Decorating a bead in the Ivory Coast

Olivier starts to decorate a bead

Ten years ago in West Africa, I bought too many bead bracelets and necklaces, so I wasn’t particularly in the market as a shopper when we visited Kapolei in the Ivory Coast.

Bead-making is an industry in this small village. We were lucky enough to be welcomed in to Olivier’s place where he explained the craft (in French) and demonstrated how beads are decorated.

Clay and large clay beads

Beads before decorating and a small piece of clay on the left

Bowls of handmade beads, Ivory Coast

Bowls of large decorated beads

A bead is placed on a long thin stick, which is then balanced and spun on the artist’s foot. The colours are all natural and are applied with the tiniest of chicken feathers.

Olivier’s shop was filled with already-made jewellery sets (bracelet, necklace and earrings) in a vast array of sizes and colours, as well as baskets of loose beads. Of course, we all shopped. Even me.

Bead jewellery for sale in West Africa

Jewellery sets in an array of colours

Painting a bead in the Ivory Coast

Olivier applies yellow to a large bead

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