Monday, 31 July 2017

Designing for the future: trends we need to consider now

As a print designer working for a fast fashion brand, designing for the future is a daily dilemma of mine. In the fashion industry we are expected to present garments to consumers, predicting what they will like in 4-12 months time. If designing for a fast fashion market has taught me anything it is that fashion consumers at the relatively inexpensive end of retail are fickle. Brand loyalty doesn't exist- they want the best design for the cheapest price- a bestselling garment in February could be repeated in March and cause a monetary loss. So how can we design for a fickle future? 

Fast fashion, cgtrader, blogging competition, fashion retailers, ethical fashion, slow fashion, future fashion trends
Some of the many fast fashion brands on our high streets. Photo taken from: https://www.trustedclothes.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/fastfashion.jpg

The more time I spend working at this end of the fashion chain, the more I question whether the speed of the fast fashion manufacturing chain and this level of mass consumerism is sustainable? In short...it isn't.


Fast fashion infographic borrowed from ecouterre.com

Ours is the generation that wants everything at lightening speed,  we have grown up in the digital revolution where we can expand our horizons, and our wardrobes, at the click of a button. Millenials have been raised to be the ultimate consumer. We see, we want, we buy(on credit) and on and on it goes. 

To understand the future of fashion design we have to have a firm grasp on how fashion trends were dictated in the past. With our ever changing society this is becoming increasingly difficult. Gone are the days of 'make do and mend', we now dispose of garments as readily as we dispose of leftover food scraps. In fact only 15% of consumer used clothing is recycled, this is disgusting (https://www.thebalance.com/textile-recycling-facts-and-figures-2878122).

The world our grandparents lived in has all but faded away- a society based on the rules and guidance of the 10 commandments, has been replaced by hedonism and consumerism. Bygone generations revered and rejected the '7 cardinal sins', we have entire industries, fast fashion included, embracing them and exploiting them as a business strategy.  As the consumer we are taught to lust after new products we can't afford, we hate and envy others who have the lifestyle and material possessions we yearn for, then become greedy in an attempt to amass enough of these products to appear successful. After obtaining the things we so desired we have pride in our possessions and then, after a short time, we become despondent and in a state of despair when the products fail to give us the satisfaction we had expected....and repeat...The only 'deadly sin' exempt from this chain is sloth and, looking at the Western society I have grown up in, there is no shortage of laziness and misused talent.

CGTrader, blogging competition, Barbara Kruger, i shop therefore i am, consumerism, fast fashion, textile candy
Barbara Krugers' famous comment on fashion consumerism and how we use material possessions to create our identity and validate our existence.

Modern consumerism has sub-consciously conditioned us to believe that we need things; garments, products, technology and that this will provide us with a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction so that we can post photos of our material lifestyle on instagram and gain validation from our peers. The little buzz we get when we go onto instagram to find out how many 'likes' we have soon fades and we continue the search for something that will reignite that feeling. This is very basic psychology, but the media  has been so effective in ingraining this into the modern human psyche that changing the cycle is no small feat. 

In an effort to keep up with this cycle, manufacturing industries have been exported to distant countries, China and Bangladesh being the main culprits. Very few garments in the fast fashion industry are locally produced, the closest production hub is probably Turkey. Not only is this bad for Western clothing manufacturers, who are being constantly undercut by 'competitive' prices in the East, it also has devastating effects both on the climate and on the workers whose rights are undergoing constant violations.  Is this to be the future of fashion and textile design? Will we continue to design in the West and source in the East showing little regard for the workers and environments that are being affected? This is the present state of the fast fashion industry but it doesn't have to be the future.

fast fashion, slow fashion, ethical fashion, fashion revolution, who made my clothes
Photo taken from: http://www.sleek-mag.com

Finally we are seeing individuals starting companies that raise the profiles of these problems, forcing the consumer to care about the creation of their garments and the consequences of their consumerism. Ever since the Rana Plaza disaster of 2013 we have seen a huge increase of people championing ethical fashion and a massive push encouraging the public to question the origin of their clothes. The fashion revolution movement(featured above) has been a huge social media motivator for this. Perhaps the future of fashion design will embrace a huge shift towards ethically sourced fabrics and products? Hopefully we will see an increasing number of small, independent brands offering collections that use organic and sustainably sourced products, manufactured in a way that has no human rights infringements without compromising style/design aesthetic. I sincerely hope this happens.

Infographic showing Millenial statistics. Image taken from: http://www.nielsen.com/eu/en/insights/news/2015/green-generation-millennials-say-sustainability-is-a-shopping-priority.html

I stumbled across this amazing infographic while researching this post which shows that, when asked a series of questions in relation to fashion, 66% of millenials asked(of 30,000 across the globe) said that they would be willing to pay more for products and services that come from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact (http://www.nielsen.com/eu/en/insights/news/2015/green-generation-millennials-say-sustainability-is-a-shopping-priority.html). 58% said that they would be willing to pay more if the product came from a company known for being environmentally friendly. This demonstrates that the Millenial generation of consumers like to think that they place ethics over aesthetics. If this is so then it renders fast fashion a dying industry- how can the future generation of consumers be ethically minded and follow fast fashion when these two aspects of the fashion industry are mutually exclusive?


