When Adele Poratto visited Ghana to attend her friend’s wedding, little did she know that she would stumble across an idea, which would arise just from coming across some of the most exquisite textile and fabric that she had ever seen.
“I was absolutely taken in by what I saw,” recalled Poratto. “The beautiful multi-coloured hand-made batik fabric which I was holding had been designed by locals.”
And it wasn’t the first time that Poratto had been fascinated by African art.
“When I first saw some of the hand-crafted pieces made by Ghanaian locals here I knew they were unique,” said Poratto. “These particular beads were made from recycled glass, which had been crushed, put into moulds and then heated.”
Poratto added that after heating, they were washed with sand and water before being left in the sun to dry.
“Just this process, which might come across as really simple and it is, creates amazingly beautiful, vibrant pieces of crystals that can be used for making earrings and bracelets,” said Poratto. “But, you don’t hear about the incredible art coming out of Africa, stories of people digging themselves out of poverty.”
Amanda, who is Poratto’s point of contact in Ghana, is a missionary from Ghana who has been training, consulting and coaching young women how to make jewellery and other handicrafts to further their artisan business.
“It is touching to see that there are people like Amanda who can create creative channels like this for people in the community and lead from the front by promoting fair trade,” said Poratto. “This not only has become a powerful form of art therapy, but is also an effective job creation strategy.”
According to Poratto, these young women were either vulnerable or had recently come out of difficult situations of slavery or abuse.
“Looking at people like Amanda and seeing her empower a whole generation of young women is something else,” added Poratto. “Through this, she helps them to become more self-reliant and self-sufficient and in turn contribute to their own community and express their creativity in different ways.”
Driven by what she saw back in Ghana, Poratto wishes to help the people of the community a little bit more.
“I would like to pursue a travel grant with Rotary International along with another fellow Rotarian from Red Deer and begin a program called Sewing Seeds,” said Poratto. “It will be a non-profit that teaches underprivileged women and men how to sew, and will also help marginalized people or victims of abuse to help eradicate poverty and human trafficking.”
The idea is to get the business communities involved in order to buy sewing machines to send to Ghana and people to teach them how to sew, noted Poratto.
“At this time, most garments there are hand sewn, which is very time consuming,” continued Poratto. “We have seen a similar program being implemented in Mexico by Sylvia Remple, the founder of Sun Ice Clothing and we think this could essentially change the way they do things.”
What Poratto hopes to achieve is to give the communities in Ghana a little push with the program, thereby freeing up their time considerably, which would certainly help.
Not one to keep things the same for too long, Poratto loves to explore and integrate new art and styles even in her boutique.
“I try and change up things a little bit wherever I can,” said Poratto. “Recently while visiting one of the seniors’ residences in Stettler I came across some art that a lady had done, she had made some colourful patterns on pieces of cedar wood and it was very artistic.”
Poratto decided to buy them from her.
“Sometimes I meet really creative people who aren’t sure what to do with their artwork, they make art, it has value,” said Poratto. “I will use the cedar I bought from her as part of a display.”
As an entrepreneur and art advocate, Poratto uses different designers and art practices across the world to furnish her boutique.
“Whether it is Tibet or British Columbia or locally made, I try and select a wide variety of styles which speaks to me and my audience,” said Poratto.
This summer Poratto’s boutique Beauté Décor and More Inc. will have a young student from The Lysé France working in the showroom to give her a taste of the professional work environment and help her acquire skills for the real world.
Poratto will also have a booth with the African jewellery at the Women’s Conference on Wednesday, April 27 at the Stettler Community Hall.