It’s no longer pot of gold
By Heather-Lynn Evanson | Fri, July 20, 2012 - 12:04 AM
THE POTTERY WHEELS spin.
The lump of wet clay from the hills of St Andrew slowly takes shape as hands mould, guide and shape it.
But the foot is quiet.
Gone is the kick wheel; now, an electric cord snakes out of sight and a motor hums.
The quiet district of Chalky Mount, St Andrew, is alive with the sound of art, even louder than before.
But at least one potter feels the art could die despite this brief two-month resurgence.
Under the auspices of the Rural Development Commission (RDC), Barbadians and visitors are being encouraged to take a trip to St Andrew for a pottery festival.
It is a move welcomed by two of three potters with whom the Weekend Nation spoke last week.
John Springer, whose intimate workshop could soon be home to a thriving pottery school, pointed to the historic significance of the art form to the hilly district.
“The pottery industry itself has been going on in this village for 250 years, and the tradition was father teaching son,” Springer noted, as he sat at his wheel crafting a plant pot for the benefit of the team.
In two minutes, it was finished and took its place to dry on a shelf among traditional pieces of the artform. Next to it was a monkey pot which, according to Springer, is still one of the fastest selling pieces of pottery in his shop.
“We try to do the traditional things along with modern day items,” he explained.
“The monkey pot, which is a very important aspect in our culture, is very fast selling, more so than any other item.”
As Springer and another potter, Winston Jn. Paul, of Highland Pottery Inc., spoke to the Weekend Nation, other visitors wandered into their shops; stopped and listened to their dialogues and examined the pieces on show.
Both potters have welcome the RDC’s push of pottery, even if it’s to coincide with the Crop Over festival.
It is something, they said, that has been late in coming.
Jn Paul, who boasts 29 years, noted that while there have been drastic changes in the artform they have not, necessarily, been for the better.
“We’re not getting the visitors and people supporting us like in the early 1980s and late 1970s,” he noted.
“We used to have quite a few visitors coming on a daily basis, but things are fairly slow,” he said.
And this, he said, has led to people shying away from pottery as a means of making a living.
“At one stage, you used to get a potter at each and every house, but now there are only three,” he said.
And Jn Paul predicted the traditional art form would eventually die out.
“We’re just trying to keep it alive,” said Jn. Paul. “That’s why we put the ads, to try to get the locals coming in and help support the industry because this is one of the biggest industries, I would say, or the first, when you’re talking about craft and different things.”
But Jn Paul was confident the industry could be saved and interest reignited; after all, the island’s pottery heritage has survived for more than two centuries.
“It just needs promoting more. It needs more signs and more promotion and it would pick back up,” he stressed.
“The hardest thing is to get the market going and all the rest will follow,” Jn Paul said.
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