Hobby becomes Fair Trade business
By Mags Storey | Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Loreli Cockram discovered a love for African beadwork, and turned it into a Fair Trade business. COURTESY LORELI COCKRAM
MISSISSAUGA, ON�"Two Canadian sisters are helping turn broken glass bottles into wearable works of African art.
Loreli Cockram of Big Village Beads discovered the creativity and ingenuity of recycled glass jewelry while doing mission work in Ghana through Barrie Free Methodist Church.
Working in partnership with a family-owned beads business in Ghana, Cockram and her sister Becky Cripps now sell the beads in Canada through home parties, church groups and at craft fairs.
“My husband and I had been recruited to act as cultural liaisons between our church in Canada and our church in Ghana," Cockram says. “Beading had become a hobby while I lived there, and when I came back, I brought back beads to our friends and supporters to demonstrate the beauty of Ghana and the resourcefulness of the people."
Friends in Canada began asking for beads of their own, and a small Fair Trade business grew. They are now beginning to expand into other products, such as baskets and batiks.
“I didn't just want to be an importer of beads." Cockram says. “I want to be an advocate, so people would learn more about the culture of Ghana and the people behind the beads who were positively influencing the community by providing jobs and making a high-quality product.
“I also love being able to go back to Ghana and tell my friends how well their beads are received here. They have been pleasantly surprised by the response and have had to build another factory in the village, and employ more people, to support the demand here."
Cockram and Cripps run workshops where people can create their own jewelry, while learning more about the work in Africa.
“Usually these workshops are hosted in homes," Cockram says, “where it offers a more intimate space. As people gain an understanding of how the beads are made, the value they have in their traditions, and then get the chance to work with them personally, they gain an appreciation of this fascinating culture and connect to it in a meaningful way."