Personally I see two viable trend directions the long term fashion and textile industry could move towards- both include a massive downscale in wardrobe size. There will be those of us who move towards a more ethical and sustainable form of fashion where we either shop locally and independently or we pay more for quality items produced overseas- slow fashion. On the flip side there will be the fast fashion remnant who have aged but retained the mentality of fast fashion and opt for advanced technological fashion. How far into the future this split will be is something I am completely uncertain of!

Gender neutral high street collections, left to right: Zara, H&M, Selfridges. Photos taken from google images.

It pains me to say that this is the path I see current fashion veering towards. With the advent of gender neutral clothing we are seeing shapeless garments and neutral colours gaining traction. Practicality takes precedence over aesthetics. This is a print designers worst nightmare. 

Perhaps this is a fad, perhaps not. What will be interesting to see in the future of fashion and textiles is how smart textiles will begin to play a role in design. Gender neutral clothing creates the perfect blank canvas for this. For a generation raised to fight for equality, creating uniformity in clothing is just another extension of achieving this. Every sci-fi movie/book/vision of a dystopian future that I can recall has guided us to expect that the future of fashion will be a bland, minimalist, functional collection of garments, it has, in essence, promoted the idea of uniformity. Void of personality, geared for practicality. 

Clockwise left to right: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Ex Machina, Passengers, The Matrix. (All photos taken from google images).

As I am tentatively making steps towards setting up my own business I am very aware of how the production decisions I am making at this stage will affect the business later on. I do not want to start a business which contributes in anyway to mass consumerism, I am keen to be on the ethical side. I want people to buy my products because they appreciate and treasure them as a hand crafted item. I want to create heirlooms not disposable goods.

When discussing future design trends there is a huge veil of uncertainty....but one thing we can be sure of - the power of the people. The consumer can make or break the fast fashion chain. Maybe one of the trends we need to consider for the future of fashion/textile design is how we shop, who we are supporting and what future we are creating?



The way I see it we have two options for the future of fashion and textiles: 

- shop independantly, shop locally, support small business and celebrate traditional methods of manufacture...OR...

-follow fast fashion and watch it advance into digital fashion.


I know which future I would prefer to create. 



“This blog post is a part of Design Blogger Competition organized by CGTrader 







Monday, 19 June 2017

My reasons for blogging abandonment...

I seem to have inadvertently taken a really long blogging break and I'm finding it very hard trying to get back into it. As a result of the abandonment of the Textile Candy blog, my page views have fallen from around 1000 views per day to only double figures.....yeah...that sucks. So I'm going to try again....I need to give the Textile Candy blog a new lease of life and actually commit to it properly- I am well aware that this is something I've said before but this time I'm serious!

I've wanted to write so many posts commenting on; the terrorist attacks that seem to be becoming a monthly occurrence, the UK elections, global politics, new fashion technology and future fashion trends..... getting the motivation to do this, however, seems to be becoming more difficult. I have observed people on social media becoming increasingly less tolerant with opinions that differ from their own and increasingly more obsessed with political correctness. So this is one of the reasons I have been avoiding blogging. I do not like confrontation, particularly when it involves political aggression, but going forward I am going to try and write about what I want, and if people don't agree with it then they don't have to read it.

As it's Monday I'm going to avoid writing about anything too heavy, because who really wants that on the first day after the weekend! Instead, I'm going to do a little update post of whats going on in my life and the new direction I'm trying to move into...a lighter topic than political discussion and a lot more palatable for a Monday afternoon!

So....when I move countries I always do a little post about my new home but, because I was living in company owned shared accommodation for my first 3 months here, I haven't able to do this. However, I have now been living in my new apartment for a whole month, all of my belongings have been delivered from the UK and I have bought a sufficient amount of candles and plants from IKEA to make me feel at home.

New home, welcome home, Expat, Switzerland, Basel, life in Basel, Swiss home
The apartment pre removal van arrival.
 As you can see from the above image even the empty apartment looks quite beautiful.  It has; really high ceilings, large windows, beautiful wooden parquet flooring and a big bright kitchen. It is a corner apartment on the ground floor of a yellow art deco building with a rounded exterior. One of my favourite things about this apartment is that, because it is on a rounded corner, I can stand in the entrance area and turn 270 degrees and see outside through all of the rooms- when all of the windows are open there's a lovely breeze. Sometimes places give people vibes(I know I sound like a hippy here) and when I had my first viewing of this apartment I immediately felt like it was my home- I felt the same way when I found my loft in Brussels. 

