work goes into the making of the masks. They are drawn onto with pencil to establish where the facial features will be placed, then hacked into to remove all of the excess wood. Then the features are shaped with more detail, then further decorative details are added. The mask is then sanded down to create a smooth surface and sealed with a potassium mixture before being polished with shoe polish to give its final colour- INSANE!!!! 

I’ll upload a photo of my final mask when it’s done…..I have yet to sand and polish it!

ghana craft, traditional craft, artisan

On a sidenote, I forgot to post photos of the dress I had made by one of the Global Mama seamstresses for the wedding I was invited to. It fit really well and I will definitely be using it for future events, here are a few snaps from the day!

ethical fashion, fairtrade, life in Ghana



Thursday, 26 January 2017

'Akɔaba'/ Welcome

Hello from Ghana!!!!!I have been here for 4 days so thought it was about time I gave you all an update on what's going on, what I'm doing here and how I'm finding it! In a very irritating turn of events both my laptop and phone became waterlogged so I have had to delay posting anything on my blog for a while, this also means I have lost most of the photos I had taken in my first week so apologies if the photo quality is a bit rubbish. The laptop became waterlogged in an unexpected storm and the phone suffered the same fate when a rogue wave hit me on the beach and attempted to take my bag out to sea. Ironically I had just written this sentence in my travel journal before the technology failed me..."I love it here, it's so strange feeling so indifferent to my material posessions"...this was then put to the test. In a fortunate turn of events,and the skills of a fabulous IT guy, my laptop has been brought back to life and I am SO happy. I really hope he can also fix my phone so that I can start taking photos as the temporary phone I bought is fairly awful!


So....life in Ghana...I am absolutely loving it and really can't quite get my head around the fact that I will be here for 5 more weeks. As you all know I will be moving to Switzerland shortly after getting back from Ghana so, because I was so busy organising things for Switzerland, I hardly had any time to think about travelling here before my arrival. Knowing very little about Ghana I had no real expectations of what this trip would be like/what Ghanaian people are like but soon after boarding the flight I realised that, as a general rule, everyone is so friendly and happy to talk to you. I was sat in between two lovely guys on my flight here, one helped me with my luggage(I'm too short to reach the overhead compartment) and gave me advice on how not to get scammed in the markets. The other showed me how the currency conversion works out and advised me about how to get a phone and sim card out here(this came in very useful when my phone got damaged). They were both so friendly! I honestly had the best flight- full of free wine and snacks and great in-flight movies. Without trying to sound like I'm advertising for them, I will definitely be flying with KLM as often as possible going forward. 

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Some of the photos I had taken before my iphone became waterlogged. Taken in and around Cape coast.
When we landed I was overwhelmed to say the least. As it was pretty cold in the UK, with the standard amount of drizzle, I had dressed for the weather so when I landed in Accra I basically overheated. Coming out of the airport was also overwhelming....there were so many people with signs at the arrival area that I honestly had no idea what to do, fortunately a lovely but very reserved taxi driver rescued me and ushered me into his taxi. I gave him the 'Somewhere nice' hostel address(genuine name-what can I say...I'm a sucker for advertising) and just had to trust that he would get me all the way there and not extort an unnecessary amount of money from me. I got there safely and I absolutely loved the hostel. I would definitely recommend it to anyone staying in Accra. The interior was decorated with reclaimed wood and furniture and the bed was HUUUUUGE, I had booked a Private superior room as I had anticipated sharing a room at the volunteer house for the next 6 weeks and thought I'd treat myself to some space. Here's the link should anyone want to stay there: http://hostelaccra.com/

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Some photos taken at 'Somewhere nice' hostel in Accra.

The next morning the other volunteer and I were picked up by one of the Global Mamas workers and transported by several different vehicles to Cape Coast where we are based for the duration of the trip. As we were making the 2 hr journey I can remember being quite surprised by how green Ghana is, evidently I have been brainwashed over the years by how Africa has been portrayed to Westerners through TV advertisements. Another thing that shocked me on the journey was the realisation that I had left my passport at the hostel. Well done Becky once again. We eventually arrived at the Global Mamas head office and, after a quick introduction, we were taken to the volunteer house which would be home for the next few weeks. It was the most beautiful taxi journey to the house and I didn't realise at the time that it would be our daily commute, one long straight road running parallel to the coast, lined with palms. Everyday we see the fishermen pulling in their catch on our commute. Just WOW.

video


Upon arrival at the house we were told that we would be able to have a room each as we have visited at a time when there aren't heaps of volunteers- JOY. The room I have here is actually double the size of my room at home and it's painted in a bright yellow/lime colour so that when the light hits it in the morning it is wonderfully bright.

