Friday, April 12, 2024

STREET BEAT: ‘Ignite’ creative passion


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THE STREET BEAT team was in Oistins searching for the next story when Ronald Thomas stopped them and requested the WEEKEND NATION highlight the hard-working beach vendors.

Just so, this feature was born as the team first spoke to Thomas then travelled to Accra Beach where David Trotman and Carryl George were plying their trade.

But first, Thomas. He told the team he had been creating craft since the 90s and had been in Oistins for around 15 years. Although he makes a wide variety of leather craft, his speciality is footwear which he makes to order.

“I can make soft shoes with arch support and I can make shoes where one is higher than the other for people with uneven legs. I do a lot of custom orders – people like to match colours to their outfits – and I also cater to the needs of the differently-abled,” he said.

Thomas, general manager of Caribbean Craft Creations, said he had a passion for “handmade stuff” and what had begun as a personal passion had blossomed into an internationally recognised business.

“I have a dedicated international and local clientele and people know where to find me. Once my customers come to Oistins they will come to me because they can’t resist my shoes. I use the best leather and I give you the finish no one else will. I even ship shoes overseas.”

Thomas said there was a market for his shoes but locals had to adjust their thinking. He also spoke on the economic downturn, saying it was more of a creative issue.

“There is a great market for these shoes but we have to get away from the concept of ‘Rasta shoes’ – these are locally made, handcrafted, customised shoes which anybody can wear.

“Even though there is an economic challenge, if you can be creative, there is a market out there but I find too many people are followers. I don’t see any challenges with the times; I see a lack of creativity. If we can ignite that passion, we will be surprised what we can do,” he said.

Not far away, Roland “Duma” Callender was relaxing with a large selection of chains spread in front of him. He said he had been a craftsman for 20 years and loved it as it allowed him to meet people and make friends. He said one of his best selling items was a bracelet with beads mimicking the national colours, adding “sometimes tourists come and buy so much, I can go long home after,” he said.

On to Trotman who has faced a long, hard road but is making the best of it. He said he had no choice but to work for himself as he could not get a job.

“I got started because nobody would give me a job; they thought I was an invalid because I had a limp so I had to find a way to make a living. I started with coconut oil and suntan lotion as I progress, I found other avenues like coral and conch shells and now, over 43 years later, here I am,” he said.

Trotman sells necklaces, masks and all manner of craft at Accra beach, which he has been doing for the past 16 years. However, he said there are still problems.

“It hasn’t been a bed of roses – I’ve been moved around and told all kinds of things and I don’t have any type of shelter from the rain. This place should be one where customers can come in and do business with me,” he said.

Not far away, George was carving his latest figure from a piece of wood. A former leather craftsman, he said his start in woodwork was almost divine.

“One day I saw a piece of wood and I saw four people in it and I thought it had to be a message so I got a chisel and started to work. It was the first time I carved a piece of wood and I just went from there,” he said.

Twelve years later, George carves animals, mirrors, furniture wall ornaments and even clothes although wearing a coat made of wood is not recommended. He said his work is taken overseas which is a source of pride but wanted to teach before he retired.

“I would like it if Government could have a place where the children could come and we craftsmen could teach. I may not be doing this too much longer but I feel it is my duty to pass on my knowledge,” he said.



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