A PASSION for metals is what drives jewellery designer and artisan, Ichia Tiyi. While she has fashioned some stellar pieces and developed a business from her love and creativity, the journey to herself and her art came through unconventional means.
Like most children growing up Ichia, by all indications she was considered a typical child that loved her environment and the richness of it. But somewhere deep inside lurking was a penchant to be different that she would embrace in later years.
“I think when I was at school I expected to be doing something completely different,” she admitted. “I wanted to be an English teacher. I love English and still do. Those professions are traditional and practical and you understand the reasons our foreparents would have wanted that for you because they worked so hard doing all sorts of jobs and they wanted something better for their children.”
While her work initially started out towards that focus, Ichia’s digression in paths other than teaching started when she got older.
“I just got this attraction for metals and wanted to do something that was out of the ordinary,” she did. “I started making jewellery, like all the fauna around Barbados and then I realized I wanted to go further, just like the doctor and lawyer.
“I went to Trinidad for three months because I saw this flyer about this guy who was working with copper. I had never been to Trinidad but I contacted him and I went. He was working in metal and I apprenticed with him.”
After returning home armed with that knowledge, it still didn’t quench Ichia’s thirst. Not long after she found herself restless and searching for other opportunities to hone her craft.
“I had heard about this Commonwealth Arts and Craft Competition which is a huge competition and it’s open to people throughout the entire Commonwealth. Basically you win a sum of money and you get to spend nine months in a particular country of your choice. Mind you I’m competing with people from India, Pakistan, Britain and Canada,” she said.
“People were telling me this is small little Barbados, nobody is going to acknowledge or pay attention and I won an award for the entire Caribbean region. I went to Ghana and West Africa and spent a year there.”
During that year Ichia found herself and her true calling and has never deviated from that path since.
“I spent a year in Ghana and I met kindred spirits over there,” she revealed. “I saw blacksmiths at work and they were like ‘Welcome my daughter’ and were hammering and pounding.”
A metalsmith, Ichia creates what she dubs as art jewellery. “Art jewellers pay attention to the design, craftsmanship, the aesthetics more than the material world,” she says. “There are so many of us here.”
One of the things that Ichia is working to change is the appreciation of local artists here on the island.
“The artist is a professional just like the doctor, just like the lawyer. I always tell people who design or make the doctor’s instruments anyway,” Ichia said.
“We have to open our minds to things that are happening different in the world. There are people who are creating so many wonderful things, fashion, shoes, bags and those guys are craftsmen. But it seems as if we don’t have an appreciation of ourselves in Barbados. It is easier to accept what is happening overseas and we tend to think that something great or fabulous cannot come form a small island.”
Ichia knows all about crafting something fabulous although whenever she approaches a piece of metal she never knows what she will create.
“I have a relationship with my metal,” she says laughing. “The metal will talk to me. I hardly ever sketch, before I might do a rough sketching but then I find by the time I go to work with the material, it starts to exude a type of energy, so I just work with the material. Most of the time I don’t know what I’m going to make but I know that something will evolve.”
Ichia handcrafts and designs each piece of jewellery herself, sometimes spending hours or days on a particular piece.
“I know that I want to create something and me and the metal will have a relationship and we will flow,” she said.
“That’s art and that’s the creative energy.?When you’re creative lots of things happen and not necessarily what you expect.”