Global Mamas volunteer, Batik fabric, Batik workshop, life in Ghana, Africa travel, Cape Coast
The Global Mamas volunteer house and a few photos from the pool where I go for a swim before work.

The only complaint I have regarding our volunteer house is the damn cockerel that insists on beginning it's crowing at 3am, interspersed between the local mosques call to prayer which also, oddly, starts at 3.30 am. The rest of the time the volunteer house sounds pretty tranquil....

video

In my first few days in Ghana I attended a batik workshop with one of the Batik Mamas. I can't even begin to describe in words what an amazing experience this was so I'm going to do it through a video/photo collage instead. This video still has the watermark of Animoto as I didn't want to commit to paying for a whole year just for one video, but if it works nicely in this blog post I might think about starting a subscription and making more videos.....please try and ignore the watermark for now :)

video

I'll give you a short text run through of what this video is showing as I couldn't quite figure out how to caption/add text to it...I am a video editing beginner after all but I did manage to figure out how to add a Ghanaian song playing over the video! The first few slides show the wooden hut the workshop was held in and its' interior; big colourful plastic containers filled with different dyes, metal containers filled with wax, and foam stamps lining the walls. 




Step 1: Make the batik stamp/choose your stamp. Batik stamps at Global Mamas are carved into upholstery foam using razors and following a pre-designed stencil.

Step 2: Lay out the fabric onto a flat surface, we used white kaliko.

Step 3: Boil the wax until it is bubbling.

Step 4: Dip batik stamp into the wax.

Step 5: Print wax onto fabric 

Step 6: Mix dye (I'm not sure exactly what chemicals go into this but I will find out and add this later)

Step 7: Dye waxed fabric in your chosen colour. I chose a vibrant yellow.

Step 8: Hang fabric outside to dry- this enables the chemicals in the dye to react with the oxygen in the air.

Step 9: Once dry, dip fabric repeatedly in boiling water to remove hardened wax. This reveals the white fabric underneath that has resisted the dye.

Step 10: Dip fabric in cold water once wax is removed.

Step 11:Hang out to dry and admire the final fabric.



....and that is the African batik process.... it is so much more labour intensive than I had ever imagined, particularly when removing the wax with the boiling water. I also found it pretty amazing how the colour of the fabric changes as the dye reacts with the oxygen in the air, I am keen to do a timelapse video of this as soon as I have a working iphone again(which will hopefully be tomorrow). I imagine this batik technique is extremely different to Indonesian batik as they can achieve a lot more finer details, I would love to do a similar volunteer project in the future to explore this a bit more.

Other than the batik workshop I've been doing some research for the Autumn/Winter 2017 collection and creating some rough batik stamp designs. Hopefully I will get to see some of them being printed before I leave Ghana, that would be amazing!!!

 On Saturday I have been invited to go to the wedding of one of the girls at the office. A GHANAIAN wedding- I am finding it hard to contain my excitement. Obviously I didn't anticipate going to a wedding and didn't pack for one so one of the seamstresses at Global Mamas is making a dress for me. I have bought some amazing abstract black and white printed fabric which I bought at one of the market stalls in Cape Coast. If the currency is converted it works out to have only cost around £13 for 2.75 metres, which I thought was pretty good. Can't wait to see what the dress ends up looking like but here's the design I have my eye on, something mid length, off shoulder and 50's-esque.



Hopefully I'll do another update next week with some more photos from the wedding and everyday life etc x

P.S. My passport has now been safely returned, my laptop is completely fixed and I'm hoping and praying my phone soon will be too!

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Shabby-chic-y-fying furniture

I don't know if people on instagram check out my blog much, or if blog readers look at my instagram(@beckyloisburns) BUT recently I have been doing a lot of DIY/upcycling and posting about it on instagram.

