Jewelry According To
Poetry, Music, Art,…interestingly these are the words that come to mind whilst speaking with Yede Hayford about her exclusive brand jewelry, Yede Beads. Yede pursues an ancient Ghanaian tradition of beading in her line, combining precious Krobo beads from Odumase Krobo and rare findings, collectors items. Each piece is a one-off and each an expression of the new African aesthetic she is defining for the modern African woman and man and all materials locally sourced. The profound thing about Yede is that she is a self-taught jeweler whose success is based on her passion for her craft and her drive for excellence. In 2011, after graduating with honors in Business Management with Computing from Regent University, she founded Yedebeads in Ghana as the start of her fashion career. Yede’s jewelry designs immediately stand out, not only for their finesse but also for their exploration of different beading techniques and materials. In 2012, she showcased her line in the Glitz Africa Fashion Week, pairing her designs with Akuchi Clothing. Speaking with Yede, she reveals how she draws inspiration from nature, movie, songs and her own writings and sketches to create the intricate hand-made pieces in her line.
“Art and design are fundamental to my work. Design is the structure and framework through which my intangible concepts come to life and art is the vehicle that carries inspiration and gives birth to the idea. Without these two central inputs, my works would remain inanimate, lost in the recesses of my mind.”
Yede Hayford (Apri, 2014).
Design233: What is YedeBeads and what was the drive to create this brand?
Yede Hayford: YedeBeads is a Ghanaian-based jewelry brand that deals in finely handcrafted African beaded accessories. The drive to create this brand came from a desire to unearth and celebrate African aesthetics in fashion, to discover and redefine the African identity through creative expression. After I completed my first degree, I was eager to start a business in my main field of interest, being Fashion. Looking at the international scene, I realized that fashion was dominated by the Western world and that through it, their impact and influence was global.
Most of the world, Africa being no exception, have been influenced by Western culture through fashion to the extent that these other ethnicities have adapted, portrayed and taken on an identity which is not inherently theirs. So strong is the influence that these civilizations lost the essence and core of who they truly are by trying to imitate and conform to Western dictates and principles. In effect, a lost generation surfaced riddled with an identity crisis. If a person does not know or recognize their origin, they become floating elements that copy and take on the ideals of others. Purpose, direction and focus dissipate into the darkness of uncertainty. YedeBeads was born out of a yearning to awaken the sleeping African identity, to share all that is core to Africa with the world through a fashion that embraces true African tradition and points Africans back to their origin.
D233: Beading is an age-old tradition done by older women in our societies. As a young woman going into this art, and admirably so that you have chosen this path and handle is exquisitely, what skill set was required to start this business? Did you have any formal education in jewelry design and making?
YH: I have had neither a formal education nor training in jewelry design and making. Beading is an art I started experimenting with from as early as age 4. I learnt and acquired skills purely through practice and created my own bead-making techniques entirely through experiment. Starting this business required having an eye for detail and an appreciation of art as well as a successful interpretation of it and expression thereof.
D233: Did you always know you would be a jewelry designer?
YH: From a very tender age I have had and exhibited an avid interest in fashion. I always knew I wanted to be a Fashion Designer, what I did not know was that I would start with the aspect of jewelry design. In addition to the jewelry line, I will soon be adding clothing and other accessories.
D233: What was the first piece of jewelry you ever made?
YH: It was a bracelet for a friend in Primary school.
D233: Your creations are all hand-made. What kind of setup (equipment, manpower) is required for your business?
YH: I basically use a lot of hand tools for my work e.g. needles, pliers and outsource production, which includes metal work to local artisans who have the appropriate machinery.
D233: What do design and art mean to you and what roles do they play in your work?
YH: Art and design are fundamental to my work. Design is the structure and framework through which my intangible concepts come to life and art is the vehicle that carries inspiration and gives birth to the idea. Without these two central inputs, my works would remain inanimate, lost in the recesses of my mind.
D233: Your pieces are bold, vibrant and contemporary. How do you merge modern ideas with an age-old tradition to create everyday pieces?
YH: My pieces are the product of my perception and interpretation of who the modern African woman should be, her values, and her appreciation of her culture. My idea of the modern African woman is a woman who embraces her roots wholeheartedly, she has great regard for her ancestry and heritage and uses the lessons of the past to build the future. She has an identity steeped in her tradition and is proud to display it. The merging of the old with the new comes from this ideal of the new African woman.
D233: How does your culture and background as a Ghanaian and African reflect in your work?
