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Made-in-Ghana: The Brass Edition

We’re excited to bring you the second installment of our new made-in-Ghana series—a monthly blog and newsletter introducing you to the amazing handmade processes, cultural histories, and, of course, talented artisans behind our Ghana product lines! This week, we’re taking a behind-the-scenes look at our new recycled brass collection, made by hand, with heart, using the ancient art of lost-wax casting (trust us - it’s as cool as it sounds.)

Tucked away amidst shady banana trees, in the heart of the Krofrom village, lies Krofrom Brass—the artisan workshop behind the handcrafted home décor and jewelry pieces of our new brass product collection. The Krofrom workshop is run by Akwasi Nortey, master brass craftsman and father of four, who first learned the art as a child from his own father, who learned it from his.

Metal-working runs in Akwasi’s family and the art-form has been passed down from generation to generation, starting with his great-great grandfather who was the revered jewelry-maker of the Ashanti King and Chiefs, known for crafting elaborate gold adornments to be worn during official rituals and ceremonies.  While at that time the fruits of metal-working were reserved only for those of the highest status, over the years the products became popularized and more and more people began to order and buy items made from silver, gold, and brass, which was less expensive.

Today, Akwasi helps keep the art of metal-working alive through his family business, which employs 11 people who use the ancient technique of lost-wax casting to create beautifully detailed pieces out of local recycled brass. But, you might be wondering, what does wax have to do with it? Keep reading to find out.

The whole handmade brass process, in fact, begins with wax. Step one? The artisans use beeswax to create a model of the object they would like to create. They then cover the model with a mixture of ash, palm fiber, and clay to make a protective mold (leaving an opening at the bottom.) Once the mold is dry, they place it in a pot over fire so that the beeswax inside will melt and seep out, leaving behind an empty cast of the item they wish to make. They then pour in melted brass, wait for it cool and harden, and finally crack open the mold, revealing beautifully golden shapes and designs that are then sanded and polished to become finished products.

We are in awe of this complex, magical process and the incredible handmade products that come out of it. It is a process that spans days—that involves remarkable knowledge, skill, artistry and patience to get just right—and is truly a labor of love for Krofrom’s artisans. 

One of our newest products celebrates this handmade process, as well as the aspirations of those who have made it their lives’ work. Our new Indego Africa Brass Wishbone represents the wishes, hopes, and dreams of our artisan partners, while adding a beautiful, sculptural touch to any home. 

In honor of this new product launch, we asked Akwasi about his wishes for the future—the future of his business, his family, and his community. Here’s what he shared with us: 

“I would like to make a name for myself and be well known in my community as someone who taught young people the brass-making trade and helped them gain a source of income. I would like my children who are interested in the brass business to take over and expand our workshop, and I would support them in any way possible to help them learn the trade and continue the business. I would especially like to teach my daughter all aspects of the brass trade. There are very few females in the brass business and I would like her to be one of them. In the future, I hope to provide vocational training to young people in my community and open a shop in the city center to sell the beautiful brass products we make.”

We hope you are as inspired as we are by Akwasi’s wishes and by the beautiful handmade process that he and others use to create their brass masterpieces.