Despite the initial feeling of comfort, an apartment doesn't feel like a home until your belongings are all inside. Unpacking and organising my things is one of my favourite things to do, it helps my brain understand the relocation process and ensures that I don't feel displaced in my new surroundings. Prior to the move, even before Ghana, I had been quite organised in sorting out some cheap furniture which I then up cycled to look a bit more shabby-chic(see the DIY blog post I did here). I was so excited to finally see how all of the furniture looked in situ and here is the final result....my super cosy, colourful apartment.....

New home, welcome home, Expat, Switzerland, Basel, life in Basel, Swiss home, bohemian decor, bohemian interior, boucheroutie rug, moroccan rug, shabby chic, boho house, kilim
Ma maison

The smaller room is the one I chose as my studio. I've put the pallet sofa, coffee table and bookcase I made using the old scaffolding planks and ladders in there along with all of my crafting bits. I make sure my laptop and work materials don't leave this room, so that when I go into my bedroom its a completely work free, relaxing space. My bedroom is my little colourful haven :) I found a bargain Moroccan boucheroutie rug on etsy which sits nicely alongside my fluffy ikea rug. I also bought a black and white patterned kantha quilt from India on eBay, similar to the one which I have on my studio sofa. There are freestanding clothes rails down the right side of the room with all of my clothes and jewellery hanging on them and I have floor length, white, cotton curtains that let just the right amount of sunlight in. I also have the free standing mirror I bought in the UK which was a steal at only 10GBP, one of my furniture upcycle babies. I've decided not to purchase an internet package for my apartment, partially because Switzerland is mega expensive but also because, since I haven't had the internet at home, I have been so much more productive and have been having far less sleeping problems.

One of the things I really love about my new home is that I can compartmentalise my life, as the apartment has two rooms(as well as the separate rooms for the kitchen and bathroom) I can finally have my own studio space and when I'm done working I can close the door. Why do I need a studio you ask? WELL.... I have a new, borderline crazy, venture to rival the 'van plan'. I have spoken to a few friends/family members about this to check that it isn't a completely insane idea but haven't really broadcasted it on social media/on my blog yet so here goes.....

.... I want to start a jewellery business. Just a small side thing to begin with, maybe sell a few bits on Etsy but the 'new plan'(as I am calling it) extends far beyond Etsy. 
As you all know my trip to Ghana had a lasting effect on me, having a taste of slow, ethical fashion and then having to come back to a fast fashion career was something I found really difficult. While in Ghana I was fortunate enough to see how the small businesses that work with Global Mamas make the beautiful glass beads that are then sold at Krobo bead market and elsewhere. I loved seeing this process and couldn't help myself from buying a stack of beads from the artisans, despite not having any idea what I would use them for.  

Textile Candy, handmade jewellery, ethical fashion, handmade, wooden beads, handprinted necklace, krobo beads, ghana beads, handmade in africa, african jewellery, statement necklace, wooden keyring

Shortly after I moved to Switzerland I began doodling some designs for some earrings, I didn't take them too seriously to begin with but then the creative cogs finally started turning...

I have always been obsessed with statement jewellery, all those who know me will testify to this. I have also always wanted to start a small business.  I am also so sick of fast fashion and want to move into the ethical side. My main problem has been that there are so many different creative areas I want to involve in my small business that I have never been able to find a starting point.  I would love to start an ethical fashion and accessories brand but, realistically, the financial start up cost of this is way above my budget. An ethical jewellery start up, however, is manageable....

So the plan is to use the handmade beads I sourced in Ghana and some unfinished wooden beads I have purchased from a small wood factory in China(via Etsy) and use them to create a collection of colourful patterned statement pieces. If they turn out well then I will pursue this idea further.....if they turn out awfully then I will wear them myself and we shall never speak of this plan again ;) 

Textile Candy, handmade jewellery, ethical fashion, handmade, wooden beads, handprinted necklace, krobo beads, ghana beads, handmade in africa, african jewellery, statement necklace, wooden keyring
Wooden beads from China and a selection of the colourful Krobo beads from Ghana.

Above you can see a selection of the wooden beads and Ghana beads I have purchased and some of the design development I have been doing on photoshop to decide how to paint the beads. 

Textile Candy, handmade jewellery, ethical fashion, handmade, wooden beads, handprinted necklace, krobo beads, ghana beads, handmade in africa, african jewellery, statement necklace, wooden keyring
Design development boards in my studio room.

 Here are the noticeboards in my studio, filled with necklace and keyring prototypes. Obviously none of these pieces are finished yet as they are still at the design development stage..... but, as you can see, I intend for them to be very colourful.

Textile Candy, handmade jewellery, ethical fashion, handmade, wooden beads, handprinted necklace, krobo beads, ghana beads, handmade in africa, african jewellery, statement necklace, wooden keyring
Some of the designs I have been working on, including the earrings I'm wearing in the bottom right image.

