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    Are You Bold Enough to Wear Paper Beads?

    Are You Bold Enough to Wear Paper Beads?

    Have you seen the new jewelry made of paper beads? There are new designs, color schemes and styles in necklaces, earrings and bracelets, popping up everywhere and even in the trendiest pantone color schemes for this spring. And, this will definitely become a new trend worth looking into. That is, if you are bold enough to wear jewelry made from paper beads.

    I first learned about these beads through my work in East Africa where women used paper scraps and old magazines to create beautiful beads. But, I have since realized that paper beads are pretty much made everywhere. Some people have reservations about paper beads, they think they are fragile or difficult to wear. The beads I’ve seen (and those that we sell) have been varnished 5 times, so you could stick them in the dishwasher, wear them in the shower or maybe even drive your car over them (that’s what my youngest son wanted to do to test their durability). I wear my pieces every day and get rave reviews from people who compliment me on my jewelry, but who have no idea they are made from paper beads.

    But, seriously, paper beads are becoming an interesting phenomena in jewelry trends. It has a growing hashtag on social media, reaching over 45,000 on instagram. Of course, this does not compare with most other jewelry categories, at least not yet. And for some women, wearing gold, diamonds and expensive bling is key. I used to wear traditional and very expensive jewelry myself, but not anymore. Now, I want jewelry that reflects my personality, that adds some pizzazz, and that really makes a statement. I also want to wear jewelry with meaning, with soul, and that makes a statement. Jewelry to me is not about showing off my financial worth or whether there is a man in my life.

    Clearly, I’m not alone. It goes without saying that making jewelry out of paper beads is cheap, but it takes a lot of skill, time and patience. The smaller the bead, the more intricate the work.  The two most difficult tasks of making paper beads are cutting the paper strips to size and rolling these strips evenly, maintaining an opening for the string. I have been taught to make these beads by the women in Uganda that work for Tugende Design (my social enterprise initiative) and I see their pride in creating something beautiful from nothing.

     What makes this jewelry even more compelling is that it builds on sustainability and recycling initiatives.  Much of the jewelry that the women make in East Africa and in Uganda specifically, are made from scraps of paper that otherwise would have been thrown away. So, this type of jewelry is a world apart from traditional and expensive gold and diamonds that many girls and women want. So, paper beads are not for every woman.

    While women make jewelry out of paper beads all over the world, to wear for themselves, as gifts and also to sell. It has become a symbol of women empowerment. Women empowerment in that many of the women do so as they have no other means of income or resources (as the women we work with in Uganda) or because it is sort of like magic to create something new, bold, colorful and so very creative. There is power in defying norms and challenging current paradigms of what jewelry is all about. And, finally, it is empowerment for a woman to put on a piece of jewelry, that cost her almost nothing, but that she knows was made by other women, for women and that says something about her. That takes a bit of courage and being bold. So, let me ask you, are you bold enough to wear jewelry made from paper beads?



    Online Shop & Social Enterprise TugendeDesign.com

    Celebrating Our 20K Instagram Followers!

     This morning I logged in to our Instagram account, as I usually do on the weekend, to plan content & strategies for the next week. And, there it was, 20K followers, wow! Not sure how we got here exactly, but at least we have shared lots of posts, colorful content & messages of women empowerment, diversity & opportunities. And, about all things paper beads! 

    Am so excited and grateful for all the people who follow us, comment on our content or just cheer us on -THANK YOU!

    Of course, there are so many people behind the scenes, not just the 5 groups of women that we work directly with in Uganda, but also the gorgeous models from near and far that volunteered to showcase our jewelry and everyone else that has helped us along the way.

    It isn't easy to start a social enterprise, but we have been truly blessed by support from family and friends. And, for those who follow us, you know we do this because of our passion for #womenempowerment because we seek to uplift women in poverty and because we believe in their talent and in possibilities.

    We have big plans for 2019 & will look for more collaborators & partners. Meanwhile, send us your thoughts & comments! And, please help us spread the word about Tugende Design as we're trying to grow on other social media platforms  next (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest).

    But, most important of all, THANK YOU for your support to all our instagram followers!




    It's True -Wherever You Go Becomes a Part of You!

    It's True -Wherever You Go Becomes a Part of You!

    I love this quote by Anita Desai who said that "wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow? So, let me ask you, where are you going and what do you want to become part of you? For me the question is easy, I have been to so many places. There was even a year I traveled to all 6 continents. I love traveling and as a global health professor, I often have projects or work in other parts of the world, so there are many places that have already become part of me. 

    I was born in Sweden, but actually I'm half Swedish and half Finnish. But, for most of my adult life, I have lived in the U.S. and now for the past few years also in Uganda. My dad lives in Thailand. So now, I really do consider myself a world citizen. And, I have decided that "home" is anywhere or everywhere that I'm happy and feel at peace. 

    But, after years of traveling the world, "home" to me can be many places. And, it's not just about the place, it's about the place and its people. That is also why I love Uganda, the people are just amazing. I realize I also have a growing urge to do more, to serve and to give back to people. To me, uplifting women in poverty has become a significant charge. And, that is why it is the mission of Tugende Design. I fell in love with Uganda many years ago and so it's now part of me.

    At Tugende Design our mission is women empowerment. It is women empowerment for those facing poverty and hardship in Uganda. We do this through financial support and social entrepreneurship by facilitating jewelry making, skill building and training. But, it's also women empowerment in the U.S., by enabling women to be themselves, to be bold, to express their personality, to be free to wear colorful jewelry and to appreciate their beauty. 


