Feature: BIDC Crafting a Niche for Artisans

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Participants of Foromic XV view the mosaic of hand-crafted individual magnets created by local artisans.??(A.Skeete/BGIS)??

When Foromic XV was recently held in Barbados, the first time in the Caribbean in its 14-year history, it simultaneously presented a challenge and an opportunity for Barbadian artisans.

The challenge was to find an innovative way to present unconventional Barbadian craft and souvenirs to the hundreds of visiting conference delegates. The opportunity came in a window for our local artisans to showcase their work to many from across the region.

The Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC), as one of the organisations taking a lead role in hosting the conference, seized the opportunity to push the work of several Barbadian entrepreneurs in the crafts and condiments sectors. And, the success of the initiative augurs well for the artisans whose products have now made entry into the more than 35 countries from which seminar participants originated.

Chief Executive Officer of the BIDC, Dr. Leroy McClean said: "The conference served as a major platform for ???onshore exporting’, where local companies got the opportunity to sell their products abroad. By onshore exporting what we are speaking of is being able to supply the visitors to Barbados with a wide range of locally produced goods. When the visitor buys an item, it is paid for with money that originated outside of Barbados, so in effect, we have ???exported’ that item without shipping it anywhere."

The BIDC was instrumental in showcasing some of Barbados’ successful entrepreneurs by organising visits by delegates to their workshops and in selecting some of them as exhibitors during the event.

The Corporation’s participation in the organisation of the crafts fair and activities for the Barbados/Caribbean Day also created further opportunities for putting Barbadian producers in the spotlight.

The logo mosaic which greeted delegates at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (LESC) from October 1 to 3, was also the result of efforts by the BIDC to push the work of local artisans.

The mosaic, a medley of hand-crafted individual magnets, was conceptualised by the BIDC’s Design Advisor, Stella Hackett. She also orchestrated the design and production among the seven artisans who were required to render the Foromic logo icon in their respective media of clay, glazed clay, glass, wood, paper and fabric. The logo was created by BIDC Graphics Assistant, Paul Massiah, who explained that the "iconic man at the centre represents the power of one – one country, one business, one entrepreneur, one idea".

Mr. Hackett noted that the artisans for the project were chosen according to their capacity to produce high-quality items in a limited time frame, the techniques applied, materials used and designs that would allow vibrant colour reproduction. Each magnet represented the work of one artisan and one material, but together they created a dynamic network of cooperation and demonstrated the value of diversity.

The handmade paper magnets were produced by Christobel Ishmael who uses indigenous natural fibres from banana leaves, sugar cane bagasse, and West Indian Sea Island Cotton. Juliana Inniss, in collaboration with Jo-anne Johnson, opted to work with recycled Barbadian newspaper and popular tourist magazine pages for this project.

Four different styled clay magnets were made by two companies: Earthworks, which employs a talented group of potters and produces functional pottery sets using whimsical designs; and Maggie Bell, a second-generation potter at Red Clay Pottery, who mixes local red clay to produce a range of souvenirs, functional products and sculptures.

Henderson Reece, who began his artistic career painting in oils and water colour, produced the cotton batik magnets while all of the mahogany, beech and micro-fibre pieces were engraved by Signature Graphics Inc., a company specialising in engraving Barbadian imagery onto charming wooden products. The glass magnets were created at Tropical Art Glasses which specialises in high-quality, fused glass-work that is food and dishwasher safe. Structural Systems Ltd. was also called on to build and install the galvanise structure that carried the mosaic, and Colour XL Inc. produced and applied the vinyl logo around which the magnets were placed.

The 3.5m X 2.3m montage, which served as a photo wall for the hundreds who wanted to capture images of their presence at Foromic, was certainly the jewel in the crown of aesthetics expressed in the international event. And the rush among delegates for their own authentic Barbadian keepsake when it was disassembled at the end of the conference and offered as a souvenir was certainly a testimony to that.

"An obvious lesson coming out of this for our artisans and producers is that there are market niches beyond the traditional sales avenues for craft, condiments and souvenir items just waiting to be explored and which must be pursued," Dr. McClean concluded.


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