Ambassador Travelogue: Style Made with Love in Uganda
Our Ambassador Travelogue series continues as Ambassador contributor Sarah Ling reflects on her recent trip to Uganda. Noonday Ambassadors have the opportunity to earn trips around the world to visit our Artisan Partners in person. In Uganda, artist and Arizona-based Ambassador Sarah Ling discovered firsthand that for the Artisans who craft our paper bead pieces, “Style Made with Love” is more than just a slogan – it’s a way of life.
Seeing what is, and believing what can be. Transformation. These are passions of mine. These are things artists do every day when they create.
Having the incredible privilege of traveling to Uganda to Jalia and Daniel’s workshop, I had the opportunity to see one of the most amazing stories of transformation in the lives of the Artisans Jalia and Daniel employ. And the work these Artisans do there on a daily basis is a perfect reflection of their own stories: they transform paper into beautiful, handcrafted jewelry made with precision, excellence, ingenuity, and love.
Paper beads are not unique to our Ugandan Artisan Partners, but I believe that the quality, consistency, and color is! I’ve read about and seen videos of how these bright beads are made, but after witnessing it with my own eyes and getting a chance to try my own hand at making these amazing pieces, I have come to appreciate first hand just how exceptional our Partners’ products are. As I sought to capture their work through my camera lens, I focused in on the meticulous detail that goes into each and every step of the process.
Instead of strictly choosing efficiency in their cutting technique, the Artisans use a process that yields a cleaner, more precise cut. Making multiple cuts with razors allows for great precision. Depending on the shape of the paper cut, they can then roll the beads into a variety of shapes and sizes:
Bukenya, an Artisan manager with an incredible story of his own, stood by and demonstrated how the beads are rolled as Jalia shared the details about each department of their workshop. Again, this process takes patience and great attention to detail.
One of my favorite parts of the bead making process is the varnishing! As an artist myself, the work that goes into mixing the perfect color is not lost on me. Daniel has taught Caleb the art of varnishing and he now manages the entire team. Caleb and his team meticulously mix just the right combination of human-safe inks and dyes (which can range from vegetable dyes, printer ink, food coloring, paint) to get the exact pantone color they’re looking for. Sometimes this requires extensive batch testing and tweaking to ensure continuity from piece to piece! That on-trend color of the season you’re wearing, you have these guys to thank for it!
Photo by Elizabeth Bricknell
After they dyed the beads the exact color that is needed, the Artisans start to assemble them into bracelets, necklaces, or earrings. While we were visiting, the Latifa Necklace was the primary piece they were making.
Here’s Latifa herself checking quality and finishing off pieces before packaging.
We also had the opportunity to visit the horn workshop where all the Cow Horn Hoops are cut, as well as detail pieces found in many of our necklaces (like the Firelight, Midnight, and True North Necklaces).
Each horn is truly unique in shape and color.
Later on during our visit we got to try our hands at making the Safari Stack Bracelet. Melinda was my patient teacher. Sitting down together and getting the chance to see how their pieces are assembled as we did it ourselves definitely brought the “handmade” truth home to every Ambassador. There are few things more fulfilling than seeing the work of your hands turn into a finished product.
My love for our Artisan Partners in Uganda runs so deep. Our appreciation for one another and the work we do was so palpable at the close of our time together. What they have at their workshop, what they do there, is amazingly special.
“Style made with love” isn’t just a pretty saying we use around Noonday. It embodies every step of the process it takes for our Artisan Partners to create our gorgeous pieces. From the relationships they form at their jobs to the things they make with their hands, love is the foundation they stand on. It is transformational in their lives and their work. And it is the platform from which we are privileged to tell their stories.
Want to travel with us next year? Launch your Ambassador business and you could earn a trip to visit our Artisan Partners across the globe!