Prosperity Update

News and stories from Global Mamas

Winning Designs by the Mamas

Our annual Design Competition began in 2007 as a way to generate new product ideas. With so many talented makers involved in our organization we wanted to provide the opportunity to participate for any Mama or staff member interested in sharing their creative input. Each year winning designs are included in our catalog and the winner receives both recognition during our annual “Mama of the Year" awards in addition to a monetary prize.

Following the success of our 2007 competition, this event has become a tradition! In this year's Design Competition blog we wanted to focus on three winning Mamas from previous years that have their designs in our current collection. 


Martha Rhule: Designer of the Unity Batik

Martha Rhule became a Global Mamas batikers in 2010 after a friend introduced her to our organization so that she could have greater financial stability. Although both a talented batiker AND seamstress, Martha decided to focus on developing her expertise as a batiker. Today Martha is an accomplished textile artist that has trained multiple apprentices while producing consistently high quality work. She has also created multiple bestselling batik designs.

Martha won the Batikers Award in our 2010 Design Competition for her Pebble pattern, then the 2017 Design Competition for her Unity pattern (pictured here). Martha says the Unity design was inspired by some brickwork she noticed while sitting one day at her sewing machine. The actual layout of the batik shifted as she played with sampling the new design. At first the pattern was more spread out, but as she stamped the logos closer and closer together she preferred the outcome. In our 2019 catalog Martha's Unity pattern is prominently displayed in a diverse range of product, from women's dresses to pillow covers.



Hannah Dodoo, Designer of the Button Basket

One of Global Mamas’ eight co-founding women, Hannah is an accomplished seamstress that draws inspiration from experiences abroad, including travel to the US and Germany where she learned to sew in 1976. Hannah won the Seamstress Award in 2016 for her Frontier Bag and won the 2015 Design Competition for her popular Button Baskets in our current catalog. 

As a creative individual with a passion for design, Hannah constantly finds herself brainstorming new product ideas. With her 2015 contest submission Hannah recognized our catalog could use more home décor which is how she landed on her Button Basket design. Hannah’s inspiration for the Frontier Bag evolved from her experience traveling and needing a secure way to carry and store her personal belongings. 


Felicia Dede: Designer of the Felicia Earrings

Felicia has worked as both a jewelry assembler and quality control ‘champion’ for the Global Mamas Odumase Krobo Office. This team works with local beadmakers to produce our range of recycled glass jewelry and ornaments. Before joining Global Mamas in 2013 Felicia was a teacher at primary school in Krobo but wasn’t happy in the role.  Having studied visual arts at technical school when she heard of an opportunity at Global Mamas from a neighbor she decided to pursue her creative interests.

Although batikers and seamstresses have participated in the annual Design Competition for some years, getting the jewelry assemblers and beadmakers involved at our Krobo location is a more recent endeavor that we hope to continue. Felicia’s submission for the 2018 competition were these winning earrings that the design team paired with a coordinating necklace to be able to offer customers a matched set. Felicia says her inspiration for the earrings comes from one of her visual arts courses at school. 



2019 Design Competition submissions are due 6/28/19 and final decisions on who our award winners will be happen the following Friday. We can't wait to see all the creative ideas that will be shared this season!



Meet the Mamas: Featuring New Global Mamas Batiker Dorcas Quianoo

Dorcas Quianoo, mother of three, is one of the newest Global Mamas batikers. 

When Global Mamas brings new Mamas into the ‘family’, we take the commitment seriously. This means we hire with intention and only when we know we have the capacity to offer long-term, regular work for a new partner.

During Fashion Revolution week we wanted to introduce Dorcas Quianoo, one of the newest batikers to join our Cape Coast team. She started with Global Mamas in summer of 2018 and has been a part of batik production for the new 2019 line which is online now! Batik designer Nick Ruffalo was able to get in a quick interview with her during a training earlier this spring.

N: Why did you want to do batik?

D: I wanted to learn hairdressing but the school was full; they only had room for batik and beadmaking so I learned both.

N: How did you get trained in Batik? How long have you been batiking? When did you start batiking for your own business?

D: I went to vocational school in Tema to learn batik. My father was working as a policeman in Accra, but he’s retired now in Moree [just outside of Cape Coast]. I started my own business right out of school in Accra where I worked for a few years. I was making batik to sell at market and making good money. I’ve been in Cape Coast now for 12 years, but I’ve been selling food for the past 6 years. It was difficult work. I would wake up early to prepare and come home late to wash dishes.

