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    Our Thoughts

    Valentine's Gift Guide for Her - Our Top 5 Necklace Picks ($50 and Under)

    Valentine's Gift Guide for Her - Our Top 5 Necklace Picks ($50 and Under)

    We just responded to a few media queries about our gift ideas for Valentine's day so I realized we should make our own list too. And, while it is hard to pick just a few favorites from all of our beautiful necklace designs, here are our top 5 darling and unique gift ideas for her.  All necklaces are $50 and under and with free shipping, so very budget friendly. 
    What makes our jewelry unique and interesting - they are made of different shapes and colors of paper beads. Yes, thin strips of papers that have been cut from recycled paper, rolled tightly, varnished multiple times for durability and made into beads.
    All our necklaces make a perfect gift, they are adorable, easy to wear and colorful. But, they also represent sustainability, as most of the beads are made from recycled magazines and other paper. And, to make it even better, they are handmade by women who live in poverty in Uganda as part of our social enterprise initiative for women empowerment. So, these beautiful necklaces represent a gift with many meanings. Each purchase support our women empowerment and community initiatives. Here are our top necklace picks (although, we love  and highly recommend all our jewelry):
    1. Lucy necklace ($50 with free shipping) is a best seller at Atlanta craft markets, at the Beehive and in our own shop. It's a perfect fit for Valentines - a stunning, layered statement necklace in cream or 6 other colors. These look fabulous on, a Jackie O classic style design, but with a twist. Of course, it is lovingly made from paper beads by our talented artisan Lucy in Jinja. Pick your favorite color. 
    2. Doreen Necklace ($25 with free shipping) is a new arrival and made for the purple lover. It's a multi strand necklace with a dainty design that is pretty and flattering. A unique, handmade necklace for the ladies who love a pretty style that is perfect with a classic top or dress and want something that is unique and sweet but that still demands attention. Lovingly made by Doreen in Kampala. 
    3. Birungi Necklace ($45 with free shipping) is a boho chic, long multi strand design in a unique color combination of creme, pink and burgundy. This necklace is both sweet and bold and quite unique as the beads are of mixed sizes and shapes. So, this necklace is for a woman who is chic, who loves easy to wear boho style clothes and accessories and who loves her jeans and peasant tops. Lovingly made by Grace  and her daughters in Kampala. 
    4. Sanyu Necklace ($25 with free shipping) is a bold necklace made from large, chunky paper beads and combined with African print fabric as tie backs. This is a necklace for the woman who loves colors, loves attention and is always looking for unique signature pieces for jewelry and accessories. The necklace is easy to wear as the length of the necklace can be adjusted with the tie backs. It comes in several bold colors (red, green and orange). Lovingly made by Grace and her daughters in Kampala. 
    5. Valentine Special - Maggie Necklace and Hoop Earring Set ($20 with free shipping) is a lovely, multi strand cranberry colored necklace that comes with a pair of matching hoop earrings. This necklace is a classic, easy to wear and goes with most outfits and styles. For the price, this is a true bargain, a great way to check out our designs and to pick a beautiful gift that will be truly appreciated. Lovingly made by Maggie and her team in Kampala. 
    Let us know what you think of our top picks and if we can provide any shopping advice (TugendeDesign@gmail.com. Meanwhile, we appreciate your support and wish you a February full of love.

    Tugende - Let's Go and Bring Some Bling to Flying Solo in New York!

    Tugende - Let's Go and Bring Some Bling to Flying Solo in New York!

    We're on our way to New York...sort of. A big box of Tugende Design jewelry is on its way to the big apple and the super cool designer store called Flying Solo.

     As of next week - December 10, we'll be featured as a new designer in the Flying Solo store on 434 West Broadway. Of course, we'll only have a small shelf, but still. It's New York! New York City. And, New York City during the Holiday Season. 

    So, after much discussion, we selected 7 of our necklace designs and 1 pair of earrings. The rationale for the selection for our Flying Solo shelf was that we wanted to focus on our key design theme; making beautiful jewelry from recycled magazines and book pages. But, we also wanted to be mindful of the new glitzy trends that are full of bold colors and bling -this is New York, after all. So, we also sent several designs that reflect our take on the 2020 fashion trends.

    By the way, did you see all the new exciting trends for next year?  I was ecstatic when reading the runway report from Vogue in October where one of the opening statement read  "Responsible fashion was the main talking point of the Spring 2020 season, and the use of humble, natural materials like shell, stone, raffia, and wood suggested that jewelry designers have taken all the earth-friendly talk in."

