Kpando Pottery Fesi Shed
Handcrafted ceramics in West Africa
"One of our main goals is to educate the younger generation of women and train them to craft pottery so they can continue the tradition, which is a main source of income for the community.""Kpando Fesi Pottery was founded with 35 women in 1998 as an adult education group for women living in communities in the Volta region of Ghana. One of our main goals is to educate the younger generation of women and train them to craft pottery so they can continue the ceramic tradition, which is a main source of income for the community.
"The older women realized that their ability to craft pottery allowed them to educate their children for a better future.
"Ceramics are a way of our life for the women here. We craft pottery for our own everyday use and also sell our ceramics to our neighbors and visiting tourists. Marketing our work has been a major challenge for us, since some items could not withstand the change of weather conditions when transported. Sometimes, our pottery would crack, which negatively affected us, despite the beauty of our work. Because we made our the pottery in an open compound, we had problems working during the raining season.
"In 2000, an Oxfam consultant visited our village and was fascinated with the women's crafts. Oxfam sent a consultant to help the women to develop their designs to become sustainable. They later provided a shed, which helped us work all year round.
"Oxfam helped us improve by researching the clay we used. We have different types of clay in the area and they helped us select the right kind to use so our pots no longer crack. Together, we developed new techniques to make our designs unique. One thing we never changed was to create each piece by hand.
"To make our pottery more durable, we mix the clay with quarry dust and water, then knead the mixture. We then mold it, burnish, and decorate each piece before letting it dry in the sun. If the sun isn't shining, we dry it in the warm kiln. To achieve the unique dark coloration of reduction firing, we add sawdust to the kiln. The process appears simple, but it is very time consuming and labor intensive. However, the finished pieces gives us the joy to continue creating.
"There are different individuals in charge of each process, these women are all assisted by a younger woman. The idea is for younger women to learn the entire process by observing and practicing. We periodically rotate them through each stage of this art. The beauty of working with other women is that while one is molding, another one can spot mistakes and correct them before firing.
"Transporting usable clay to our crafting shed is a major challenge. Selling our pottery was a difficult for us, but Oxfam introduced us to craft fairs where we could display our work.
"'The admiration and facial expression of surprise from shoppers when they find out that all our pottery on display was handmade gives us a kind of joy words cannot describe,' Lucy and Rosina, two of our older women confine. 'It was during such fairs we felt very proud about maintaining our traditional way of crafting pottery. We shared these feelings with their fellow women, when we returned from the fair. A kind of energy, an enthusiasm was released among the group, making us eager to create more. Especially when the group is informed about another fair, there is so much joy, because it represents another opportunity to show our talent and make our people proud.'
"Women's creativity is drawing attention to our community, that otherwise would not have been recognized. This has become a source of hope for a brighter future for our young women.
"We work every day and, to make it fun, we sing to relax us. We are determined to give our children the best education possible, so there is no time to rest."