N: Why did you want to come to Global Mamas and leave your food business?

D:  I learned batik, so I wanted to use what I learned to work. The money is now better in batik. Before, the money in food wasn’t reliable; my income wasn’t enough to pay back the bank for borrowing money. I left food because I was tired; preparing and cleaning up took all my time. Batik is also hard work, but at least there is time to rest at the end of the day. I receive steady orders from Global Mamas. It’s difficult sometimes with rejects, but otherwise it’s nice.

For years Dorcas had her own business preparing and selling food, but the income wasn’t reliable.

 N: What is something you’ve been able to do in the past year that you haven’t been able to before? What accomplishment are you proud of?

D: I have begun saving to build my own workshop. Right now, I have a table under a mango tree. I want to expand.

N: Have you enjoyed your work? What is one thing you enjoy about working for Global Mamas?

D: It’s nice to be back in batik. When I receive rejects, I like that they call me and will discuss it with me.

N: Do you support anyone?

D:  I support my three children: 2 girls, 1 boy. The eldest girl is now a beauty technician. She can do manicures, makeup and hair. My younger girl is 6 years, and the boy is 4 years. I also help support my junior brother’s son, who is 3 years old. He will start school soon and I will help him.

 N: Do you have any employees? What are your plans for your future business?

D: No, I do not have employees, but I want to grow and hire them. My goal would be to grow to have 5-10 employees. It would be great.

N: What is one long term goal you hope to achieve with the help of orders from Global Mamas?

D: I want my kids to finish school and graduate college. I also want to buy land and build a house.

We’re so pleased to have Dorcas on board and look forward to sharing how she reaches her goals in coming years. Thank you for joining us in wishing her a warm welcome to our community!   

Getting used to Global Mamas quality standards has been a learning curve, but Dorcas appreciates being able to have conversations about changes that need to be made. She’s pictured here working on a new sample with Global Mamas designer Abi. 

Making of Summer 2017

Alice Grau, Creative Director

Photo Credit: Nick Ruffalo, Designer

Each of our collections originates from trend research-- anticipating how everything from high-fashion to streetwear trends will influence the clothes our customers might wish to buy in future seasons. We love getting creative with the shape, color, and prints of our product to interpret up and coming styles with our own bold, West African twist. 


Once our in-house designers and volunteers have developed a series of patterns we’d like to test for an upcoming season, we reach out to batikers near our Cape Coast office who are interested in helping produce samples. Mamas helping with samples receive a slightly higher price per yard for the added effort of going back and forth testing a new stamp, dye recipe, and layout.


The stamp is traced from a master copy then carved by the Mama from a piece of foam (we actually use chunks of foam mattresses, commonly sold in Ghana). The pattern is transferred to the cotton by dipping the stamp into hot wax and placing it repeatedly on the fabric following the designer’s spacing specifications, communicated via hand drawings or digital renderings.


Once a pattern is established we use the palette of dyes available in local markets (mostly primary and secondary colors) to begin sampling color. This is a delicate matter that can take many attempts and for consistent results requires the precision of a scientist. Sometimes our designers develop a recipe using basic color theory, but at other times we stumble upon an “accident” color we love and have to work backwards to figure out how it was made! The dyes are mixed with caustic soda and sodium hydrosulphite to dissolve them to the point where they can be absorbed by the cotton fabric. Because of the chemicals involved in the process the Mamas wear masks and gloves at the appropriate steps. 


Sometimes batikers fold their fabric into a square to submerge it in the bucket, but here you can see Mary swirling the length of fabric into the dye bath. This prevents fold lines of lighter color where the fabric may not be consistently exposed to the dye. If a batik is brought in with irregular spacing or unsightly dye lines the quality control team deems it class 2 or 3 (as opposed to export quality: class 1). In both sampling and regular product, attention to this kind of detail is required to meet our quality standards. Although fabric may not make class 1, class 2 and 3 textiles are still used in various products. One of the best tools we have to make lower classes of fabric usable is to “overdye” them in a darker color which will cover any mistakes. This improved fabric can then be used for one-of-a-kind products in our Accra store. 


Here a fabric sample dries on the line and you can see the color transformation from the wet material at the top, to the dry material turning a bright apple green at the bottom. An added challenge of vat dyes are that they don’t show their true color in the actual dye bath (like indigo that starts out looking yellow and then shifts to blue once it's been removed from the dye). With each of these dyes there is a significant visual shift in color when the material is exposed to air. This means accuracy is vital in measuring the dry dyes into the bucket.