I've heard that Switzerland is ridiculously expensive, I also experienced this when I went to St Moritz with my friend, so I decided it would be best to get all of my furniture sorted while I'm still in England. Unfortunately I made this decision just 2 weeks ago and then had the challenge of sourcing/making/upcycling all of my furniture before going to Ghana, not as easy as it sounds. I will be staying in accommodation provided by the company for the first 3 months(March-May) but then I will have to fend for myself and most Swiss apartments seem to come unfurnished.

Being the thrifty person I am I have managed to get a sofa bed for £40(facebook marketplace is a dream of upcyclable bits) a dining table for £10, 2 dining chairs for £5 and a coffee table and bookcase for free(because I made them myself). I have also shabby-chic-y-fied a beautiful free standing pine mirror and an old hat stand.....and I have made them all wonderfully white.... after living in my lovely white attic studio in Brussels I really can't imagine living in a flat that isn't whitewashed....I now have fairly high maintenance housing needs!

Anyway, I thought I'd share my DIY week with you all as I'm actually quite proud of my sanding/shabbying skills and found a pretty good technique that people might want to try out.

shabby chic, whitewashed, furniture, DIY, do it yourself, homemade, upcycled, sanding, power tools, table, chairs, thrifty, scaffolding furniture, scaffolding planks,make do and mend
A few photos of the table process, as you can see it was pretty grubby and green to start with.

So this is the table I got for £10 from a junkyard.....as you can see it wasn't in the best state to start with. It looked like it had been left outside for a while and the varnish layer had gone an algae green colour. As you can see on the left I tried to sand it by hand to start with, after an hr of making very little progress my dad offered me his electrical sander. It is now my favourite tool and I want to buy one for myself. It made life so much easier!!! The 3rd column of images here show the colour of the table legs before and after sanding, as you can see there's quite a difference. I really love the shabby chic style and natural pine furniture and, although I understand that putting a lacquer/wax coat over the top keeps furniture watertight, I hate the way it looks with a coating on. I think, subliminally, that chestnut coated furniture effect reminds me of school. In the bottom right you can see how they look with the white coat on.

shabby chic, whitewashed, furniture, DIY, do it yourself, homemade, L&H Scaffolding, upcycled, sanding, power tools, table, chairs, thrifty, scaffolding furniture, scaffolding planks,make do and mend, scaffolding table, ladder shelves, ladder bookcase, ladder table, scaffolding table
My lovely dad sawing the wooden stepladder for my shelves and coffee table. The middle images show the pieces of my furniture in their initial dirty stage, and on the right a sneak peak inside a scaffolding yard.

Next challenge.....a lot more challenging....I decided it would be a GREAT idea to try and make my own furniture because I have so much free time on my hands/example of really extreme procrastination. So I took a trip to my dad's scaffolding yard to see what bits of wooden scaffolding planks I could get- he owns a scaffolding business so it was all free. There's a pile of smaller pieces that they throw away because they can no longer be walked on or hold any substantial weight so I could take my pick from those. My lovely dad also helped me cut down the planks and an old wooden scaffolding ladder I wanted to use to make my bookcase. Being the independent young woman I am, I could have definitely managed cutting the wood myself. I thought I proved my proficiency with power tools quite nicely while sanding the table, however my father does not trust me with a power tool that is used for cutting.....fair enough. So as you can see from the above photo....the boards were pretty grubby. Walked on by scaffolders, exposed to the British elements(a lot of rain) and painted in the bright blue and yellow colours of L&H Scaffolding.....like I said 'a lot more challenging than sanding and painting a table.

So the sanding begins!!!

shabby chic, whitewashed, furniture, DIY, do it yourself, homemade, upcycled, sanding, power tools, table, chairs, thrifty, scaffolding furniture, scaffolding planks,make do and mend, scaffolding boards, scaffolding table, coffee table, DIY table, old ladders, stepladder bookcase, tressle ladder
Pre-painting photos of my coffee table development from the sanding to the assembling.

