Nation e-Edition

Weaving wonder Adelabu

Adelabu sitting behind the loom weaving a blanket at the Holetown Festival. (Pictures by Sandy Pitt.) Adelabu lying on a beach mat, one of his first pieces – woven 25 years ago – which he has kept for himself.

By Lisa King | Mon, February 18, 2013 - 11:19 AM

He weaves passion into his fabric.

Monday Man Sylvester “Adelabu” Clarke has the passion it takes to sit behind a loom for hours a day, skilfully making beautifully woven fabric. The designer, artist and weaver is the executive director of Adelabu’s Creations, where he makes a variety of bags, purses, pencil cases, blankets, table runners, house ornaments and beach mats.

Last Saturday he proudly displayed his work at the Holetown Festival street fair and used the opportunity to teach some children a few of the basic concepts of weaving. Sitting behind the loom he built himself, Adelabu said he had been weaving for over 25 years. Why? Because it is a job that he enjoys very much.

He said that when he saw the skill at a career showcase in 1986 he thought it was something he wanted to learn. Therefore, when the Investment and Development Corporation was offering weaving courses, he took the opportunity.

“It was something I had never seen anyone doing before, and I thought a lot of persons would shy away from it. I thought I could use that opportunity to get involved in it and sort of form a niche market for myself.

“I like things that people are not doing. When I went and learnt it, I said, ‘Yes, this is something that a lot of people would not want to get involved with; people are not going to want to do it because it is too tedious’.”  

Adelabu said that working the loom was a painstaking task, which would be suitable only for someone with a lot of patience, explaining that it took a day to just thread up the loom to make a 22-inch piece, but what made it even more taxing and required that intense attention was that if you missed out a peg you had to start over again.

The four-harness loom that Adelabu works with allows him to make a variety of patterns and woven fabrics. However, he said that he was looking to get four more harnesses so he could weave more intricate patterns. That would help him to meet the request of a few local designers for some exclusive fabric.

He said he believed there was a market for locally made woven products.

“There is a market for woven products here, but for the upper class society because this type of weaving for the ordinary person would be a bit challenging, because it is so time-consuming and the materials are expensive. It may not sell because there is other stuff imported in Barbados that is much cheaper. However, you may find a few people in Barbados that want nice locally made items for their homes.

Adelabu said more people in Barbados should be involved in weaving, and he was confident that the skill would “pick up” in Barbados. He expressed a willingness to start teaching those who were interested.

The artist, who operates from his Cave Land, St Philip home and can be seen at the Crane Resort in St Philip or at craft fairs, said that keeping craft alive in Barbados was important. Adelabu, who is a carpenter by profession, said that he once used the craft as his main source of income and would like to be able to do that again.

He also continues to make pottery, sculptures and tie-dye, which is another skill for which he has gotten some acclaim, having won several local awards for his work and gained the reputation as one of the best known tie-dye artists in the island.

He recalled that in the very first exhibition he entered in 1987 he won first and second prizes for his tie dye pieces and entered the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA), where he won gold.

“My tie-dying is different. Normally I start with black and then add colours. That is what makes it so distinctive, and people who know my work can easily identify it,” he said.

Adelabu said that in his weaving, tie-dying and all other forms of craft he aimed to produce products that were good, strong, of high quality and made with pride.

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