Woodwork is me
Kelston Rollins, 56, is passionate about carpentry. And with over 35 years’ experience building chairs, beds, cabinets, chests of drawers and other furniture, he is now gearing up to make coffins.
Not only is he prepared to manufacture them, he wants to donate some of them to the state, Rollins told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY.
“I plan to talk to the Attorney General because there are a lot of poor people who die in the hospital. So I will donate them to the Government to save a part of the bill. All I would tell the Government is to give me the material and I would give them the labour. That is my intention. I am going to build caskets,” he said as he lifted the lid from one of his unfinished coffins.
Rollins, who is managing director of Kelrol Construction And Joinery Services, said his decision to start making caskets full time came about after he was approached by an operator of a funeral home to make two caskets. He said, however, they did not want to pay him the price he was asking although he thought it was reasonable.
“I started this here with the intention, as a business, to grow, but after he told me what he was willing to pay I told him I would rather give [the coffins] to a youngster coming up in the trade,” he said.
The carpenter said some caskets would take a longer time to make, depending on the style.
He said he could build up to ten of them a day and the more complicated ones, about ten a week.
“I want it to be a full business. I am a polytechnic-trained graduate in carpentry and joinery. It is just another form of joinery, you know. Woodwork is me; don’t care what you want to be done with the wood, I can do it,” he said, saying that he made all the furniture in his three-bedroom house.
The former police officer said his wife and two children were also responsible for his renewed interest in carpentry.
But that is not all – this Four Roads, St Philip carpenter is eager to pass on his knowledge to young people and willing to fight for more support for local furniture manufacturers. He is in the process of expanding his workspace.
Rollins graduated from the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic in 1975 after pursuing a course in carpentry and joinery. Although in recent times he had been focusing mostly on construction, he worked with a number of lumber, furniture and construction companies over the years.
He said he was not entirely satisfied with the quality of furniture being imported into Barbados and he wanted to see more local furniture taking precedence. Rollins noted that he had great ideas for the industry but said he was not prepared to go through the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association.
“There is the good of it and the bad of it; people take your ideas and use them to their advantage and your disadvantage, and nobody will mention who is the person behind it,” he said.
“The furniture we are getting now in Barbados, I was told that because of the different signatures to the Treaty of Chaguaramas [establishing CARICOM], we have to accept what I call ‘people crap’, because a lot of the furniture that comes in here is made of chip wood and what they call knock-down furniture; do it yourself.
“So they say we have to accept it until we can prove that their standard is below par. We could prove it but I am not the one to fight it for them. I will give my input but, as you know, fighting things means cost and can be time-consuming,” argued Rollins.
The joiner said he was at a stage in his life where he was prepared to engage the Government in “serious discussions” with a view to giving older men and women in the trade “access to workshops” o they could pass on their skill and knowledge to younger people in the field. That, said Rollins, would make him happy.