Here Becky, a design volunteer that spent time with us in Ghana earlier this year, admires fabric produced using two of her stamp designs. Although we sampled both patterns in our colorway for summer we decided to hold one print for our Fall collection.

Once the fabric has been batiked to the designers' specifications, the finished yardage is assigned to a local Global Mamas seamstress to be stitched into the desired product. Babs, our technical designer, will go over the product and review the pattern (in white above) with the Mama before sending it off with the freshly batiked cotton.


Here Jennifer is working on a sample for summer. Waiting on samples to come back to the office is always exciting as different prints in different products can have a surprising effect. Sometimes we decide to hold off on designs for later collections, while at other times we love one fabric so much we want to sample it in multiple colorways. Sometimes we realize we still haven’t gotten it *quite* right and more blank cotton is sent out into the world to try something altogether new.


 As any maker will know, our process is one of artistry, craft, science, and a little bit of luck! After months of planning and preparations it is always with pride that we share each new collection coming from the talented hands of the Mamas. These dresses are just a few of the bold and beautiful items you will find included in our Summer 2017 collection. New items for Summer: Arriving Online June 20th!

Celebrating Fair Trade Month

Amelia Brandt, volunteer

Happy Fair Trade Month from all of us at Global Mamas!

For us, Fair Trade Month is all about celebrating our accomplishments, especially those that exemplify the heart behind our values as a fair trade organization. For example, one of our values is as follows: “We are innovators dedicated to quality, creativity, and continuous improvement.” This value was brought to life by Mamas in Cape Coast as we solved a unique quality challenge.  

The Challenge

As a social enterprise, our ability to create prosperity for women in Ghana depends on our ability to provide customers with high-quality, fair trade products. Last year, we partnered with a group of Mamas in Cape Coast to explore the financial challenges we face when seamstresses and batikers bring in products that aren’t quite the level of quality we need for export. Mamas receive a slightly lower payment for these “less-than-perfect” products, which are then sold at a discount in our store in Accra.


However, even though we sell these products in our store, we must still ask Mamas to remake the products needed for export. We told Mamas how much we invest in paying for lower classes of products and how the growing surplus of these products was having serious financial implications for the organization.


The Solution

In the spirit of transparency and problem-solving, we asked for their feedback on the best way for us to continue to succeed.


The Mamas provided a variety of recommendations to help create what they call “first class” products more consistently, from cutting around errors in a batiking pattern to keeping bright and dark batiks separate when drying.


The Mamas then set goals for delivering export-quality items. Global Mamas staff members were truly inspired when seamstresses set a goal to produce 99.5% of their items in the top class of quality, planning to control quality with more careful sewing. For batikers, since there are some quality challenges that are out of their control, the goal was set at 90%. Mamas dubbed the program First Class, First Time to reflect their goal.


Mamas receive a 10% bonus for each month they reach the goal. In May of this year 28 seamstresses and seven batikers were thrilled to receive a bonus. Batiker Aggie Cole was so thrilled with her bonus that she danced around the Cape Coast office to everyone’s enjoyment. Aggie has been a Mama since 2005 and is the proud batiker of our ever popular Elephants print.

“If everyone can produce First Class, First Time, it’s more profitable for the women.
We can use the money we used to spend paying Mamas for lower-quality products to
reinvest in the organization, which is good for everyone!”
- Patience Treve, People Development Manager

Quality Control Champions

At our Cape Coast and Ashaiman offices, we have quality control (QC) teams who are responsible for ensuring product quality prior to exporting. They have deep knowledge and passion for our products, as well as an eagle eye for details.

To support the Mamas in their First Class, First Time goals, we saw an opportunity to elevate their responsibilities to help the Mamas succeed. Each QC Champion is now responsible for forming a relationship with specific Mamas. This way, when a Mama delivers her products to the QC staff, she knows she’s always working with the same person. The QC Champion will know her strengths and challenges, share the results of her monthly quality report, and offer specific advice on how to improve.

  “I like First Class, First Time.

It gives me a goal... to get the bonus and to do better work.”