I am really hoping that this works out, that the designs are popular and that this idea is received well and not dismissed as another of Becky's hare-brained schemes. It might be like the 'van plan' and never become more than a pipe dream but I'm going to give it a try anyway!If all goes to plan I am hoping to launch the first collection on an Etsy store around the end of October, just in time to hit the Christmas shoppers....hopefully!

I would love to get to a stage where I can sell a jewellery line, produce it ethically in Ghana and expand into textiles and home accessories. This would be amazing and then maybe my van plan can also happen.....first things first...I need to make some products that will sell......this is where your feedback(whoever reads this) will come in really useful!

So that's what has been stealing my attention away from the blog :)




Friday, 7 April 2017

Belated Premiere Vision trend report!

Due to my being in Ghana, this year I didn’t attend the Premiere Vision trade show in Paris. Absolute geek that I am, I actually really missed it! Despite not being able to attend, I have still attempted to put together a trend report for you.

Normally I just use the Premiere vision trend report and dilute it down to trends that I think are the most commercial, This usually involves me changing trend names and merging a few trends together. Needless to say I have done the same thing for SS18, but, as I didn’t actually attend this year, I have been using WGSN as my main source of research. As anyone who works in Printed textiles/design/ WGSN subscriber will know, Premiere Vision is not the only Print trend show out there; Comocrea in Italy, the London print design fair and Mare di Moda(France). This year I have tried to look at the different print trade shows and merge the trends they have put forward to create 12 print trends for SS18. 

I merged Premiere Visions ‘abstract marks’ and ‘organic shapes’ trends as I felt they were quite similar, both consisting of hand painted loose brushstroke markings. I also renamed the PV trend ‘retro eccentric’ and used the Comocrea trend ‘psychedelic yesteryear’ as I preferred the name. The ‘vintage bloom’ PV trend was dropped from my trend pack as I feel that the content is hinted at in the other floral trends(Eastern Chintz, Painted meadows, garden botanical).

2 trends I am particularly excited about are the ‘Artists impression’ trend and the ‘1980’s revival’. An 80's throwback in fashion has been looming for a while now, we have just about exhausted 90’s style and prints and, naturally, designers are leafing through the historical archives to find a ‘new’ trend. We have seen a return to 80’s punk as fashion designers raise their political voice through their collections, 80's romanticism returned last year, so is it really that much of a shock that we might see a return to the borderline garish and colourful prints of the 80's in SS18?(No doubt I will attempt to write an 80's fashion history post at some point!)

I know it's a bit later than I would normally post this trend report but I thought better late than never right? So here it is....the Textile Candy Premiere Vision print trend report for Spring/Summer 2018.

Textile Candy, Premiere vision, trend report, trend forecasting, Spring/Summer 2018, SS18

The trend forecasters seem to have stuck with what they know works for this season: ikats, floral chintz, botanicals, abstract safari and animal conversationals....Nothing particularly groundbreaking. 

Looking at the WGSN coverage of the various trade shows it seems like the trends could do with an additional placement print section, analysing whether slogan/photographic/abstract placement prints are increasing in popularity. Although, I guess, this is more fad trend driven and not really a trend forecasted print direction. All I know is that there has been such an increase in designers using fashion as a political canvas, both on and off the runway, that I am surprised it hasn't leaked into the trend predictions in some wacky conversational print.

But with no further ado...here are the trend boards...

Textile Candy, Garden botanicals, botanical floral, Cake studios, V&A, Baxter fawcett, Gucci, Karolina York, Premiere vision, trend report, trend forecasting, Spring/Summer 2018, SS18

Textile Candy, midnight tropics, tropical print, Collect Scotland, Mirjam Rouden, Ensell and Hall, Premiere vision, trend report, trend forecasting, Spring/Summer 2018, SS18


Textile Candy, The Silk road, irate prints, watercolour irate, painted irate, ethnic print, Vooprint, Talulah by fusion, Barbara Igntiev, karolin York, Luli Sanchez, Premiere vision, trend report, trend forecasting, Spring/Summer 2018, SS18


Textile Candy, Animated animals, animal pattern, animal print, conversational prints, Robert Vernet, Ensell and Hall, Mustic style, Miu Miu, Collect Scotland, Esteban Cortazar, Premiere vision, trend report, trend forecasting, Spring/Summer 2018, SS18


Textile Candy, eastern chintz, chintz floral, liz Casella, Etro, Westwood, Mirjam Rouden, Premiere vision, trend report, trend forecasting, Spring/Summer 2018, SS18


Textile Candy, Psychedelic yesteryear, comocrea, retro eccentric, Baxter Fawcett, Cake studios, Blue studio, Premiere vision, trend report, trend forecasting, Spring/Summer 2018, SS18


Textile Candy, painted meadow, painted florals, hand painted flowers, floral fashion, watercolour print, cake studios, Camilla Frances, Paul and joe, Liberty art prints, Balenziaga, Premiere vision, trend report, trend forecasting, Spring/Summer 2018, SS18

