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"I am one of the pioneering lady jewelers in Ghana and an indefatigable voice for women in the trade, which, for a long time, was male-dominated. In those days, it was a taboo for women."
"I am from Ghana's Fante tribe. We are from the southwestern part of Ghana. My late mother was a great influence in my life and I am the woman I am today because of her discipline guidance, love and support. At a very early stage in life she taught me how to sew. During my secondary school years, I could design and sew my own clothes by hand with needle and thread. I still keep one particularly favorite dress of mine, which I so proudly showed off to my friends.
"At her shop in Accra, my mother traded in haberdashery, jewelry and accessories from all over the world for weddings. During vacations, I looked forward to spending time with her at the shop and helping her sell the beautiful designs. It was fun being around such lovely things and I was intrigued by the details and techniques employed by artisans all over the world.
"I have always had a talent for arts and crafts, but spending time with my mum at her shop helped me discover my interest in jewelry. At the university, I was one of two girls in my class who pursued a degree in metal design for jewelry. We were talented and had a passion for the program. We were also keen to succeed and be counted as some of the few ladies to have successfully completed the course and build a successful career.
"I was trained at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology where I obtained a Bachelors Degree. I am one of the pioneering lady jewelers in Ghana and an indefatigable voice for women in the trade, which, for a long time, was male-dominated. In those days, it was a taboo for women to practice.
"God is so good! I completed the program with honors and so did the other lady. Immediately after college, I left the country to live with my sister who was working abroad, and stayed with her for seven years to see the world and experience different cultures.
"On my return to Ghana in 1986, I established my jewelry workshop with a few tools and machinery I purchased abroad. I initially worked on my own from my mum's garage. I spent long hours in my small workshop — sometimes until the wee hours of morning crafting beautiful designs. I enjoyed it so much and it sometimes felt like I was in another world. I worked hard and gradually found myself on my way to success. After three months of working alone, I took on my first apprentice. A few years later, I was able to expand my mum's garage to create more working space and a small office.
"I work mostly with precious metals and my collection consists of exquisite handcrafted rings, bracelets, earrings and pendants. I also create designs with locally produced beads and accessories. My designs are a combination of traditional Ghanaian and contemporary concepts, portraying the best of Ghana's culture. I ensure that my designs are made quite unlike anyone else's.
"I work with one permanent bench jeweler and also take in apprentices and train interns from my alma mater. Since 1997, I have trained at least one intern every year — mostly young ladies.
"July 2011 was a particularly difficult period for me, when I was robbed of all the stock in my shop. It was a big blow and I wondered how I was going to start again after investing so much in my jewelry for it to be gone in a day.
"Since then, I have had great support from friends and I am hopeful I can rebuild my workshop and sell my designs worldwide. I also plan to continue training as many young people as I can, especially young women.
"People describe me as a friendly and fun person. I enjoy listening to classical music or reading a good book to unwind after a hard day's work. I am currently the president of the group Women In Jewelry, Ghana, and am married with a son."
Irene Aba Amuh has exhibited her designs in local craft fairs and is a recipient of the prestigious International Entrepreneurship Award.
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