Saturday, 18 March 2017

La vie en Suisse- how I'm finding Basel so far!


Hello from Switzerland. Yes, I am once again in a different country. I thought I'd give you all a quick update on how I'm enjoying life in Basel. As you know, 2 weeks ago I moved here to start my new job as Graphic designer at Tally Weijl.....here is a borderline cringey photo of me enjoying my new office:

new job, graphic designer, textile designer, print designer, how to get a textile design job, life as a textile designer, print designer


I realise I didn't write a blog post in between Ghana and Switzerland and now I wish I had, not only is it a great way of keeping my friends and family in the loop of whats going on in my life, it also helps me understand my thoughts a bit more.

Before arriving here I was quite nervous, not about starting the job or moving countries(this I am starting to get used to)...I was nervous about how I would feel about working in commercial retail after having a taste of working for a fairtrade company. Ghana was definitely one of the benchmark moments in my life, I found it very hard to leave. There are some moments in life where you feel completely content, as though you are, at that moment, exactly where you are meant to be- this is how I felt throughout my 6 weeks in Ghana. Being able to do the job I love while empowering entrepreneurial women and supporting local businesses provides a level of job satisfaction that commercial retail can never fulfill. Despite being a relatively brief visit I am determined to go back to Ghana(this time I will be armed with a working camera) and forge stronger links with the people I met there, the friends I made and the small business owners I spoke to. I don't know how this will link into my hopes to one day start an ethical business but stepping outside of my 'safe' little commercial retail bubble into ethical fashion was definitely the first step towards this. 

Below are just a few of my favourite photos from the last few weeks in Ghana. 

Just a few of the things I miss from Ghana: batik printing, the amount women can carry on their heads, colourful boats, Herb Afrik spot crawls, Beach weekends, limitless coconuts to devour.

Before moving to Basel I returned to the UK for a week and in this time I was constantly asked if I was excited for my new job and for my 'new life' in Basel..... 'no' was the answer....the answer I wasn't meant to give and the answer people weren't prepared to acknowledge.I know it's not something I should broadcast on my blog, especially in case it gets read by current/future employers, but I pride myself on being transparent and honest when I write. It's not that I wasn't overjoyed that I had been given the position and the opportunity to move to Switzerland- I was/am.....and it wasn't that I didn't want to move to Basel- I love experiencing and living in different cities.... I just felt under prepared.I hadn't had chance to process what was happening to me. 

SO.....with all of this playing on my mind before the move you can imagine how I approached my first week at work, almost with a sense of trepidation. Now I am 2 weeks in and I actually think I'm really going to enjoy working here! The job is extremely fast paced, but a lot more creative than my previous role at C&A. I am now working on a fast turnaround which is highly trend driven and reactive to current fads meaning that I have to be constantly producing new proposals and graphics. In my first week I was definitely thrown in at the deep end and, after having been out of commercial retail for a few months, I felt like I was drowning in the deep end. I had the classic creative block problem where your thoughts go a little bit like this....


Now, at the end of my second working week, I am feeling a lot more comfortable and in control of the situation. I've figured out what my job role is and what is expected of me(I am now in charge of placement graphics on t-shirts and sweaters- very exciting for me as I have never been in charge of anything before) and I've had chance to make some pretty cool artworks already.

So that's enough about the work side....how about the actual city of Basel!? WELL...I arrived at an odd time of year where Basel has several days of carnival called 'fasnacht'. It involves people dressing up in masks, mainly creepy looking ones, and parading the streets both day and night playing pips and drums and throwing colourful confetti at people. A very odd experience for someone who has only been in Basel for one night.

Please note that none of the photos in this collage are mine, they were all *borrowed* from instagram.
Expat life, life in Switzerland,Swiss expat, Basel, life in Basel, living in Basel,  fasnacht, carnival
Me post confetti ambush.

In my first week I didn't really get to see any of Basel- I literally went from home to work to the supermarket next to work then back home again. This probably helps to explain why I felt a little overwhelmed and unsettled in my first few days. Normally when I have moved to work in other countries/cities I have a weekend or a few days to better acquaint myself with the city before starting work. Here I arrived late Sunday evening and started work on Monday morning, so when my new colleagues were asking me if I liked Basel so far my answer was "I don't know yet, I haven't seen any of it!"

One of the tricky things that can really get your head in a spin when you move to a new city is adapting to the small cultural/social differences of a place. Everywhere has unspoken social etiquette and, once again, upon arrival in Switzerland I realised I didn't know the unwritten rules. They really should consider providing every newcomer with a manual of what to do/not to do in social situations. In my first few days, my processing days, I actually became so overwhelmed by everything that I nearly cried in the supermarket- yes I am aware that this is rather pathetic. A supermarket trip shouldn't be a particularly emotional event BUT walking into a supermarket on your first day in a new country, realising you can't actually communicate with anyone, you don't have enough money to afford groceries (as everything is so expensive in Switzerland), the thing you wanted to buy isn't there, you can't read the ingredients of any of the alternatives and you can't use google translate because you don't have any internet access....you can see how that situation almost ended in tears. Apologies for the tiring length of that sentence, maybe it helps to demonstrate how exhausting my brain is!Anyway....how did I avoid having an emotional breakdown in the supermarket you ask....?...I bought a bottle of red wine(the cheapest I could find with the highest alcohol percentage) and I went home and cried there instead. 