YH: My culture and background as a Ghanaian and African reflect in my work through the use of African aesthetics. The use of beads which have been an essential part of African culture for generations and the use of African symbolism through Adinkra symbols clearly mirror my roots as an African woman and a Ghanaian precisely. For centuries, we have used motifs to communicate with each other and convey deep meanings of traditional values and norms. The adaptation and use of these in my pieces are an expression of my African identity.
D233: What inspires your designs? Describe your creative process, how you arrive at your designs from initial sketches/ ideas to the finished piece.
YH: I derive inspiration for my designs from a plethora of sources. It could be a thought that flashes through my mind, appreciation of a piece of music, a word, color, pattern or something recently read. My creative process usually starts with the forming of the idea in my mind through a mental picture, sometimes I see the finished product in my mind’s eye, and then I sketch it and later implement it. The process can be radically different another time where I get fragments of an idea and start to experiment with colors and patterns that end up in a finished piece.
D233: Describe a typical day in your life.
YH: A typical day in my life and studio would consist of immersing myself in my imaginations and drawing inspiration from whatever might be the topic of interest. Often times in excitement I rush to execute and experiment with an idea before I document it. Alternately, after documenting or sketching out my ideas I proceed to work on them immediately if possible, or continue work on an earlier unfinished piece. Some days I leave my studio and go out to seek inspiration from my environs. Reading, engrossing myself in music, interacting with others or just finding solace in nature aid my creative process and are very common to the way my day is spent.
D233: You mention using Krobo beads in some of your pieces. Are all your pieces made from Krobo beads?
YH: I incorporate the use of Krobo beads in a majority of my pieces, however not all my pieces are made with them. Some pieces are made with semi-precious stones eg. Agates, others are a mix of ancient trade beads and semi-precious stones. I also recently added a new product line using horn and metal entirely. My favorite pieces, however, are a combination of Krobo beads with trade beads, eg. Venetian millefiori which is a bead type that was brought to Ghana as far back as the 15th Century by Dutch traders during the Trans-Atlantic trade. This fascination of mixing the old with the new, merging history with modern culture is a concept most enthralling to me.
D233: Apart from the bead pieces, you are also making bracelets with cow horn accents and some of the bead pieces have metal accents. How and where do you source your materials?
YH: My materials are predominantly locally sourced. I work closely with artisans situated in Accra and Kumasi who specialize in metal and bone work, outsourcing production of some of my designs to them. The rare beads such as the ancient trade beads and semi-precious stones I acquire from inter-African traders who source them from neighboring Western and Northern African countries. With ethical fashion as a focus, materials are sourced at home to support local industry and to authenticate the origin of the products.
D233: I recently discovered that there are various types of Krobo beads for different occasions. Are your pieces tied to the different meanings attached to bead designs?
YH: While there are various types of Krobo beads for different occasions and rites of passage in our culture, I like to attach my own meanings to my creations and work. There are those Krobo beads that have specific purposes and are worn precisely to the ceremonies for which they were created e.g. the blue Koli bead worn during naming ceremonies, and then there are those that are manufactured with no prior traditional connotations attached to them. These modern Krobo beads have become the epitome of casual, popular bead aesthetic. I work a lot more with the modern Krobo beads as it provides wearers the freedom of choice in use for adornment.
D233: For your collections, do you working with themes? What colors do you love working in?
YH: I love working with themes and concepts for my collections. It is absolutely wonderful to develop a theme and see how far you can experiment with it and take it, however, not all my collections were started with a solid theme in place. The creative process can be quite intriguing. It is very interesting to see fragmented ideas come together and take form, sometimes it could start as a color story, or a texture, but when the pieces of the puzzle come together in that moment of enlightenment, culminating in the birth of a theme, it is a moment so exhilarating. The colors I use are based on the mood of a concept though I realize I tend to work with a lot of blues and greens.
D233: How long does it take to create a piece?
YH: The length of time taken to create a piece depends on the intricacy of its design and the production process required. Time-span varies from as little as three hours to as much as five days.
D233: You have collaborated with fashion designers on the runway recently, namely the 2012 Glitz Africa Fashion Week with Akuchi. What goes into such a partnership and preparation for a show? Are the clothes designed around your accessories or the other way round?
YH: Normally in such collaborations, the accessory designer works with the theme for clothes designer’s collection. Both parties meet to discuss the theme and the jewelry designer then comes up with a line that would best complement the clothing. In this particular instance I already had an existing collection with my own theme that the clothes designer loved and felt would match her collection perfectly.
