About Big Village
Big Village is a small company featuring products from Ghana, West Africa including handwoven, fair trade baskets and jewelry made from recycled glass beads. Focusing on advocacy and promotion, we offer workshops and speaking engagements using our products and experience as a platform to discuss topics such as ethical consumerism, sustainability and social justice.
Big Village embodies our family values, passions and skills. Using our products as a platform for advocacy and promotion of Fair Trade Principles we are able to bring a simple message to people; what you buy makes a difference.
With a background in marketing and his experience on serve trips, John offers leadership and direction to Big Village. With a passion for teaching, Liz offers interactive and informative presentations geared for all ages. Together as parents we are training and teaching our children a broader world view and a desire to make a difference.
Our partner Dominic lives in Bolgatanga and owns Patex Enterprises Ltd. Dominic works with the weavers -women married to subsistent farmers using basket making as a way to earn extra income. Often the money is used to send their children to school or to support community projects. Dominic has helped to establish five cooperatives where the women share resources and work together in the evenings weaving baskets. As well as being fair trade, Dominic also pays the women directly, sometimes even before they make a basket. He also stores the grass saving the women time in gathering it for their baskets.
Our bead supplier is TK Beads run by Florence and Kwesi in Amrahia, not far from the capital city of Accra in Ghana. Florence and Kwesi follow many of the Fair Trade Principles in running their company and have been able to employ over twenty people involved in the assembly and construction of beads. Having family traditions of bead making in both their families, TK Beads produces high quality, beautiful, recycled glass beads.
Recycled Glass Beads
At TK Beads’ workshop, glass such as bottles, old cobalt medicine bottles, and window panes is collected and then sorted by colour. Our bead makers have partnerships with restaurants and other retailers to collect their glass. Ghana’s waste management system is limited and this is one way of recycling materials.
After the glass is sorted, it is crushed into small pieces or into powder; powder makes opaque beads and small pieces makes translucent beads.The beads are heated up in an outdoor oven reaching temperatures of about 600 degrees F. There are many different molds that are used to create different shaped beads. The beads are then strung and ready for market. The process gives the beads a transculent sea glass quality creating a stunning product. TK also makes the more traditional hand painted beads using more traditional designs as well as new patterns. The result is beautiful beads which lend themselves well to the hand made jewelry Liz designs and creates.
Each of our ethically made Bolga Baskets is uniquely hand-crafted and made with indigenous elephant grass and natural plant and mineral based dyes.
Big Village has developed a partnership with five women’s co-operatives in the rural villages surrounding Bolgatanga, Ghana, West Africa.
Bolgatanga is an area renowned for its basket weaving and the co-operatives train and employ women to make high quality, beautiful baskets. Dominic and Patience have set up a system to not only pay the women for their daily provisions, but also to invest in their larger needs, such as household items, community development or the weavers’ children’s school fees.
Big village history
Big Village was started by Loreli Cockram, who lived in Ghana for three years as a missionary with her family. During her time in Ghana she discovered the beautiful hand made Bolga Baskets and recycled glass beads, and brought them back to Canada as a way to support Ghanaian artisans. Loreli began hosting jewelry making workshops for friends and community groups and selling her own creations at craft shows and sales. Loreli met Leisha Vandermey and Karen Berry when they participated in Big Village workshops. Both Karen and Leisha loved everything Big Village embodied, so a few years later when Loreli went on to pursue other ministries, she encouraged them to take over the work of Big Village. Karen and Leisha ran Big Village together for several years and Big Village flourished. When Karen and Leisha moved to Vancouver in 2014, they invited John and Liz to continue the work of Big Village in Ontario.