Franklyn carving his own niche
From as early as 7 a.m. you can find 52-year-old Franklyn Harwood busy at work cutting and carving masterpieces at his stall at #2 Pelican Village.
His passion was crafted as a young boy, working at the feet of his father Henderson Harwood.
Harwood, who is father to a 26-year-old son, has been plying his trade for the past 30 years and even though it is not an easy profession, he boasts that it has been the love of his life and his primary source of income.
During a recent interview with the EASY magazine, surrounded by lathes, sculptures and planks of wood, Harwood hardly paused as he worked the wood turning machine, his hands plastered with dust and perspiration pouring down his face and dripping onto his shirt.
He spoke with pride and passion about his life as a woodworker and gave all the praise to his father who inspired him and taught him most of his skills.
Harwood said his father first started the business Harwood Woodworks in the early 1980s noting that after his dad’s death in 1990 he took up the reins to continue the legacy.
Going down memory lane, he recalled the days he spent working alongside his father.
“I am not better than my dad, though. Things that he made I might not even dream about doing,” he said fondly and with pride.
He added that many days after school he went to the workshop to assist his father.
“Even though I watched my father do many things I was also self-taught because when he died certain things I didn’t know and I had to learn,” he added.
Harwood said that as time went by, experimenting on various products helped him to master his trade.
He has one female assistant, who has been working with him for the past four years.
Described as “hardworking and optimistic” by many of his peers, Harwood has become a familiar face to some visiting tourists and locals who visit the Pelican Craft Village.
Unlike those of some other woodworking businesses, his signature products are heritage games such as the Warri boards and the Potta game, which he proudly boasts are made from 100 per cent Bajan mahogany wood.
He pointed out that the Potta game was popular among customers.
“The Potta board is said to be over 100 years and originated from Africa” he said, further explaining that it is sometimes referred to as a unforgotten game in the archives museum.
He said in many other countries it is called tic-tac-toe.
He said the older folks back in the day marked the ground and played the game, which tests one’s levels of concentration.
Harwood also makes cosmetics boxes, gavels, salad bowls, egg cups, napkin rings, and mortar pestles, among other products, which can be produced in both oil and clear finishes.
When asked if business had gotten better over the years, he said: “If I didn’t love what I do I might have well closed my stall.”
He pointed to one of the stalls, which is now vacant due to poor customer traffic flow.
He acknowledged that even though the Pelican Craft Village is one of the first places tourists will pass after disembarking ships in the Bridgetown Port, many of them don’t usually frequent the area.
He firmly believes that if locals buy what is produced by their own, others will follow.
He added, too, that even though Pelican is referred to as the craft centre of Barbados there were still many locals who didn’t know about it.
He believes the area needs to be publicised more by the relevant authorities because, in his view, it would help to boost the image and showcase the talent and the works of art there.
“Getting people down here is the most important aspect,” he said.
At the Pelican, there are now a number of closed doors as a result of businesses shutting down.
Harwood said that once these empty spaces are again filled, there will be life breathed into the “dying craft centre”.
“If you want Pelican Craft Village to work, then make it work. It takes two hands to clap, both tenants and the co-operation (BIDC) have to sit down and find ways to make this happen,” he said emphatically.
Harwood also said that recently there was a meeting with the management of the BIDC but he admitted he did not attend.
“The same things are being spoken about every time and the same result. Nothing is done to change the situation . . . . I am tired of that. I want to see action.”
In the meantime, Harwood tries to focus on his business. Most of his items are sold seasonally.
“Everything sells when the time and season comes.”
This artisan also has his eyes set on the next ten years.
“I want to be exporting . . . . I want to be able to produce and export . . . not just people seeing my products saying how nice they look and leaving fingerprints on it.”