– Martha Rhule, Cape Coast batiker

Thanks to the Mamas and quality control teams working so hard to make the First Class, First Time program a success, product rejects have dropped by 77%. Their efforts were recognized on Wednesday, October 5 by the U.S. accounting firm Eide Bailly with an honorable mention for its Resourcefullness award, which includes a $2,000 cash prize! The prize is being invested in our equipment loan fund for Mamas; this round of funding will be used to purchase water storage tanks for batikers.


Welcome to a Celebration of Dreams Realized

Portion of speech made by Kristin Johnson honoring Emma Myers, Global Mamas Co-Founder

During our time together you are NOT going to hear a story of how charity changed lives. Instead, you are going to hear how a group of African women came together to create their own success – in spite of the many challenges faced along the way. We are not going to focus on the poverty that African women face every single day. Instead we are going to share stories of empowerment, determination, and dreams realized.

There is one key value that has been mightily important to the success of Global Mamas – and that is our combined determination to succeed. And there is no other Mama that exemplifies our determination to succeed more than Emma Myers. Emma is an incredibly talented textile designer and co-founder of Global Mamas.  She exemplifies the word determination. Against all odds Emma has combined her determination with her talent as an artist to realize her dreams. 


Emma and I have been working together for over 20 years. I have been a witness to her transformation from a struggling textile designer with barely enough income to provide her family with its basic needs to a successful business woman who has raised three college graduates. She has faced many obstacles along the way, but she never gave up. And she taught me never to give up. And that is why she is my hero.


                                             Front Row: Kristin                           Emma and Dede

This is a picture of Emma and I from 1993. When I met Emma she was a talented batiker, but she was struggling to make a living at her craft. One of my Peace Corps projects was to set up a women’s center that included a batik training program that would provide young women who had dropped out of the formal school system with a trade. Emma was hired to be the batik teacher and that is when she and I began a life long journey of partnership.

Over the next two years Emma and I grew the women’s center into a thriving hub of activity. I managed the business side of the batik school, while Emma trained dozens of young women in the art of batik.

I want to give you an appreciation for what life was like for Emma when I first met her, so you can understand the immense respect I have to her and her determination. Each day Emma would come to work with joy in her heart excited to share her skills. But batik is back-breaking work mainly conducted over an open fire in a country where the average temperature is above 80 degrees.

Though Emma was working full time, cultural norms and her own dignity meant that she was still responsible for managing her home. She lived in two rooms with her family of five. Each day she would cook all of her meals from scratch over a coal pot, (which is like a small barbeque). Laundry was done by hand and since running water was unreliable, water often had to be fetched from a community spout down the street. Her youngest child Dede would often accompany her to work because she didn’t have options for child care.  

And then, on the weekends Emma would begin batiking again in her apartment building’s shared courtyard in order to earn something extra for her family. That is until her landlord threatened her with eviction if she continued to work there.

Emma never complained to me about her situation. Instead she constantly demonstrated her determination to change it. She expected a lot from me, but she never expected a hand out. She has three children and every day she dreamed for a future that offered them more than what she had growing up as the daughter of a fisherman.

Through her talent and determination Emma accomplished everything she set out to do.

It was after Emma helped to start Global Mamas that things really began to change. Once Emma could rely on the steady orders provided by Global Mamas, the first thing she did was build a workshop where she could operate on her own terms without the fear of eviction. This was such a smart move as it paved the way for her future success.


Over the years Emma’s # 1 investment has been in her children. She sent them to the best junior high and high schools she could find. And she didn’t let them stop there. She sent all three of her children for a college education. In fact, when Emma’s oldest child Lorenzo graduated from Cape Coast University he was the first one in Emma’s entire extended family to earn a college degree. Emma’s daughter, Dede, (who was often at work with Emma and I when she was a young girl) has now graduated with a degree in nursing.


To secure her future, Emma and her husband Robert purchased land and began building a home Ghanaian style. By this I literally mean brick by brick. Long term financing like mortgages are not available in Ghana, so to build a home you have to finance it yourself. You also can’t save in the bank until you have enough money because the local currency devalues quickly. So when you have extra money you buy cement, make the cement blocks and add another layer to your foundation. Eventually you add the roof, the plumbing and the electricity. And then finally you finish it with windows, flooring and paint. If you travel through Ghana you will see unfinished building foundations everywhere you look. To actually finish a home is a tremendous achievement. Below is a picture of Emma standing in front the beautiful, pink house that she built for her family.  


As if that isn’t enough, Emma has been a mentor to hundreds of other women learning the artistry of batik. Below is photo is of Louisa Esi Dadzie, one of Emma’s apprentices. Thanks to Emma’s training, Louisa is now a full-fledged business owner managing Global Mamas orders of her own.