    When I named our social enterprise, I knew I wanted "Tugende" to be part of it. It was one of the first words I learned in Luganda, a local language. Tugende means "let's go". And no matter how busy I am, I always make time for Tugende Design. Why? Because it makes me happy to know that what we do makes a difference. But, more importantly, it's who I've become. 

    So ask yourself, where are you going, and what would you want to become part of you? If you don't know, find out, and then just go -Tugende!


    Tugende Design Signature Art Collection - Limited Time Offer!

    Tugende Design Signature Art Collection - Limited Time Offer!

    For a limited time, Tugende Design has partnered with talented artist Johnie Kyambadde to offer 9 large (39 X 33 inches) mixed media paintings (African print fabric and acrylic on canvas) of African wildlife!

    Here is the story behind the paintings and our partnership...

    For two years I have enjoyed a beautiful painting in my office. The painting is of a majestic elephant made of a collage of African print fabrics. And, I love the colorful, bold and fun patterns. But, I had never seen the fabric used in such a way before, so I was intrigued. 

    I fell in love with the painting at an art market in Kampala. I knew I just had to have it. So, we bought it and brought it home to Atlanta. Since I spend so much time in my office at work, I decided to hang it there. Even though I love it, I was surprised how many people notice it, admire it and comment on it when they walk by my office. It is that unique. Playful. Colorful. 

    So, this last trip to Uganda in December, we met up with the artist, Johnie Kyambadde (who we have come to know quite well). After some discussion, we decided to partner and bring his art to the U.S. After all, I have loved my elephant piece and it always inspires me. Of course, it also makes me miss Uganda!

    In preparation for listing these 9 large signature pieces and limited edition, I talked to Johnie a few days ago to really make sure I got his story straight. I wanted to make sure I could convey his inspiration for these gorgeous pieces and the use of the African print fabric (Kitenge).

    Johnie Kyambadde is a painter from Kampala, Uganda who specializes in mixed media, collage style of vibrant and playful depictions of animals on the African Savannah. His mixed media interpretation of the king of the jungle (the lion), the majestic elephants, the high soaring eagle or the dynamic buffalo through vibrant African print fabrics and acrylic paints, really make for true conversation pieces. These bold, fun and eye-catching pieces make for a perfect addition to a living room, office and even a nursery. I have mine in the office and can attest that it is really a conversation piece.

    Johnie Kyambadde (born in Uganda 1972) has a diploma in Commercial Art & Design and he says that his unique approach and use of mixed media merges contemporary art with indigenous expression, primarily through abstract forms and realism in African wildlife.

    When sharing his story, he said he was inspired by visits to the beautiful national game parks, in particular the Kidepo Valley National Park in eastern Uganda. The idea of depicting the animals in Kitenge fabric came from a cultural festival a few years ago where performers were celebrating African traditions by wearing the fabric.

    He thought to himself that this would also be a way to further accentuate the African wildlife and link to tradition by incorporating the colorful African print fabric within the physical shapes of the animals. He said it took quite some time to master the mixed media technique and to execute the right combinations of patterns and colors. He said he had to practice over and over to select the right pieces of fabrics to ensure the right contrast and complementary patterns to get it just right. 

    Johnie recently got married to his beautiful wife and together they have four children. 

    At Tugende Design we are proud to partner with Johnie Kyambadde and promote this signature collection for a limited time, and to bring his colorful and creative art pieces to the U.S.

    Each piece is unique and made by Johnie Kyambadde in his studio in Kampala, Uganda.

    As with all our products, 20% of the profit from each painting sold supports women empowerment projects in Uganda through our social enterprise initiatives.


    Share the Love - Investing in Women Empowerment

    Share the Love - Investing in Women Empowerment

    It is the week of love - with Valentine’s day, sweet messages and jewelry sales across social media as well as brick and mortar stores. But, at Tugende Design, we’re sharing the love by investing some of our profit in women empowerment projects.

    Over the last few months, one of our lead artisans, Lucy, has been training a new group of women in bead making. Lucy is an amazing woman, beautiful, strong, resilient and full of inspiration. We met her in Jinja a while back as part of the outreach efforts by our community partner Ring of Hope. She makes beautiful jewelry. If you look at our various designs, Lucy makes the most complicated and intricate designs, real signature pieces. See our Abambejja and Nnabagareka necklace designs as examples.

    For Lucy, making jewelry was a way to escape the horrendous working conditions as an alcohol distiller (see our 5 min video). The outdoor distilleries have no protection. There are large drums filled with alcohol that often explode, burning and even killing the women nearby. To make matters worse, the air is full of toxic alcohol fumes, dust and smoke and the run off burns their feet if they aren’t careful where they step. And, as a mother, Lucy had no choice but to take her children with her to the distillery despite the dangers. But, Lucy is a success story. She is talented, entrepreneurial and creative and now she makes beautiful jewelry for Tugende Design. 

    We told Lucy about a neighboring community, about 40 minutes away from where she lives. The women in the Kakira community is facing great hardship and similar circumstances that Lucy herself went through. They told us they want training and skills, so that they can work, make money and provide for their families. When discussing this with Lucy, she eagerly volunteered. She came up with a list of materials they would need and a training program for her to visit the community twice a week.

    So for the last two months, we have funded Lucy to train the other women in jewelry and craft making using paper beads. They got started by learning to cut the paper strips, roll them into tight paper beads, varnishing them for durability and then string them into gorgeous necklaces. I get pictures and updates on their progress, but can’t wait to see what they are up to when I visit Uganda this May.

    And, that is how we share the love - investing in women empowerment!