So, you may have been wondering where I have been for the last few posts? I have been off, dear readers, indulging a personal desire of mine in founding Antillean, a décor and home goods company that draws its primary inspiration from the colors, craft traditions and vibrancy of my native Caribbean. I have finally indulged a long held wish of mine to produce products that will see homes enveloped in the warmth and magic of the Caribbean, products that will create a sense of Caribbean chic and Caribbean living, wherever in the world someone’s home may be. We at Antillean do this by working with practitioners in the region to encourage, develop, revitalize, and sustain the craft traditions of the Caribbean.
The Craft traditions of the Caribbean
In fact, Antillean has been a long time coming, and, quiet as its kept, I realize that all along, in profiling craft traditions and craft practitioners from around the world, I was asking myself one simple question: Could I, as well, follow, indeed indulge in my passion for hand crafted home goods and start my very own company? The more I thought about it, the more the idea took hold and, little by little, this is exactly what has happened. I started working with creators in the region to make my home goods dreams come alive. I realized that in so doing that I might, as well, be able to revitalize and sustain some of the craft traditions that I grew up with on my island home of Jamaica, and elsewhere in the Caribbean.
Of course I have gargantuan dreams for my little company. I mean, which mother does not look down at her child and not see her, or him, going out into the world and making a place for themselves? Which mother does not see her little one moving from a seed to a sapling and then a gigantic many-leaved tree? But in the meantime I am starting with manageable goals for my little one. A baby after-all learns to creep before she walks. And it is the same with Antillean.
A few years ago a friend of mine came to see me in Kingston (Jamaica) when I was home for a visit. He took along with him a gift for me, this friend of mine who is also a well-known visual artist. He was driving by a sign painter on the side of the road whose signs were so arresting that they caught my artist friend’s eyes. One of those signs was the gift he brought me, a Jamaican proverb in vibrant red, blue, yellow and black colors, “Rain Ah Fall But Dutty Still Tuff.” Meaning, the earth is still hard despite the falling rain. Meaning there are difficulties even in abundance. Of course I immediately fell in love with the hand painted sign on recovered metals and ordered more. Before long I found myself working with the sign-painter, via my artist friend, to broaden the range of his paintings and he would subsequently deliver to me, in addition to proverbs and tall handsome Jamaican police officers, paintings of local fruits and flowers that I simply adore. I hope that you will browse and subsequently purchase some of these wonderful paintings.
Speaking of signs, one of the signs of good ‘broughtupcy’ for particularly girls in the Caribbean is our facility both in the kitchen and with a needle. We share this “broughtupcy” in fact with many other women from around the world. But I remain fascinated with the way that this ‘broughtupcy’ is expressed in the Caribbean. There is, of course, our love of the many-colored madras cloth, which harkens back to the multiracial identity of the various islands of the Caribbean. The madras cloth probably originated in India, but has now become idiomatic of Caribbean cultural expression and is often used for head dress and in national costumes. I started imaging this cloth on kitchen goods and before long, the madras cloth had found its way on potholders, hand towels, table napkins, aprons, and on placemats. Then there were the handmade rugs from my childhood in the rural district of Nonsuch, hidden in the high blue Portland mountains, where women would be “turning their hands to make fashion” out of small seemingly useless bits and pieces of cloth.
Ultimately though the story of these home goods products is one of mainly women reaching out their hands to other women. When I approached a cousin of mine about making the beautiful multi-colored mats, someone else saw her making the mats and remembered that she too could make the very mats, and before long the two women were off making the mats. Similarly, my aunt, who made the kitchen goods, ended up working with another woman to make the potholders, hand towels, table napkins, aprons, and placemats that Antillean sells. I was quietly amazed at this, one woman giving a helping hand out to another woman, but as I started entering more fully into the word of handmade things, I started to realize how, as Jamaicans say, “every mickle make a muckle” and that this is an inclusive world that pulls people closer together, particularly women.
Yes, we are starting small at Antillean, but we hope to become big and strong. We hope to become a gigantic tree, and with your help in purchasing our products, we can get there.
Visit the Antillean site at: https://antilleandesigns.wordpress.com
Until next time,