Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Baskets and just about anything


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Give Kathy Weekes a piece of rattan and she can produce a wide range of products from traditional dung baskets to mirrors and Christmas ornaments.
She has operated Baskets and Ting for more than ten years and although the going has been tough at times, she told the BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY that she met the challenges head on and took advantage of local and regional craft shows.
The business is her main source of income but ironically, she didn’t always see basketry as a marketable skill.
“My pastor thought for some reason that it would have been good for me to learn so he hooked me up with this lady that teaches it. She taught me . . . but then I sat on it for a while because I really didn’t have any need for it [or] see how and why it could be used,” she said.
 It took “a couple years” for the St Philip woman to begin seriously producing items and sharing her work with others.
Now Weekes acknowledges that there is a “good market” for her products including some demand for custom-made goods.
“Because of the flexibility of the material you can do just about anything and you add colours to suit the décor you have,” she said.
“I create things that people didn’t know you could possibly do in basketry,” she said, noting that her products included ornaments, trays and kitchen cupboards along with clothes and fruit baskets.
Over the past two years Weekes has also been working with other entrepreneurs to provide packaging for their products.
Like many other manufacturers, she has had challenges with the availability and cost of inputs.
“The cost of materials just went up a lot and we weren’t even sure if the [importer] was going to continue based on that fact.
“We had to encourage him to import the stuff because we would’ve been left hanging.
“The person that he would get it from had emailed him and told him about the cost and the fact that they were not going to export any for the next two years due to certain things going on in that country.
“We had to get him to bring in a shipment and try our best with whatever monies we have to buy as much as we can right now to endure that time. Hopefully we won’t run out,” she said.
The entrepreneur said she was looking for ways to use local products to supplement the rattan although there aren’t many plants with a similarly long shelf life.
Despite the challenges, Weekes said she was happy with how Baskets and Ting was performing.
“I feel good about how much the business has grown, not having a loan. It was long and hard but I didn’t want the stress of interest rates and paying back a loan,” she said.
She noted that there was not much competition in the area of basketry and although a lot of people were learning the craft, she was not sure if they would eventually use it to make a livelihood.
“I presently teach it at a school and I will continue to teach it because that is one way in which you can generate interest both in adults and children so that there is continuity to the craft of basketry and appreciation for it,” she said.


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