Cedi Bead Factory
The Cedi Bead Factory is off a dirt road, and a little hidden. But once you get to the gates, a lovely garden greets you, in the center is a thatched structure where the magic happens. The Cedi bead factory employs about 12 people full time. It's the quietest factory I've ever visited! A tour takes about 30 minutes and it's free. If you are en route to Kumasi, or to the Volta river, it's a great stop over. If you can, bring spare glass bottles to donate, especially blue and red colored glass (go ahead and purchase some duty free skyy vodka before your trip to Ghana). A small gift shop has some very nice beads for sale, as well as bracelets, earrings and necklaces.
How The Beads are Made
Recycled glass bottles are crushed using a heavy meaty pole and mortar. Once crushed to a fine powder, the powder is poured into a mould made of clay. The powder can be layered for a desired colorful effect, or kept plain. Patterns and decorations can also be added to the bead after the initial firing. The crushed glass powder is mixed with a little water and then painted onto the bead, before getting fired again. Sometimes dye is added for extra bright colors, or when colored glass is unavailable. For more translucent beads, the glass is broken into small pieces, as opposed to being ground into a powder. The inside of the mould is covered in a mixture of kaolin and water to stop the glass from sticking to the sides.
The kiln is made from termite mound clay. It is heated using crushed palm kernels which burn at an extremely hot temperature, and hold that temperature well. Iron smiths use the same kernels in local villages throughout Ghana to make axes and hoes. The glass beads are usually fired for an hour. As soon as they come out the kiln, a hole using a small metal tool is made for the string to fit through. Some bead holes are made using a cassava stem that burns up during firing, leaving a hole. Once the beads are cooled, they are washed using sand and water. The beads are then strung and ready for wholesale throughout Ghana's colorful markets.
The best way to get to the Cedi Bead Factory is either by tro-tro to the junction on the main road from Koforidua to Kpong, between the towns of Somanya and Odumase Krobo. It's a good 20 minute walk down a rutted road, so grab a taxi if you can. Better yet, ask a private guide/driver to take you there en route to Ho or Akisombo. The road to the factory is not easy to navigate but everyone knows where it is! I organized my trip to Ghana through Jolinaiko eco-tours and we made the stopover from Kumasi to Akisombo.
Where to Stay
A few guest cottages have been built right on the premises, offering basic rooms and locally prepped meals, so you can stay right at the factory if you want to spend a few days creating your own masterpiece. I stayed down the road at Aylos Bay Guest House on the banks of the Volta river in Akisombo (about 40 minutes away).
Where to Buy Glass Beads
You can buy beads directly from the Cedi bead factory shop, or head to the best bead market in Ghana, held every Thursday morning in Koforidua. Another good market close to the "source" is Agomanya Market which operates on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This is also off the main road between Krobo and Kpong.
A wide selection of recycled glass beads can also be found in the main markets in Kumasi and Accra, but make sure you're not buying Chinese imports by mistake! In Accra I bought some lovely bracelets and strands at Global Mamas.
Crafty Volunteer Opportunities in Ghana
G-lish runs a program in Bolgatanga (northern Ghana) that develops income generating projects using recycled materials in impoverished rural communities. Their primary focus is on creating woven baskets and mats from plastic bags. Trashy Bags in Accra sells them, among other plastic crafts, and is also a great place to visit.