The above photo collection shows the beginnings of my, now lovely, coffee table. I used 2 old scaffolding planks and 4 rungs of a wooden stepladder(2 on each side). I wanted to keep the furniture looking quite old and rustic so I purposefully chose misshapen wood. I actually love the way the sanding worked out as the pine looked so beautiful underneath all of the dirt, as did the step ladders. The pine in the stepladders actually had the most beautiful grain pattern after sanding that I was reluctant to paint over it. I also wanted to keep some of the blue and yellow on the stepladder so I chose not to completely sand it off. As I'm moving away from home I wanted something to remind me of my dad- I'm quite sentimental like that! Anyway....I finally assembled all the pieces together after hours of tirelessly sanding in my parents garage and covering everything in a thin layer of dust and this is what it looked like. At the beginning of the project I showed my mum the grubby planks of wood and told her my plans for them....she gave me the standard "Becky you're insane" look(which I'm immune to as people give me this a lot)and I could tell she could not quite see how I could possibly make two dirty scaffolding planks and two bits of wooden stepladder into an acceptable coffee table...I can completely understand her qualms BUT add a layer of white emulsion paint and 10,000 layers of white spirit and ta-daaahhhhh.....

shabby chic, whitewashed, furniture, DIY, do it yourself, homemade, upcycled, sanding, power tools, table, chairs, thrifty, scaffolding furniture, scaffolding planks,make do and mend
My finished coffee table and a close up of the white emulsion wash I did over the top.

So there is my new coffee table. I understand that a lot of people will think it's ridiculous to have an item of furniture in their house made of  scaffolding planks and bits of stepladder, and I know there will be others of you who will tell me I should have left it at the sanded pine stage and not whitewashed it BUT I absolutely love it! After a great deal of trial and error I even got the whitewash effect right. I really loved the way the sanded pine looked after the dirt was removed and felt like there was something poetic in the way there was beauty underneath the grime. I wanted to retain the pure pine underneath the whitewash and this meant making sure the white paint was super thinned out. My mum was in despair that week as I basically went to town on white spirit and insisted on whitewashing all of my furniture....if anyone is about to try out shabby-chic-ing furniture OPEN ALL OF YOUR WINDOWS- white spirit smells strong.


shabby chic, whitewashed, furniture, DIY, do it yourself, homemade, upcycled, sanding, power tools, table, chairs, thrifty, scaffolding furniture, scaffolding planks,make do and mend, how to shabby chic
Before and after sanding photos.

I took a few before and after photos to show the difference a little sanding can make. The photos really don't do it justice but you can see how much difference it made and how beautiful the natural pine is underneath. I'd be very curious to see what scaffolding planks look like when they're initially purchased. The ladders brightened up nicely too!

shabby chic, whitewashed, furniture, DIY, do it yourself, homemade, upcycled, sanding, power tools, table, chairs, thrifty, scaffolding furniture, scaffolding planks,make do and mend, shabby chic bookcase, ladder bookcase, ladder shelf, scaffolding plank furniture
My scaffolding bookcase.

So this is my bookcase- the rest of the wooden scaffolding ladders and 4 1metre scaffolding planks. I also left the metal scaffolding plaques with my dads logo on the plank shelves to add to the rustic effect. I guess it's quite a masculine piece of furniture, but it's free, handmade and flat pack which is extremely useful when you're shipping your life to Switzerland in a Luton van.


The chaos surrounding my DIY attempts.

Just a little taster of what my poor parents have had to put up with over the last week! I have occupied the garage, expanded into the driveway, and used the living room as a furniture storage facility. I have covered every inch of the garage in a layer of sawdust and have accidentally created a white version of Jackson Pollock on the floor where I have been painting, combine this with the constant smell of white spirit over the past week and a half and I am genuinely surprised our neighbours haven't reported us for re-enacting a budget version of breaking bad.

shabby chic, whitewashed, furniture, DIY, do it yourself, homemade, upcycled, sanding, power tools, table, chairs, thrifty, scaffolding furniture, scaffolding planks,make do and mend, freestanding mirror, shabby mirror, whitewashed mirror
Before and after shot of the free-standing mirror

Here is my new shabbyfied mirror. Half of my blog readers probably prefer it in the original pine state....but I am hoping for a whitewashed flat so I'm matching my furniture to the flat I hope to find..fingers crossed.


I also intend on making a sofa from pallet boxes and have designed one in a way that it can also be used as a spare bed for guests....that is yet to be made...and I'm going to Ghana in 6 days so realistically it's looking like a post-Ghana challenge.