Will you please join me in acknowledging Emma for not only realizing her dreams, but paving the way for 400 other women to do so as well.

Emma is my personal hero. She exemplifies the amazing qualities of the Ghanaian women who inspire me every day. Looking back over 20 years now and imagining myself moving to Ghana as a Peace Corps volunteer hoping to make a difference, I am instead so grateful for all I have learned, especially from Emma. It is your determination to succeed that has not only changed my life, but enables Global Mamas to prosper.

Ready, set, design!

Madison Oeff, intern


Our Global Mamas annual Design Competition took place throughout the month of June in Cape Coast, and it was a huge success. Sharing their personal style and talent, the Cape Coast Mamas could submit as many of their own designs as they had time to produce. At the end of the competition, there would be three categories of winners: an overall winner chosen by the design team, a People’s Choice Award winner chosen by the public, and a creativity award.



Submissions #6.JPG

Batiker Entries


The More the Merrier

The designs poured in. Purses, dresses, headbands, placemats, belts, oven mitts, rompers, and yards and yards of vivid batiks – the submissions received were fabulous. In our first Design Competition, only 8 Mamas submitted items. This year, we had 18 participants! In addition to the increase in participants, our total number of submissions skyrocketed; we had 64 items submitted in total. Seamstress Hannah Dodoo set the record by entering 11 of her designs into the competition. We’re so pleased with the increase in entries and hope they continue to rise in years to come!

And the Award Goes to...

The first awards were given to the overall winners chosen by the design team. For the seamstresses, the design team was looking for new ideas in the areas of children’s clothing, accessories, and household items. The seamstress overall winner was quality control member Elizabeth Acquah with her pink and orange children’s hooded top.



Seamstress Elizabeth Acquah accepts her award


The focus for batikers was on prints that were authentically African. The batik overall winner was Elizabeth Ampiah with her diamond-shaped leaves pattern. These Mamas were given a cash prize and may be featured in our 2017 collection. When asked how she feels about being chosen as the winner, Elizabeth Acquah stood up and broke into a dance, saying, “I feel great!”


You Voted!

The next awards were chosen by our followers across the world. An online poll was launched where people were able to vote for their favorite product and batik pattern. These “People’s Choice Award” winners were Elizabeth “Esi” Arkaah for her children’s collared dress, and Cecelia Dick, for her orange and yellow interlocking chain pattern. These Mamas will have their designs featured in an online sale!


 Batiker Cecelia Dick wins the People's Choice award for batik design


Most Creative

Finally, a third honorable mention award was given out for exceptional creativity. Martha Rhule received this award for her leopard print design, and Abigail Okang received this award for her children’s flower headband. “It just came to me!” Abigail said. “The idea of a little baby wearing a cute flower headband.”


Batiker Marthe Rhule's winning leopard print


Celebration for All

The culmination of the Design Competition was an awards ceremony for all of the participants. Everyone mingled and enjoyed refreshments and each other. Then, Cape Coast manager Patience Treve announced the winning submissions. In addition to other prizes, all winners were given 3 yards of their favorite Global Mamas fabric and will have their products sold in our Accra store. The awards ceremony celebrated not only the winning designs, but also the ingenuity of all of the Mamas. Patience put it perfectly at the end of the awards ceremony, “All of you are winners. Going through the effort to produce something for us that’s totally your own makes you a winner.”


Batiking with Mary

By Sarah Parish (Volunteer, United Kingdom)

Batiking with Mary

Since 2008, Mary Koomson has been a valued member of the Global Mamas batiking team. Mary’s passion for her work is not only evidenced in the 12 years she has spent perfecting her skills but also in the smile that spreads across her face as she discusses overcoming the challenges associated with her trade.


Mary comes from a family of seamstresses but broke away from this tradition by pursuing her interest in batiking at vocational college. As shown in the impressive work she regularly produces for Global Mamas, Mary understands the need for hands on experience when learning the art of batiking, and as a result invites local batiking students to leave their books behind and practice dyeing and stamping for themselves. Mary speaks warmly and passionately when talking about the importance of passing on her skills to the next generation, and suggests that one day when she retires as a Global Mama she will continue to teach those who are eager to learn.


