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    Our Thoughts

    Jewelry with Meaning - Necklaces Made from Recycled Medical Text Books

    Jewelry with Meaning - Necklaces Made from Recycled Medical Text Books

    If you like chunky, colorful jewelry that are bold, boho chic and a bit rustic -check out our collection of Kirabo necklaces. These unique pieces are really what I call -Jewelry with Meaning!

    I named these Kirabo because it means "gift" in Luganda, a local language in Uganda.  These necklaces are a great gift idea and they have so much meaning. They are handmade by the women artisans who live in the slums of Kampala who is part of our Tugende Design team. They make these striking pieces out of paper, making something beautiful out of nothing. So, these necklaces are full of meaning, lovingly handmade and some have interesting messages related to medicine and health too. 

    We used old, outdated medical text books for some of these beads. So, on some of the beads, you can actually read a couple of medical terms. It is really fun, and cute and definitely makes for an interesting conversation -a statement necklace for sure. But, these beads and necklaces also remind us of the important work still needed in terms of improving the health of these vulnerable communities that face so many hardships related to sanitation and clean water, infectious and chronic diseases as well as the distress of living in dire poverty. 

    As a global health researcher, my love for all things public health and medicine is likely obvious. My doctoral degree is in epidemiology, so I read many text books over the years, and still do. And I do global health work every day. This is a special time of year as I get ready to teach my introduction to global health class again next week to a new group of university students. Global health is my life and my passion. 

    Part of the story of naming these necklaces Kirabo is also that it is my Ugandan name. I was very honored when I was named by my long time collaborator and amazing friend, Rogers Kasirye in Uganda as part of a naming ceremony. It is a very special name, and a name I am very grateful for. I am reminded of the important work that we do together, how many people who count on us to make a difference and how privileged I am. So, Kirabo, is really a great name for these awesome necklaces. Of course, I have several of these Kirabo necklaces that I wear all the time. I went through my photo album and found some pictures of me wearing these necklaces while traveling all over the world. 

     

    I have worn my Kirabo necklaces with a pin stripe suit while presenting my research at the United Nations and the Commission on the Status of Women and I've worn them while playing dress-up at a Finish castle, lol. So, if you're into women empowerment and bold, rustic jewelry with meaning -take a look at these unique necklaces. Maybe you will love them too. 

    It really feels special to wear handmade jewelry with so much meaning! All jewelry sales make a difference -always so very grateful for the support.

    Tugende (let's go)!

     

     

     

    Working with Brenda: A Ugandan Fashion Model

    Working with Brenda: A Ugandan Fashion Model

    I first met Brenda about two years ago. We had connected on Facebook while I was in Kampala. Charles and I had just designed and ordered a new line of jewelry and were looking to do a jewelry photo shoot. We really like the lifestyle photos and those are the ones that people really want to see on the various social media platforms. Of course our marketing budget was limited so we were hoping to find some volunteers.

    I had taken interest in Brenda as I had seen some of her  gorgeous photos on social media and I thought she would be perfect for showcasing our Tugende Design jewelry.  When I explained to her about our social enterprise business initiative, she was so sweet and immediately supported our mission to uplift the women in poverty. And, as a Ugandan she was very familiar with paper beads. She agreed to model for us. I was so excited. 

    Because we both travel frequently, it wasn’t until last summer that we connected and did the photo shoot. Brenda joined us, as did several other talented and stunning ladies. We had 3 photographers, including me, to make sure we captured as many pictures and poses of the ladies as possible in a short afternoon.

    We picked a really beautiful spot for the photo shoot, an old, magnificent mansion that has been converted to a boutique hotel, the Ivory Castle. It is near our home in Muyenga and is just stunning. It also has an amazing garden setting and lovely food too. We needed some snacks in between all that work. But, I love it for a fashion photo shoot because there are so many different backgrounds and settings for different poses and lifestyle type photos. The leadership team is also very helpful and responsive. They’ve come to know us, as this is one of my favorite breakfast spots (highly recommend). I so miss sitting in their luscious garden and sipping African spiced tea while working. 