Textile Candy, On safari, Andrew GN, Sukhanlee, Fusion CPH, Talulah by fusion, Bamileke mask, elephant mask, Premiere vision, trend report, trend forecasting, Spring/Summer 2018, SS18

Textile Candy, Organic shapes, Abstract markings, paint strokes, Talulah by Fusion, Camilla frances, karolina york, fusion cph, fairbairn and wolf studio, Premiere vision, trend report, trend forecasting, Spring/Summer 2018, SS18

Textile Candy, Pencil pattern, mark making, Mirjam Rouden, Indigo trade show, Collect Scotland, outline art, outline textiles, Lica design, Marimekko, Premiere vision, trend report, trend forecasting, Spring/Summer 2018, SS18



As always this pack is downloadable with the front cover to be used as a reference report, but please tag/let me know if you are using it! It does take a fair amount of time to put together and, although I don’t mind providing this for free, it does motivate me to know people are actually using it

I also wanted to do a Fall 2017 trend report as usual, but my WGSN access is quite limited at the moment, if anyone has any other user friendly websites for the runway shows, which also has a good image zoom on it I would be eternally grateful! I used to use Style.com, but that seems to have disappeared and the only alternative I know of is the Vogue runway but I don't find it very user friendly- the zoom isn't great, and a lot of shows are missed out. I basically would like a free WGSN access haha....is there a photoshop-esque hack for that?

With any luck I will hopefully be attending the next Premiere Vision trade show in September so my next PV installment will have a much faster turnaround.....rather than being 2 months late...




Saturday, 18 March 2017

La vie en Suisse- how I'm finding Basel so far!


Hello from Switzerland. Yes, I am once again in a different country. I thought I'd give you all a quick update on how I'm enjoying life in Basel. As you know, 2 weeks ago I moved here to start my new job as Graphic designer at Tally Weijl.....here is a borderline cringey photo of me enjoying my new office:

new job, graphic designer, textile designer, print designer, how to get a textile design job, life as a textile designer, print designer


I realise I didn't write a blog post in between Ghana and Switzerland and now I wish I had, not only is it a great way of keeping my friends and family in the loop of whats going on in my life, it also helps me understand my thoughts a bit more.

Before arriving here I was quite nervous, not about starting the job or moving countries(this I am starting to get used to)...I was nervous about how I would feel about working in commercial retail after having a taste of working for a fairtrade company. Ghana was definitely one of the benchmark moments in my life, I found it very hard to leave. There are some moments in life where you feel completely content, as though you are, at that moment, exactly where you are meant to be- this is how I felt throughout my 6 weeks in Ghana. Being able to do the job I love while empowering entrepreneurial women and supporting local businesses provides a level of job satisfaction that commercial retail can never fulfill. Despite being a relatively brief visit I am determined to go back to Ghana(this time I will be armed with a working camera) and forge stronger links with the people I met there, the friends I made and the small business owners I spoke to. I don't know how this will link into my hopes to one day start an ethical business but stepping outside of my 'safe' little commercial retail bubble into ethical fashion was definitely the first step towards this. 

Below are just a few of my favourite photos from the last few weeks in Ghana. 

Just a few of the things I miss from Ghana: batik printing, the amount women can carry on their heads, colourful boats, Herb Afrik spot crawls, Beach weekends, limitless coconuts to devour.

Before moving to Basel I returned to the UK for a week and in this time I was constantly asked if I was excited for my new job and for my 'new life' in Basel..... 'no' was the answer....the answer I wasn't meant to give and the answer people weren't prepared to acknowledge.I know it's not something I should broadcast on my blog, especially in case it gets read by current/future employers, but I pride myself on being transparent and honest when I write. It's not that I wasn't overjoyed that I had been given the position and the opportunity to move to Switzerland- I was/am.....and it wasn't that I didn't want to move to Basel- I love experiencing and living in different cities.... I just felt under prepared.I hadn't had chance to process what was happening to me. 

SO.....with all of this playing on my mind before the move you can imagine how I approached my first week at work, almost with a sense of trepidation. Now I am 2 weeks in and I actually think I'm really going to enjoy working here! The job is extremely fast paced, but a lot more creative than my previous role at C&A. I am now working on a fast turnaround which is highly trend driven and reactive to current fads meaning that I have to be constantly producing new proposals and graphics. In my first week I was definitely thrown in at the deep end and, after having been out of commercial retail for a few months, I felt like I was drowning in the deep end. I had the classic creative block problem where your thoughts go a little bit like this....


Now, at the end of my second working week, I am feeling a lot more comfortable and in control of the situation. I've figured out what my job role is and what is expected of me(I am now in charge of placement graphics on t-shirts and sweaters- very exciting for me as I have never been in charge of anything before) and I've had chance to make some pretty cool artworks already.

So that's enough about the work side....how about the actual city of Basel!? WELL...I arrived at an odd time of year where Basel has several days of carnival called 'fasnacht'. It involves people dressing up in masks, mainly creepy looking ones, and parading the streets both day and night playing pips and drums and throwing colourful confetti at people. A very odd experience for someone who has only been in Basel for one night.

