Friday, March 1, 2024

Adrian Mings – The bamboo boat builder


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Nine years ago, Adrian Mings was stuck at a crossroads. “Should I give up my barbering business or should I invest in my new hobby?” he asked himself. After spending over ten years in men’s grooming he was not sure about throwing in the towel and getting into model craft. But he said art was a calling he could not resist, and eventually he chose his heart’s desire. 

The 47-year-old said his passion for art got him interested in barbering. He explained that he learnt how to cut hair in a non-traditional manner and over the years customers from as far as St Lucy and St Peter sat in his chair.

“At first I experimented on two people,” said the Fairfield, Black Rock, St Michael resident. “I could only make the designs, I could not round up or put the hair in styles. A lot of schoolchildren came to me to get designs in their hair too. I guess my love for art manifested in that way but eventually I learnt how to do everything.”

Adrian said business was good, customers were plenty and he was able to support his family, but something was not right. He said he felt as though barbering did not allow him to fully stretch his artistic abilities and he thought model art was interesting.

Although he had a background in carpentry, Adrian was no model maker. He capitalised on using bamboo that was growing wild in a grass patch near a cane field in Lears, St Micahael and he tried manipulating it. Adrian said it did not go too well when he tried making models. In fact, he said he gave up countless times trying to get shapes right. But his determined spirit reminded him he was not a quitter.

“I started making ships; then I made other things. But at first I did not like how they were looking and I got discouraged. I convinced myself I could make model ships but I had nothing to reference. I was at it off and on, but when I got introduced to the Internet things started to change.

“Making the smooth curve at the front of the boat was giving me licks all the time, but when I watched YouTube videos I understood what to do. Online, they make boats like how you fix puzzles. So watching how people assemble the pieces gave me an idea.”

The self-taught model maker said the smallest detail was important because the model should look as close to the original as possible. He said: “It has to look realistic.” And that is why he takes his time to intricately shape and attach the small pieces of bamboo. It takes him one month to make model ships in his small backyard workshop. He said he does not always make them to order, so he makes three or four at one time. He explained that before bamboo can be used it had to be dried and treated to prevent pesky mites from eating it.

The Princess Margaret alumnus said bamboo model craft is not as popular in Barbados as it is in Asian countries. He said locals are amazed to see his artwork when he displays them at different farmers markets but they regard bamboo as an inferior type of wood and are not always willing to pay the value of his pieces. That is why he mostly caters to the tourism industry. Nonetheless, Adrian enjoys working with bamboo because it creates a sense of nostalgia for him. He is a fan of ancient and medieval cultures, and most of his pieces reflect that.

Although Adrian has a keen interest in history, he said when it came to the business side of craft the artist should not get too caught up in thinking outside the box. He explained that people liked to buy ornaments and decorative art to set the mood and atmosphere of a room or their house. However, he said people today preferred to purchase more practical household necessities that could play both roles – decorative and functional. That is why he also makes napkin holders, piggy banks, candleholders and stationery containers, to name a few.

Adrian added that he was interested in teaching bamboo art to interested young people to help grow the industry in the island. (SB)


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