Now I just need to find a beautiful whitewashed flat that is perfectly located, affordable, possibly with beams but not on the top floor with no lift...oh and a balcony/terrace overlooking Basel but not overlooking neighbours so that I can sunbathe without leaving my flat........not that I'm being picky... 

I'll do another post next week when I arrive in Ghana!

Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 reflections

I know I know...3 posts in just as many days...I'd like to say that this is me starting a new years blogging resolution early but, in actual fact, I'm just trying to put off all of the packing I have to do.

Obviously a New Years eve reflective blog post is mandatory... this is, after all, the LAST DAY of a very tumultuous year...so here it is...apparently people are trying to remember 2016 for the good parts and so 'best 9' is a proper thing now, so I thought I'd jump on this trend and give you a few of my own: 

Firstly my best 9 Textile Candy/illustration/work posts of 2016

Some of my best 9 photos with friends-such a happy year.

Finally this #bestnine collection represents my favourite moments/memories from the year. Top to bottom and Left to right: taken from my Italian road trip in Florence, sunshine picnic in the park with my lovely Brussels family, my first ever website- probably one of my proudest moments, my friend Charlotte's wedding(her love story completely fills me with hope for the future), me at the top of one of the Alps in Switzerland, a country walk with my siblings when I moved back home, screen printing my own products for my Christmas stall, my Brussels birthday celebrations back in February, and finally another shot taken on my Italian roadtrip in Venice.

2016 was a year that many people will be happy to see the back of; there seemed to be so much trauma, sadness and tragedy. From the deaths of some of our famous favourites to multiple terrorist attacks, from zika virus outbreaks to political debate and turmoil, 2016 is definitely a year that will be remembered. 


Oddly I have actually had the best year of my life! Here's a few of the reasons I have loved 2016:



- While living in Belgium I made some of the closest friends I have ever had- thank you to my little family there who made living abroad so easy and filled my life with so much joy!

- I have travelled around Europe a lot more and visited: Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Bruges, Prague, Budapest, Stockholm, St Moritz, Naples, Rome, Venice, Florence


- I have crossed some things off my bucket list- climb a volcano, go to Italy, save some money, live abroad for longer than 6 months.

- I committed to starting a business and created(all by myself) my first proper website


In preparation for writing this New Year's Eve post I looked at what I had written last year and it turns out I had actually listed some New Years resolutions for 2016 on my blog....here's a screenshot of them...surprisingly I actually did the majority of them!


SO.....time to set some NEW new years resolutions, I'm gonna keep them fairly doable once again:

-learn a new language...more than partially...

- save 5-10k so that in 2018 I can either put down a deposit on a house, spend it on travelling, or set up a business(setting 2018's resolutions already haha!)

-carry on visiting new places

-learn to cook/bake

- keep creating new work

-read more, watch tv less

- write my business plan

- live a healthier lifestyle- eat well and stay active!



As I already mentioned, in 2016 I got the chance to travel a lot more and it made me realise what a spectacular world we live in. It's been amazing to see areas of both natural and man-made beauty and experience other cultures, foods and traditions. I think my top 3 moments have been: being on top of the alps in Switzerland, seeing an opera performance in Rome and going to colourful Burano island. There's the cliche saying, which I embarassingly love, "travel is the only thing you buy that will make you richer."
Some of the cities I've been fortunate enough to visit this year: Amsterdam, Prague, Bruges, Rome, Budapest, Venice, Burano island, Stockholm and St Moritz(top to bottom and left to right).


Although I've had a great year personally, I have also felt a huge deal of sadness about the state of the world. One of the things I really despaired of was the lack of toleration we showed towards one another after Brexit and the Presidential campaign. Politics in 2016 has driven an even greater wedge into already existing divisions and the name-calling and hostility(on both sides)shown following these elections has been horrible to witness. I am not a politician, I know enough about politics to form my own opinions but not enough to patronize anyone else about theirs. This may be my political naivety speaking but, in the grand scheme of things, surely the way we treat each other matters far more than political opinion!Hopefully in 2017 we all make an effort to be more open-minded, understanding and patient with each other- I know that I definitely will!

I will be ending 2016 with hope, both for my own life in 2017 and for our lovely little earth. I have hope that we will avoid destroying it more in 2017 than we did in 2016. Hope that our governments will learn from history and stop making the same mistakes and hope that the new US government will stop using Syria as their own personal battleground to fight with Russia. I have hope that Theresa May will negotiate a good Brexit deal and will do so before things turn sour, and that the outcome of the different European elections set for 2017 will increase the security and stability of Europe. 