That doesn't mean I'm sad/unhappy by the way, on the contrary I actually really like it here. Unfortunately I'm not very good at processing information so there's usually a backlog for my mind to deal with....in this case my brain decided to process quitting my job in Belgium, going to Ghana, getting a new job and moving to Switzerland all at once. Now my mini breakdown seems completely understandable doesn't it!? :)

One of the biggest hurdles I have had to deal with so far is apartment hunting. I am quickly learning that Switzerland is not at all like the UK. In England we have idioms like "first up, best dressed" and "the early bird catches the worm" basically meaning that getting there first will give you an advantage...apparently this does not apply to the Swiss housing market. I found my perfect dream flat here and I arrived 15 MINUTES EARLY(anyone who knows me will understand this is a miraculous feat for me) thinking that if I arrived before everyone else and told them I wanted the apartment they would sign it over to me.....oh how naive I was/am. You have to apply for accommodation here in a similar way to applying for a job-you view the house,then you fill out an application,then you have to be shortlisted,.then you have to be chosen. I JUST WANT A HOME!!!!! Anyway, regardless of me not actually getting my 'perfect' apartment I thought I'd still share the photos with you.

Expat life, life in Switzerland,Swiss expat, Basel, life in Basel, living in Basel,  Swiss property, house hunting, Swiss rental, Swiss apartment, loft apartment, attic room

 It was up in the attic of the house with exposed wooden beams and white painted brickwork and had beautiful wooden floorboards and was just oh so beautifully bohemian. I would have felt very at home here...something about living at the top of the house makes me feel extremely safe....alas....it was obviously not meant to be mine and I am really hoping I find another even more 'perfect for me' place soon. Ideally I wanted to have found my new home before I return to the UK next week but that's not looking too likely. Although I have two apartment viewings next week so my fingers are firmly crossed. Here are the other two I will be looking at:

Expat life, life in Switzerland,Swiss expat, Basel, life in Basel, living in Basel,  Swiss property, house hunting, Swiss rental, Swiss apartment
This one looks beautiful from the outside and is really close to the river but there weren't any other photos of it online  other than the photo of the stairwell.....this one is my lucky dip apartment.
Expat life, life in Switzerland,Swiss expat, Basel, life in Basel, living in Basel,  Swiss property, house hunting, Swiss rental, Swiss apartment
This one is a bit more modern than what I would normally go for but I love the wooden parquet flooring and the double window corner.

As you can tell from my choices I love a good wooden floor. I have a little checklist I made of what I'm looking for in an apartment and I don't really want to deviate from it, particularly as my apartment in Brussels was so lovely and homely, now I don't want to settle for anything less.

Just in case anyone reading this happens to work in the Swiss property market in Basel here's a few sample images from my 'ideal house' pinterest board(https://uk.pinterest.com/beckyloisburns/)to give you a solid idea of what I'm looking for ;)

Textile candy, bohemian decor, bohemian interior, decor, white washed, wooden floor
My dreamy house inspiration.

I can imagine nothing worse than living in a super modern, shiny, square/rectangular roomed, laminated floored apartment......sadly Basel has a lot more of this type of building than the old, wooden, soft, quirky look I'm searching for. I can be swayed on some of my desirable criteria but I cannot live in an apartment that has no character!

One of the major things I have noticed about myself when moving countries for work is that, if I don't establish a home in the first few weeks of being there, I feel restless and temporary and find it difficult to settle. I don't know if this is an emotional response but I can't properly start to love a city until I feel a sense of permanence. 

At the moment I am living in a shared apartment owned by the company, the apartment is nice enough and my room is quite large but I feel as though I am back at university again. I am one of those oddly extroverted introvert types and I really need my own space. As lovely as it is that the company have provided accommodation to ease the pressure of flat hunting, I don't think I will feel settled for as long as I am living in shared accommodation.  The people I am sharing with seem lovely, I hardly see them throughout the week as we are all at work and then at the weekends they are all either going to visit their partners back in Italy(they're all Italian) or having their partners come and visit them here. I miss being able to roam around my own home scantily clad without the fear of someone witnessing it. I miss being able to listen to loud music while I'm cooking. Above all I miss the sense of being at home in my surroundings.

In other news- Basel is a really beautiful city, the Altstadt ('old town') in particular. It has such quaint historical buildings, some of them were built as long ago as the 1400s. As a bit of a history geek this really excites me. I took a few photos walking around Basel last weekend, here are a few from the old town and along the River Rhine where everyone seems to hang out enjoying drinks and picnics in the sun.

Expat life, life in Switzerland,Swiss expat, Basel, life in Basel, living in Basel, Altstadt, Basel old town, Rhine, Basel Rhine, River Rhine, wine on the rhine

I ventured away from the Aldstadt to three country point where you can stand on the border of Switzerland, France and Germany- technically meaning that you are in 3 places at once. 

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I also came across a really alternative side to Basel on the Kleinbasel side of the river towards the industrial section that looked like it would be a really cool pop up bar area in the summer months. Everything there was a bit shut down but I took some photos of the amazing colourful graffiti they hvae there.

Expat life, life in Switzerland,Swiss expat, Basel, life in Basel, living in Basel, Textile Candy, street art, kleinbasel, graffiti, its like a jungle
A small sample of the street art in the Kleinbasel area.
So that is my experience so far. Two weeks in and I'm warming to my new city quite nicely, I only wish I had secured a new home. Tomorrow I will venture out for a walk along the Rhine and see what I stumble accross.

I have a few more meaty article posts in the pipeline at the moment and I am also working on a belated Premiere Visions Spring/Summer 2018 trend report that I will hopefully have finished within the next week.

Ciao for now x





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.

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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! 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!!

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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.....

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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.


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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!

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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.

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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!