Sitting in her workshop surrounded by pots and dyes, stamps and fabric, there is a calm order and not a hint of chaos that one might expect in a place where such color and creativity is brought to life. Mary credits this to the Fair Trade advice she received on becoming a Mama. Mary speaks proudly of how she now knows how to dispose of excess dye in a way to reduce any negative impact on the environment, and the steps she takes to protect herself and her employees from harm, for example something as simple as wearing rubber gloves and an apron when dyeing the fabric.


With Global Mamas, Mary has met a group of like-minded women, working hard and to an extremely high standard to produce top quality merchandise. While there are daily hurdles and challenges to overcome as is the case in all walks of life and all forms of business, Global Mamas as a project and Mary as a member of a dynamic workforce are successfully creating products to be taken out of Ghana and loved by customers from all around the world.


Global Mamas offers batiking workshops and as one of the teachers, Mary has encouraged many locals and visitors with an enthusiastic and engaging teaching style. In particular Mary becomes animated when she mentions a group of Global Mamas interns from the USA who worked with her for a week creating their own unique pattern stamps. It is a credit to Mary’s teaching ability and the creativity of the interns that the new patterns have since been incorporated into the 2012 catalog!




Transforming lives, one Voltic water bottle at a time

By Melanie Popowich

Transforming lives, one Voltic water bottle at a time

When our newest Global Mama, Ellen Eshun, gives Fante lessons to volunteers, she always starts by introducing herself as Abba atta Panyin. As she speaks you can see a small smile emerge from a normally serious face, and her chin lifts up a little. Ellen is a very proud first born twin, hence the atta Panyin. Born to Agnes and William on April 3rd 1980, she has always been surrounded by people. She is fourth born in a family of eight and at any time growing up could be found chatting with siblings, cousins or the workers that helped with the family farm in Brenu. To this day, the Eshun family still farms cassava, tomatoes and peppers. Ellen fondly remembers being responsible for cultivating tiger nuts. Along with her siblings and cousins, she was blessed to have the opportunity to attend elementary and secondary school. To pay for school fees and clothing, she sold soap to community members on the weekends. She often sold the soap on credit and collected the money the following weekend. Unfortunately, her sales weren’t enough to support her through technical school or university and at 19 she turned in her uniform.


With drive to provide for herself, she worked in her older sister’s provision store until she found herself pregnant at 21. She gave birth to Fredrick and then five years later Emmanuella was born. When Ellen talks about this period in her life she keeps her eyes to the ground as they were tough years and it is still painful for her to talk about. Shortly after Emmanuella was born she gathered up the strength to leave her abusive boyfriend and moved back home with her mother.


One fateful day, her mother met a woman looking for a house girl at the Global Mamas volunteer house in Elmina. Ellen jumped at the opportunity for a job and most importantly, the chance to earn a steady income and provide for her two children. December 11th, 2011 will mark Ellen’s four-year anniversary, another accomplishment that she is extremely proud of. Ellen’s work ethic and attention to detail are apparent when visiting the Elmina house. These attributes caught the attention of both Maria Vidal (Cape Coast General Manager at the time) and Global Mamas co-founder Renae Adams, and Ellen was asked to produce a few samples for a new and innovative product designed by volunteer Liz Lampman.


Ellen cuts strips out of old Voltic water bottles, paints them and then uses a heat gun to roll them into the shape of a bead. In the past two months she has produced over 2000 of these beautifully recycled beads. When she was asked to officially become a Global Mama, she was speechless. Not only will her products be sold all over the World helping her gain extra income, but she now has the opportunity to attend workshops and receive a wide range of business training from volunteers.


The Water Bead line is made from a mix of recycled plastic and recycled mixed beads and is available in a wrap necklace, bracelet and earrings. The line is also handmade by Ellen aka Abba atta Panyin a now self-reliant woman who provides for herself and her children all on her own!


Click here to read an article published in the Hudson Star Observer about volunteer and designer, Liz Lampman and producer Ellen Eshun.




A Leap of Faith in the Shade of a Mango Tree

By Genny Cortinovis

Gina’s son looks to the creations made at the batiking workshop.

Batikers, although most certainly artists, are first chemists; they orchestrate chemical reactions, envisioning colors into being. A plastic tub is her laboratory, hydrosulfate, caustic soda, water and salt her elements. Does she want wine or brick, grass or Kelly green? She swirls the fabric into the dye bath and waits and watches. From a bath of brown liquid, she pulls out a cloth dyed deep indigo, from red she reveals yellow, which ripens to green as it meets oxygen. She has to trust in her training, but perhaps more crucially, her instincts.