Please note that none of the photos in this collage are mine, they were all *borrowed* from instagram.
Expat life, life in Switzerland,Swiss expat, Basel, life in Basel, living in Basel,  fasnacht, carnival
Me post confetti ambush.

In my first week I didn't really get to see any of Basel- I literally went from home to work to the supermarket next to work then back home again. This probably helps to explain why I felt a little overwhelmed and unsettled in my first few days. Normally when I have moved to work in other countries/cities I have a weekend or a few days to better acquaint myself with the city before starting work. Here I arrived late Sunday evening and started work on Monday morning, so when my new colleagues were asking me if I liked Basel so far my answer was "I don't know yet, I haven't seen any of it!"

One of the tricky things that can really get your head in a spin when you move to a new city is adapting to the small cultural/social differences of a place. Everywhere has unspoken social etiquette and, once again, upon arrival in Switzerland I realised I didn't know the unwritten rules. They really should consider providing every newcomer with a manual of what to do/not to do in social situations. In my first few days, my processing days, I actually became so overwhelmed by everything that I nearly cried in the supermarket- yes I am aware that this is rather pathetic. A supermarket trip shouldn't be a particularly emotional event BUT walking into a supermarket on your first day in a new country, realising you can't actually communicate with anyone, you don't have enough money to afford groceries (as everything is so expensive in Switzerland), the thing you wanted to buy isn't there, you can't read the ingredients of any of the alternatives and you can't use google translate because you don't have any internet access....you can see how that situation almost ended in tears. Apologies for the tiring length of that sentence, maybe it helps to demonstrate how exhausting my brain is!Anyway....how did I avoid having an emotional breakdown in the supermarket you ask....?...I bought a bottle of red wine(the cheapest I could find with the highest alcohol percentage) and I went home and cried there instead. 

That doesn't mean I'm sad/unhappy by the way, on the contrary I actually really like it here. Unfortunately I'm not very good at processing information so there's usually a backlog for my mind to deal with....in this case my brain decided to process quitting my job in Belgium, going to Ghana, getting a new job and moving to Switzerland all at once. Now my mini breakdown seems completely understandable doesn't it!? :)

One of the biggest hurdles I have had to deal with so far is apartment hunting. I am quickly learning that Switzerland is not at all like the UK. In England we have idioms like "first up, best dressed" and "the early bird catches the worm" basically meaning that getting there first will give you an advantage...apparently this does not apply to the Swiss housing market. I found my perfect dream flat here and I arrived 15 MINUTES EARLY(anyone who knows me will understand this is a miraculous feat for me) thinking that if I arrived before everyone else and told them I wanted the apartment they would sign it over to me.....oh how naive I was/am. You have to apply for accommodation here in a similar way to applying for a job-you view the house,then you fill out an application,then you have to be shortlisted,.then you have to be chosen. I JUST WANT A HOME!!!!! Anyway, regardless of me not actually getting my 'perfect' apartment I thought I'd still share the photos with you.

Expat life, life in Switzerland,Swiss expat, Basel, life in Basel, living in Basel,  Swiss property, house hunting, Swiss rental, Swiss apartment, loft apartment, attic room

 It was up in the attic of the house with exposed wooden beams and white painted brickwork and had beautiful wooden floorboards and was just oh so beautifully bohemian. I would have felt very at home here...something about living at the top of the house makes me feel extremely safe....alas....it was obviously not meant to be mine and I am really hoping I find another even more 'perfect for me' place soon. Ideally I wanted to have found my new home before I return to the UK next week but that's not looking too likely. Although I have two apartment viewings next week so my fingers are firmly crossed. Here are the other two I will be looking at:

Expat life, life in Switzerland,Swiss expat, Basel, life in Basel, living in Basel,  Swiss property, house hunting, Swiss rental, Swiss apartment
This one looks beautiful from the outside and is really close to the river but there weren't any other photos of it online  other than the photo of the stairwell.....this one is my lucky dip apartment.
Expat life, life in Switzerland,Swiss expat, Basel, life in Basel, living in Basel,  Swiss property, house hunting, Swiss rental, Swiss apartment
This one is a bit more modern than what I would normally go for but I love the wooden parquet flooring and the double window corner.

As you can tell from my choices I love a good wooden floor. I have a little checklist I made of what I'm looking for in an apartment and I don't really want to deviate from it, particularly as my apartment in Brussels was so lovely and homely, now I don't want to settle for anything less.

Just in case anyone reading this happens to work in the Swiss property market in Basel here's a few sample images from my 'ideal house' pinterest board(https://uk.pinterest.com/beckyloisburns/)to give you a solid idea of what I'm looking for ;)

Textile candy, bohemian decor, bohemian interior, decor, white washed, wooden floor
My dreamy house inspiration.