    We just want them to also add recycled materials including paper. If you have followed us, you know our jewelry line is mostly made from paper beads. Beads that have been made from tightly rolled strips of paper and then varnished multiple times for durability. No need to worry about these beads, they are hardy but lightweight (depending on the bead size). But, the key designer concept is to use sustainable materials, to recycle books and magazines that would otherwise not be used and also to make something beautiful from nothing. We're thrilled that the concept of responsible fashion is making ripple waves and are now adopted even among the top jewelry designers given their influence.

    Our jewelry designs showcase colorful magazine pages, often with visible text. We also use recycled book pages.  Personally, I love that look of cream colored paper with a few letters or a word visible. I think of it as a neutral that goes with everything, yet makes a statement. Perhaps it is my love of reading, language and  books that initiated this passion for jewelry with meaning, jewelry with words, and jewelry with a purpose. 

    While we make some of the beads, most of them are made by women in dire poverty in Uganda.  We use the beads they carefully and lovingly make to design our unique, fabulous and colorful jewelry. So, if you are just a little bit tempted, check out our featured designs at Flying Solo. Our jewelry will be showcased until January 9.

    But, if you can't join us in New York, be sure to shop our Tugende Design online store, or shop Amazon Handmade (our jewelry ships with Prime). And, if you are in Atlanta, shop with us at the local artist co-op at the Beehive in Edgewood.


    Buy it because you love it.

    Enjoy it Because it is Beautiful.

    Feel Great Wearing it, Because You Made a Difference.

    Each sale supports our women empowerment initiatives in Uganda!

    Holiday in Color and Happy Shopping!  

    Give Thanks: Holiday in Color & Happiness

    Give Thanks: Holiday in Color & Happiness

    Our goal at Tugende Design is to uplift women from poverty through jewelry making.  It is a growing community effort where we design, make and sell unique and colorful jewelry out of paper beads. So in this way, shopping with us is also a way to give thanks and to give back. We wish you and yours a Happy and Colorful Thanksgiving!

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    Do you Take or Make a Decision? Either Way Let's Go-Tugende!

    Do you Take or Make a Decision? Either Way Let's Go-Tugende!


    "To have another language is to possess a second soul" Charlemagne 

    This morning I read an article in the New York Times about The Beauty of Being Bilingual. While my journey is different than the author of that great article, I still recognize and resonate with several of the key themes about speaking multiple languages. And, while there are so many quotes about languages, I think the quote by Rita Mae Brown sums it up really well "Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going".  And, also the quote by Frank Smith who said "One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way". 

    It's simply beautiful to know multiple languages. It enriches our understanding of cultures, traditions and people. But, most importantly it gives us patience and a better way to communicate, recognizing there are so many ways to say something and also an ability to fill in the blank when someone is missing a word. This ability helps me quite a bit, not only as a professor who teaches many international students but also as a social entrepreneur who interacts with many women from different backgrounds. Also, our Tugende Design team in Jinja for example, speak many different languages but have found ways to communicate and support each other in creative ways.

    When I first moved to the U.S. for college, it took a lot of effort to improve my English and it was very frustrating to do the basic things because of language barriers. Simply ordering a hamburger and asking for cucumbers was met with much confusion. Even pointing to the ”pickles” across the counter did not seem to help, just because the person behind the counter didn't think of pickled cucumbers as ”cucumbers" and only knew them as pickles. Small example perhaps, but those of us who are not native English speakers can probably add a long list of those encounters and frustrations.  

    As I was thinking about it over lunch, I realized most of my friends are also bilingual, even trilingual and likely understand or speak more than just a few words in several additional languages. Perhaps this is the case because so many of my friends are Europeans and Africans where the value and necessity of speaking more languages are so clear. In contrast, my friends and colleagues that are born and raised in the U.S. are less likely to speak multiple languages and generally express less of a curiosity or interest in learning another language. Not a new observation, but an interesting cultural development of a country founded by immigrants.

    In my own home here in the U.S., there was a time when we've had multiple languages spoken as my sons were studying Spanish and German in school and I was learning Spanish just for fun. That was of course in addition to me speaking Swedish to my sons when they were young, and English with everyone else. Now I'm learning Luganda, a local language spoken in Uganda. I have come to realize that it's really important for me to know more of the language, even though most people speak English, because of my research and projects and to know the culture better. 

    If you really think about it, the beauty of speaking more than just one language is more than knowing what to say, or how to say it. When you learn to truly speak another language, you will be much closer to understanding the cultural,  traditions and daily practices.