After just a few minutes at Gina’s home and workshop, surrounded by intricate foam stamps, terracotta basins of hot wax and black cauldrons of steaming water, I was mesmerized. It was the same thrill of being in a dark room, watching an image come to the surface of a blank paper as it wading in solution. Batik, and I suppose dying, in general, has that same quality of mystery and excitement. You take a leap of faith when you drop a yard of cotton in the pot.


I came with a million ideas to Gina’s workshop: Could I make this shape? Would this color combination work? What would happen if I point that there, dipped this part here? The possibilities were endless, as well as, thank goodness, Gina’s patience. She would listen to me explain my idea. With her hand pensively on her chin, she would look up and imagine the process, step by step. "For those blocks of white, we should use resistance wood strips. For that patch of deep green, a finely shaved foam block." "Ok," she would say, "let’s try it."


I returned the next weekend with dreams of indigo dipped linen, flecked with white, like stars in a night sky. "Tie those knots tighter!" "You need larger string," she counseled. In the dye bath, out on the line. In the hot water out on the line. With each step, it got closer and closer to my dreamy blanket of night sky. Despite its flaws, I beamed with beginner’s pride, displaying it for her approval.


"Not bad. But we’ll do better next time." She handed me a mango, freshly fallen from the tree overhead. "Paradise, no?"


I couldn’t help but agree.




Esther Gyepi-Garbrah Invited to Speak at Fair Trade Conference in United States

By Melanie Popowich

Esther Gyepi-Garbrah being introduced as one of the panelists at the 2010 Fair Trade Futures Conference

Esther Gyepi-Garbrah is no ordinary seamstress- she is an exceptional woman with an exceptional story. She was invited to speak at the Fair Trade Federation annual conference held in Quincy, Massachusetts this September. Despite many obstacles, Esther has become one of the most successful Global Mamas and is one of the most deserved women to be selected to speak at such a remarkable event.


Esther began her career as a seamstress with no materials of her own; she was equipped with only a borrowed machine and worked out of her bedroom. Because money was hard to come by, Esther soon applied for a loan. Unfortunately, she was quickly swept up in the vicious cycle of paying off only the interest rate for her loan and fell victim to a loan default and declaring bankruptcy. Esther recalls this as one of the most trying times in her life, as she was "running after the wind." Her dreams of managing a successful shop of her own were fading.


When Esther’s dreams seemed unattainable, Renae Adam, the founder of Global Mamas, made a proposition that would alter Esther’s life forever. The proposal was simple: make ten dresses instead of one. Esther managed to complete the order and she was immediately compensated. For the first time in Esther’s life, there was money in her pocket and she felt the freedom of financial independence. In time, Esther cemented her relationship with Global Mamas and continued to complete orders, which allowed her enough revenue to pay back her loan. Her store, My Redeemer Liveth Fashion, has thrived and she has even started a very successful apprentice program. Esther does not simply teach her apprentices, but she also equips them with a machine once they graduate from her program. She believes that because she had such a hard start, she feels compelled to make it easier for the others. She learned the value of a support system through Global Mamas and makes a concerted effort to provide the same support to her employees.


Esther is a woman whose deep faith has compelled her to give back, especially in the wake of success. Her motto is simple, "anytime I have more, I have to give." The death of her niece, Grace, prompted Esther to start her own NGO. It has officially been registered by the Ghanaian government and its mission is to provide free vocational training for seamstresses and batikers in the most deprived areas of Ghana, primarily the villages. She identifies with the struggles of the village people and believes that they face far greater limitations when it comes to schooling and jobs. One day, she hopes to build factories that will employ and teach skills to many of these women and men.


From the 10th through the 12th of September, Esther brought her story and experience to the Fair Trade Futures Conference. She and co-founder Kristin Johnson were featured in a seminar on "Navigating Relationships with Producers Over Time" during which they were well received with supportive feedback from current customers. Esther and Kristin also had the opportunity to provide insight on some of the audiences tougher questions such as how to negotiate pay with producers and how to ensure that producers are well represented in the companies decisions.


The highlight of Esther’s weekend came Sunday morning when she joined three other producers on the main stage as living examples of "What does Fair Trade Seek to Achieve?". Esther shared her moving story with a room full of hundreds of people. Afterwards she had the opportunity to answer questions from the audience as well as speak with individuals who sought her out in person. Esther had conversations with customers, students, other prod