Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Jewelry by Melody MacDuffee and Soul of Somanya

By on Tuesday, January 13, 2015 1 Comments

Some artisans embark on remarkable journeys.  Melody MacDuffee, who comes from Alabama, started with fibre crochet.  She then included fine wire in her work and grew from there.  Melody is the author of a wonderful book called Lacy Wire Jewelry which I reviewed a while ago.  There are also examples of her distinctive style of delicate wire work in her Etsy store, Melody Arts.  My favorites are shown here.

Melody MacDuffee's Amazonite Pin with 3 metals

But Melody's jewelry making journey took off on a tangent when she answered a plea "Requesting you to come and teach us" in her inbox back in 2007. Melody explained, "It was written on behalf of some fifty bead artisans who live in two rural communities in the Krobo district in Ghana, West Africa."  They wanted to learn how to make fancier kinds of jewelry from their traditional powder glass beads other than their tribal style of simply strung necklaces.

Melody MacDuffee's Teal Crystal Wire Work Earrings
Melody answered the call and then some.  She ended up co-founding along with her Ghanian friend, Arkuh Bernard Tetty,  a non-profit organization called Soul of Somanya (SoS), providing work at a living wage for young artisans in the Krobo region of Ghana. They receive help with the designing, production and marketing their designs to the West. For example, the items offered for sale in their Etsy store, Soul of Somanya  "are mostly collaborative designs based on original versions these Ghanian artisans came up with, but revised to varying extents in response to Western tastes (as evidenced by what styles and colors have been selling best.)"

100% of the proceeds from the sale of items in Melody's own Etsy store, including the cabochons and gemstone pendant bead fundraisers, go to this organization. The Soul of Somanya site chronicles the challenges faced in the early days.  Melody credits the generosity of many people on this side of the ocean who volunteered their time and resources to make this organization a reality.


Melody MacDuffee's OOAK Turquoise Cabochon Bracelet

To say Melody is heavily involved in this project is an understatement.  She commented in an email to me, "This project has been by far the biggest challenge - and the biggest joy - of my life. I'm not sure I'd know who I am anymore without it!" 

"That's where my heart really is. Much as I love making my own style of jewelry, if making a living weren't an issue, I'd be living in Ghana developing sustainable products - not only jewelry, but textile and homemade paper products and who knows what else? But teaching and publishing keep me from having to take a salary for directing SoS, and it also gives me more chances to get information about Soul of Somanya out to people I might otherwise never meet. And I do enjoy it - it's my therapy."

Did you know archaeologists found the earliest powder glass beads dating back to around 970 - 1000 CE in South Africa?  Today, much of this type of hand made glass beads come from Ghana and are crafted by the Krobo people.  Check out how the Krobo use traditional and labor intensive techniques to make their recycled glass beads. Soul of Somanya have beautiful Krobo glass beads for sale both retail and wholesale.  You can also buy them through Soul of Somanya's Etsy store which Melody runs

Krobo Beads


Soul of Somanya also sell ready made jewelry made from powder glass beads.


Some of the jewelry styles include the traditional Krobo tribal necklace strung with locally grown raffia.



The wire work earrings section of Soul of Somanya consist of designs based on "Adinkra" symbols. Adinkra are visual symbols originally created by the Akan people, an ethnic group living in southern Ghana and the Ivory Coast. They use these artistic elements to represent concepts or aphorisms.

GYE DWENINIMMEN (Strength and Humility) Earrings
 "The Adinkra symbol GYE DWENINIMMEN means "Ram's Horns" It is the symbol of strength of (mind, body and soul) and of humility.  Proverb : The ram may bully, not with its horns, but with its heart."

NYKIMKYIM (Adaptability and Grace Under Hardship) Earrings
 NYKIMKYIM means "twistings". This symbol "stresses the need to adapt to life, moving oneself around difficulties in order [to] successfully fulfill one's duty."


GYE NYAME (God is Supreme) Earrings
The Gye Nyame is by far the most commonly used, and the most popular, symbol in Ghana.  Gye Nyame translates literally as "Except for God." It is the symbol of God's all powerful and everlasting nature.  The proverb that explains the symbol's name goes like this : " In the great panorama of creation, no one was hear to see the beginning and no one will be here to see the end...except for God."

It is quite a challenge to get the artisans materials needed to produce jewelry and ship finished goods to market for these young artisans. Finding markets is also another issue.  Check out the many other ways you can help here.

Before You Go:
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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips 

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1 comments:

You're AWESOME! Thanks for the comment and feedback. You do make a difference on my blog!

  1. What an incredible story!

    And so inspirational as well!

    The Krobo people hit on exactly the right person when the asked Melody to teach them didn't they! My goodness. I bet they had no idea what a boon to their lives she would be! And vice versa!

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