One more thing I have hope for is that the world will stop focusing on gender and sexuality above people and personality. I understand the need for equality and inclusion but 2016's hyped up political correctness seemed to only cause animosity and over-sensitivity. The media pushed feminism with tags like #supportyourlocalgirlgang meant for good but, in an attempt to reach gender equality, we surpassed it and ended with what seems like an anti-male mafia. 2016 saw a lot of real issues losing their impact after being softened by social media.  We turn problems into 'trending hashtags' to 'join in on the conversation' and we put opaque flags over our profile photos to show 'solidarity' with countries that have experienced terrorism, completely selective of the countries that are deserving of this. Why did we do this- because in 2016 it's 'on trend' to appear to be humanitarian. I know the new year is meant to be a time of celebration, where we all get fairly drunk and have fireworks and champagne but I think it's important for people to understand the gravity of what actually happened in 2016. While the world appeared to be having a meltdown the mainstream media chose to focus on our favourite stars and cultural figures that died(I've tried to keep this list to one person/month to avoid us feel down).

Other famous figures lost in 2016 include: Victoria Wood, Alan Rickman, Terry Wogan and Bill Cunningham.

Yes these are all sad but what about the countless other lives that have been lost this year- are they less deserving of a headline? Terrorism,once again, has been a consistency of the year. We witnessed attacks in Brussels, Nice and Germany but these had a small loss of life in comparison to the death toll in Iraq and Syria where suicide bombings and beheadings are now commonplace.

When blogging I often try and avoid talking about real issues as they aren't popular and I usually get less page views/followers- shallow, I know, but that's the nature of the (blogging) beast. One of my resolutions for 2017 is to include more posts of depth as I have noticed this year that the mainstream news has refrained from showing us anything that might induce fear or panic. I will of course still be doing trend posts and writing about print design/fashion, but I'm going to try and provide more articles of substance too

I've been thinking a lot recently about why I started this blog, why I continue posting and where I see it going in the future. I  always wanted to use it to show people how interesting fashion/design history can be and how it is reactive to the economy, politics and social culture- I have somewhat abandoned this in 2016. Reading through my comments and messages I've received about the blog I seem to have quite a wide audience with some readers wanting the print/fashion trendboards as a resource to aid with research whereas others prefer the more personal, deeper articles and I'm quite keen to keep these two groups of followers. I would love any suggestions people have of what material they like most on my blog and what they would like to see more of so that I can do my best to provide content that people actually want to read.

Anyway....I don't want to leave this post on a depressing note about the state of the world so here are a few things I found hilarious about this backwards, illogical and completely ironic year! 2016 was a year that confused the Instagramming public so much that #quittinginstagram became the most common Instagram hashtag...

...2016 was such an illogical year the the British public were overruled on the name Boaty Mcboatface, but not on their decision to leave the EU....ha!!!



The past year saw global politics spiraling into disaster, everything escalated so quickly that we all felt the need to be still, so still that the mannequin challenge really took off. 


In times of trauma we all need escapism....some people have chosen to escape by dressing up as creepy clowns......others by changing their persona completely through various celebrity endorsed snapchat filters...if the global news is getting you down you can now change your face to be: a dog, a bunny, a deer, a strawberry, a piece of toast, or whoever else's face you would like to swap with...


....but we've made it out the other end ...just about....

yeah apparently this is an actual real website....

I'll be completely honest in saying that I usually spend New Year's Eve, as does most of the U.K, getting pretty drunk in a, usually overpriced, nightclub.... this year I'm opting out and staying at home. Next year I will be relocating AGAIN, and no matter how many times you leave your family it doesn't get any easier. I want to welcome in the new year with some of the people I'm close to.....I only hope that my parents will stay awake until midnight....failing that I will spend tonight celebrating with our little westie and a glass of bubbly!

My hot New Years eve date ;)

I have a few things to look forward to already next year: my volunteering trip to Ghana, my new job in Switzerland and several of my close friends are getting married!Hopefully 2017 will be even better than 2016!

I hope you all have a lovely New Year's eve celebrating!
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