I can imagine nothing worse than living in a super modern, shiny, square/rectangular roomed, laminated floored apartment......sadly Basel has a lot more of this type of building than the old, wooden, soft, quirky look I'm searching for. I can be swayed on some of my desirable criteria but I cannot live in an apartment that has no character!

One of the major things I have noticed about myself when moving countries for work is that, if I don't establish a home in the first few weeks of being there, I feel restless and temporary and find it difficult to settle. I don't know if this is an emotional response but I can't properly start to love a city until I feel a sense of permanence. 

At the moment I am living in a shared apartment owned by the company, the apartment is nice enough and my room is quite large but I feel as though I am back at university again. I am one of those oddly extroverted introvert types and I really need my own space. As lovely as it is that the company have provided accommodation to ease the pressure of flat hunting, I don't think I will feel settled for as long as I am living in shared accommodation.  The people I am sharing with seem lovely, I hardly see them throughout the week as we are all at work and then at the weekends they are all either going to visit their partners back in Italy(they're all Italian) or having their partners come and visit them here. I miss being able to roam around my own home scantily clad without the fear of someone witnessing it. I miss being able to listen to loud music while I'm cooking. Above all I miss the sense of being at home in my surroundings.

In other news- Basel is a really beautiful city, the Altstadt ('old town') in particular. It has such quaint historical buildings, some of them were built as long ago as the 1400s. As a bit of a history geek this really excites me. I took a few photos walking around Basel last weekend, here are a few from the old town and along the River Rhine where everyone seems to hang out enjoying drinks and picnics in the sun.

Expat life, life in Switzerland,Swiss expat, Basel, life in Basel, living in Basel, Altstadt, Basel old town, Rhine, Basel Rhine, River Rhine, wine on the rhine

I ventured away from the Aldstadt to three country point where you can stand on the border of Switzerland, France and Germany- technically meaning that you are in 3 places at once. 

Expat life, life in Switzerland,Swiss expat, Basel, life in Basel, living in Basel, , three country point, standing on the border

I also came across a really alternative side to Basel on the Kleinbasel side of the river towards the industrial section that looked like it would be a really cool pop up bar area in the summer months. Everything there was a bit shut down but I took some photos of the amazing colourful graffiti they hvae there.

Expat life, life in Switzerland,Swiss expat, Basel, life in Basel, living in Basel, Textile Candy, street art, kleinbasel, graffiti, its like a jungle
A small sample of the street art in the Kleinbasel area.
So that is my experience so far. Two weeks in and I'm warming to my new city quite nicely, I only wish I had secured a new home. Tomorrow I will venture out for a walk along the Rhine and see what I stumble accross.

I have a few more meaty article posts in the pipeline at the moment and I am also working on a belated Premiere Visions Spring/Summer 2018 trend report that I will hopefully have finished within the next week.

Ciao for now x





Thursday, 16 February 2017

Krobo-Odumase market/ traditional bead making workshop



Last Wednesday I went on a short trip to Krobo-Odumase to visit the local market which is known for it's amazing traditional, handcrafted bead stalls. The bead market area is open only on Wednesdays and Saturdays but, after doing some research online, I found out that on Saturdays there are a lot of funerals and so sometimes the stalls are empty. We arrived around 2.30pm after setting off from Cape Coast at 7am, travelling firstly to Accra then onwards to Madina where we changed onto a Tro-tro heading towards Somanya. 

Upon arrival we had to walk through the bustling Krobo-Odumase market, I had expected the bead market to be in a separate location to the rest of the stalls but it was nestled in the centre in an open brick area, like a small bead island. The surrounding market sold everything from wax print fabric and traditional batik to vegetables, spices, smoked fish and even chicken feet. Everything was packed so tightly together that, to the untrained eye of a tourist, the stalls were almost indistinguishable from each other. At one point we got so lost trying to get back from the bead market that our only point of reference was a woman who kept calling "Jackie Chan" after us...because evidently we look Asian and male...

Krobo, Ghanaian life, life in Ghana, Ghana travel, African market
Krobo-Odumase market
The market so much of a sensory assault (not necessarily in a bad way) that I found it extremely hard to process all of the new information my brain was receiving. When there are so many new sensory experiences coming at you from every angle it becomes very hard to decipher which information you need to pay attention to. There are new smells, many of them verging on unpleasant(smoked fish, open sewer, dust), new visual experiences including all of the women carrying an assortment of objects on their heads and all of the colourful garments you are walking past, there are people surrounding you on all sides and cars squeezing past you through impossibly small gaps while young boys with wheelbarrows hurry along next to you. All the while you are being exposed to so much noise; market traders selling their wares, Ghanaian music, car horns,and small children constantly greeting you because of your skin colour.

textile candy, textile candy blog, handmade beads, handcrafted, artisan, bead maker, krobo beads, Ghanaian craft, traditional craft
A few photos of me shopping for beads and negotiating prices in the market.
It sounds like I'm complaining with the description I gave above, but I actually absolutely loved it. Bartering with the traders on the price of a string of beads and envisaging what I could turn each of them into. They were so colourful and some of them were so very old, "older than my grandmother" as one trader proudly told us! I ended up getting quite carried away and buying quite a lot .....however I still came away feeling like I didn't quite get enough. 