    It wasn’t until I started learning Luganda, that I finally understood why it had been so hard for me to order my local food in Kampala (whether in English or Luganda). Turns out that the locals refer to their protein (e.g. chicken, goat, fish) as served in sauce. So when I wanted to order only the ”sauce”  with no protein (in places where I was not sure about the quality of the meat), there was mass confusion. Of course this was confusing to the staff because they had no idea what to do.  It didn’t occur to them that I just wanted the ”gravy” or ”broth” on my potatoes or rice. It’s just another simple example, but it highlights how it is much easier to navigate an environment when you know the language.

    Another issue I’ve been thinking about is how every day expressions are stated in different languages. In English we ”make” a decision but in Swedish we ”take” a decision. I'm often pondering if these variations in expressions signify cultural differences in interpersonal interactions and underlying values. I'm sure people who study languages or linguistics may have something to say about that. 

    But, on a different note, it was my love for the word Tugende, meaning Let's Go in Luganda that was the foundation for our social enterprise, named Tugende Design. Tugende is such a strong and powerful word. And, it exists in several African languages although pronounced differently in Swahili (spoken in Tanzania and across many African countries) and in Kinyarwanda in Rwanda.

    Our mission for Tugende Design, is to go, to make a difference, to serve and to uplift the people that need us. We're starting in Uganda and we support 5 teams of women. These women live in grave poverty and face many hardships but they are also incredibly talented and make beautiful handmade jewelry, bags and crafts that we sell in our online shop Tugende Design, on amazon handmade (with Prime Shipping) and in the local handmade art coop in Atlanta called the Beehive

    So, whether you take or make a decision -Tugende! Let's go and make a difference!




    Tugende Design in Jinja

    Be filled with Joy: Do Something Good for Others!

    Last Friday, one of my colleagues described me as a positive "force" and that it was impossible to keep up with me. Of course, I don't think of myself that way, but I do know I am very passionate and hard working. I often get asked where I get my energy from. Although, it isn't something I ponder, I suspect it's because I'm very happy about my work and know that it fuels me every day. And, maybe that happy energy comes from helping others. As Jenny Santi wrote for the Time "The Secret to Happiness is Helping Others". 

    Whether as a professor, researcher or social entrepreneur, I pride myself on supporting others, mentoring my students and anyone really who wants my help, time permitting. But, of all the things that I do, my work with Tugende Design is among the most rewarding. And, that is all about helping communities in need. These communities face such hardships, and most of the mothers just want to put food on the table and be able to send their children to school. It is so simple, yet complex and heart breaking, they just want the basic necessities for themselves and their families.

    We work together with 5 groups of women in Kampala and Jinja, Uganda to make beautiful jewelry out of paper beads. Maybe it seems a bit odd, or even crazy. But, that is the story. Together, we design and create beautiful pieces, wearable art really, from almost nothing. There is tremendous power in coming together for a shared vision, a vision of women empowerment. A vision of supporting women who are strong, powerful, full of love, creativity and resilience, but poor financially. This is a vision that transcends cultures, boundaries and languages.

    At Tugende Design we are impatient, our goal is to provide the basics for these women and the sooner, the better. Tugende means ”let’s go” in one of the local languages in Uganda. Let's go, let's make a difference and help people in need.

    The women in our groups face tremendous hardships, poverty, infectious and chronic diseases and often, they are also single mothers. Some of them distill illegal alcohol, a dangerous job that often result in injuries because of the hazardous conditions. Yet, despite their hardships they find the peace to create and make beautiful jewelry. 

    Making jewelry from paper beads take time and patience. The paper strips are cut into thin strips and in different shapes depending on the size bead to be made. Then the paper strips are rolled tightly, making sure there is a hole for the string. The beads are varnished 5 times to ensure their durability. Then, finally, there is the creative process of stringing the beads together in various designs, some simple and some quite intricate to make earrings, bracelets, necklaces and bags. It takes incredible talent at each step of the process. 

    Before I started working in Uganda, I had never heard of paper beads. Now, I see paper beads made all over the world. But, the talented women we work with as part of Tugende Design work with us to come up with really colorful and unique designs for women empowered to wear paper beads. And, in our case, the sales of the paper beads support the women and their families and our community projects.

    I wear my pieces of jewelry with great pride because they are beautiful, unique and colorful and they also represent hope, possibilities and women empowerment. So wearing these pieces fuel me with joy every day.

    Set your heart on doing good. Do it over and over again and you will be filled with joy” Buddha 


    Our jewelry is now available in our online shop, on Amazon and in the Beehive art collective, in Atlanta.