D233: Which fashion designer would be a dream to collaborate with?
YH: I would absolutely love to collaborate with Lebanese designer Elie Saab. He is such a big inspiration to me. I feel I can identify with him, at the age of 9 he started making clothing for the women in his community and now he is a global icon when it comes to stunning ornate clothing for women. To see a person who knew from early on what he wanted to do, his pursuit of that passion and where it has taken him today is greatly encouraging to me.
D233: How have you evolved as a designer?
YH: As a designer I have evolved through self-education and experimentation. I believe reading develops and opens the mind to learn and explore more. I love to study and research on all manner of things from arts to sciences, with a particular fascination on history. Discovering through learning provides me with a wider pool of sources from which I can draw inspiration for my works. Experimenting has been both integral and instrumental in my evolution process as a designer. I love trying new things and I always look for a way to make my next creation different from a previous one. Being open to change and allowing myself to explore new techniques and ideas has definitely shaped my creative process.
D233: Who inspires you (your mentors)?
YH: “The biggest atrocity of all is to indoctrinate our children into a system that does not value their creative expression, nor encourage their unique abilities…” – Benjamin Greene
My biggest mentors are my parents. When I started to express my interests very early in life, they did not disregard them as childhood fantasies and hobbies, together they nurtured and encouraged me to develop my skills in all aspects of interest and provided a framework through which I could express my creativity freely. They taught me the invaluable lesson of persistently persevering in the face of great adversity, and to dare to dream no matter how high the odds against me were stacked. Through
their investment of time, love and guidance, I have a focus, an identity and a purpose.
D233: What has been the highlight of your career?
YH: I believe the highlight of my career is yet to come. There is a lot more in store, to do and to experience for YedeBeads, the best is certainly yet to come.
Yede’s 3 Core Principles For Grooming A Business: “Excellencebecause it is never enough to just be talented and creative in business. Innovation …It expands a designer’s capacities and is a catalyst for their business development and evolution. Originality.. it is that which distinguishes one brand from another.”
Yede Hayford (Apri, 2014).
Design233: Tell us your three core principles for grooming your business and why?
YH: Excellence, Innovation and Originality. Excellence because it is never enough to just be talented and creative in business. Excellence is a value that is sadly lacking in a lot of businesses today, and I strongly believe it is a differentiating factor between businesses that succeed immensely and those that are merely existing. In the crafting process right to the services rendered to clients, excellence is a fundamental principle for YedeBeads. Choosing never to compromise on quality ensures customer loyalty and a good business reputation, thus it is a principle that has shaped the way I do business.
Innovation is pivotal for success, especially in the arena of art and design. I always love trying out new ideas, I believe it is crippling for a creative to get stuck in a rut producing the same thing repetitively, even if it may be a popular item customers patronize, it is always good to try and switch things up, introduce something new as they would eventually get bored after a while. No two pieces I create are ever exactly the same, to
constantly invent is to rejuvenate one’s creative abilities. It expands a designer’s capacities and is a catalyst for their business development and evolution. Being innovative keeps a business steps ahead of competitors, and is consequently a central principle I apply.
Originality is invaluable, it is that which distinguishes one brand from another. It is very important for a business’ identity to be clearly defined through its products, it must be easily recognizable and distinct in its industry.
Being original gives a business its defining signature and provides a reason why consumers would choose a particular brand over another. It has been a major contributing factor for customer loyalty in my business as most of my clients happily reiterate that they cannot find pieces like mine anywhere else.
D233: What is your vision for Yedebeads?
YH: My vision for YedeBeads is for the brand to go global. Through YedeBeads I would like to share African identity, culture and aesthetics with the world. The western world currently dominates the art and fashion sphere and have used that as a tool to share their culture and values with the globe. I want to share Africa with the world, our rich heritage, our true identity and core values.
D233: What would be your advice to aspiring jewelry makers in Ghana.
YH: To aspiring jewelry makers in Ghana I would advise that they be very passionate about their craft, discover who they are and their unique artistic expression and translate that perfectly through their work, their distinct signature should be seen in their creations. They should also strive to be excellent in all aspects of their business endeavors.
Design233 thanks Yede Hayford for making the time to speak with them about her work and wishes her all the best in her endeavors.
For more on this exclusive and exquisite jewelry range and for your orders, visit Yede Beads .
All Images Provided By Yede Hayford. Photography By Nii Odzenma Nfoningraphy.
Frederica Baffour & Nana Akyaa Adu-Gyamfi.