In the future I hope to have my own business, perhaps part of that will involve selling jewellery, I would love to come back to Ghana and visit Krobo-Odumase bead market once again with a bigger spending budget!

Here are the beads I ended up buying:



On the Thursday we had arranged to go to a bead workshop run by Moses and Grace, two bead makers employed by Global Mamas. They were both such lovely, gentle people and seemed to really love what they do- Moses told me he has been making beads for 14 years, making him a true artisan.

Despite the lack of iphone, I have managed to compile enough photos to show you the whole bead making process- YAY!

There are very few adjectives strong enough to describe how amazing watching this process was. It is so artisanal and there are so many complex stages, I also didn't realise how laborious bead making actually is!

Bead making workshop, handmade beads, handcrafted, Ghana craft
Moses and Grace, their bead kiln and workshop.
The workshop was located in the most peaceful area, shaded by mango trees and banana palms, there was one bamboo thatched structure housing the kiln and another used for grinding/shaping and smoothing/polishing the beads.

While at the workshop I saw the full extent to which everything in Ghana is recycled and how all raw materials are produced locally- it's so resourceful. I wish we were more like this in the UK, instead of our throwaway society where most things are sent to the dustbin instead of being fixed or up-cycled.

Recycling, glass bottle recycling, Krobo beads, fairtrade, bead making workshop, Global Mamas
The glass grinding process, from the gathered glass bottles to the fine glass powder produced at the end.

Recycled glass bottles are separated by colour and then ground down with a large pestle and mortar type of equipment until they become a fine glass powder. The powder is then sieved to separate the larger pieces from the finer grains, the larger pieces are then re-ground. 

I even gave the glass pounding a go and after a few minutes I was extremely sweaty and tired, it is so impressive how Moses manages to do that on a daily basis. I asked him how long he pounds glass each day and he said 4 hrs.... I couldn't even keep it up for 4 minutes!

The clay molds used to make the beads.
The beads are made using these clay molds, holes have been carved out of the clay and a small hole indented into the bottom of each hole. Stems from the locally grown Cassava plant are poked into the holes and cut down (with a razor blade attached to a stick) so that they don't rise above the surface level of the clay. These are to create the holes in the glass beads-as the beads are put into the hot kiln the cassava stem burns and disintegrates leaving a hole in the bead. 

It's quite an amazing process with minimal wastage. The clay molds are then used until they break, they are then ground down and the clay re-used to make new molds.


The next step is to add the glass to the mold to make the beads. Dye powder is mixed with the fine glass powder to create a coloured glass powder mixture. The powder is then used to fill in the holes of the clay mold and then a feather is used to brush down the mold, ensuring no powder is wasted or left on the exterior of the mold. See what I mean about being resourceful- they used A FEATHER to brush off the excess powder....it's just WOW!

Adding the dye to colour the glass powder
After preparing the molds and filling them with glass powder they are ready to put in the kiln.
The kiln is heated by wooden poles and palm trunks inserted into the back which are then pushed further into the oven as they burn. It was so hot around the kiln that it almost made the African weather feel cool.....almost! 

handmade beads, glass kiln, bead baking
Moses placing the clay molds into the kiln.
After around 30 minutes the beads were ready to be removed from the kiln, in the absence of a thermometer or any way of telling the exact temperature of the kiln, the bead makers really need to know their craft well to get the timings right. It was amazing to see how the beads had changed colour in the heat, they became so much brighter than the powder had been.

The final beads
The beads were dropped into a bucket of cold water to be cleaned and then palm oil was added to make the beads nice and glossy.

Me trying to poke some of the beads out of the molds and onto the wire string for them to be shipped.
We also had the opportunity to see how some of the more complicated beads are created and how they are ground down from being a rough almost cube shape to being rounded with smoother edges. 

bead making, handmade beads, African craft, Krobo beads
The bead grinding and polishing process.
I think my favourite part of the whole process had to be watching the beads being cleaned/polished- they are placed on a big smooth grinding rock that has had its centre smoothed with the constant grinding. Water and sand is added and the beads are repeatedly rolled around until all of the excess hardened glass is removed from the surface of the beads leaving a smooth exterior. The noise the beads make as they are being rolled around in the water was so relaxing.

I managed to use the animoto website once again to marge all of my photos and video clips into a video showing the krobo bead market and then the bead workshop. As with the batik video, the animoto watermark is still on the link but this will be removed once I commit to upgrading my subscription!

video

I hope you've all enjoyed watching this video/reading this post as much as I enjoyed taking part in the workshop! :)

P.S The song in the video is one of my new favourites! It's a Ghanaian dancehall artist called Shatta Wale who I will hopefully be seeing perfom this Saturday ;)