    We had so much fun at the photo shoot. The ladies worked so well together. They helped each other, supported each other and shared outfit ideas. We were so lucky with the weather, well it is Kampala, and the weather is almost always great. But, we had a serious snafu. The chef started the pizza oven and filled the entire garden with smoke. We laughed and quickly moved to the other side of the hotel in a hurry, hoping no one would get red eyes. Would not have been a great look!

    It was a true pleasure working with Brenda at the photo shoot. She naturally just poses for the camera and shifts into different positions making it very easy to capture various angles. Her confidence just radiates. The camera sees her.  

    We really bonded at the photo shoot and spent more time together. I got to see Brenda’s creative side too. One day she wore a pair of beautiful earrings she had designed and made herself with cow horn. She also designs clothes and bags. And, she loves telling me about the things she makes. She is always so sweet and fun so I thought you may want to know a bit more about her.

    Here are her thoughts and some of her story as I did a short interview with her last week (BM: Brenda Mutara; MS: Monica Swahn).

    MS: “How long have you been a model?”

    BM: “I have been modeling for 11 years”

    MS: “When did you know you wanted to be a model?”

    BM: “I honestly never thought about it. But, one day I was picked up from school to do a photo shoot for a teen magazine and that changed everything. I knew after that I wanted to do more modeling. It was really fun.”

    MS: “Tell us something about growing up in Uganda.”

    BM: “Growing up in Uganda was good. But it also had lots of difficulties. In Uganda, life is not a straight line and nothing is perfect. But, I have been happy and am very grateful for family and friends.”

    MS: “What do you miss most about Uganda when traveling?”

    BM: “I miss Ugandan food, the beautiful weather, and of course friends and family.”

    MS: “How do people react when you say you are a model?”

    BM: “Some people get excited and want to know more. But some people judge me for the clothes we wear during fashion shows and photo shoots. We don’t get to pick the clothes we showcase and sometimes poses can be sexy. Some people don’t understand.”

     MS: “What do you like best about modeling?”

    BM: “It has given me more confidence and self-esteem. Modeling has also given me the opportunity to travel. I probably would never had the chance to travel if I had not been a model. I have also made so many friends. Modeling have changed my life for the better.”

    MS: “What is the hardest part of modeling?

    BM: “The hardest part of modeling is staying fit, eating right all the time. But, also availability can be difficult, especially for those of us where modeling may not be the only source of income.”

    MS: “We know you have a creative side, designing and making jewelry and clothes, tell us some more about your inspiration and the things you make.”

    BM: “Yes, you are so right, I love crafts, hand bag weaving and sewing, jewelry making, all on a small scale. My inspiration has been my mother because when I was young I saw her making clothes with a hand needle from her remaining fabric pieces (swatches). While modeling, I also admire the designer's creativity and get even more inspired.”  

    MS: “At Tugende Design, we’re very grateful for your contribution, modeling our jewelry. What made you support our organization?

    BM: “I supported your organization because it is for a good cause. I love to give back in any way I possibly can. You guys do a great job. Your jewelry is so beautiful. I hope that more people will discover your business and support you.”

    MS: “What advice do you have for girls and young women who want to model?

    BM: “First they need to try and find a good agency to represent them to gain professional trust and to book assignments. They need to make themselves available, have good character, such as showing respect for other models and photographer, make-up artists and others. Maybe most important is patience and confidence. Even when you don’t feel your best, you have to be able to follow directions and listen to the photographer to get the best pictures. It takes time, often the days are long and you have to keep the energy high no matter what. So patience is so important.  Also, you have to remain confident in yourself and to project that confidence and also trust the photographer. It is so much fun, but much harder than most people think.”

    MS: “If people want to book you for photo shoots, since you are often in the U.S., how can they reach you? 

    BM: “They can use my email mutarabrenda@yahoo.com Some of my work and photos are on Instagram and Facebook @Brenda Mutara.”

    If you love any of the necklaces that Brenda wore during the photo shoot, you can find them on Amazon Handmade or in our own online shop, Tugende Design. We also sell our earrings on etsy (necklaces coming soon) and have a great selection of jewelry, bags and accessories at the Beehive collective here in Atlanta. We are always grateful for the support.

    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.

    Meanwhile...

    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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