The elf of Christmas craft
Timmi Proverbs is an unapologetic Christmas junkie. She loves Christmas and craft and 16 years ago, she found a way to merge the two and share her loves with others.
When the hunt for an angel to hang on her Christmas tree for her then six-year-old daughter turned up empty, the owner of Timz’ Handcrafted Collectibles decided to make one.
“I hunted all over Bridgetown and could not find anything that looked remotely like her. So, I started making angels,” she recalled with a laugh.
“Then I did all sorts of things, Santa, elves, you name it. Once it was Christmas related I made it. I started with a combination of fabric and wood, all different mixed media, but then I discovered polymer clay, got hooked and that has been the primary medium I’ve been using since then,” Timmi said.
She told EASY Magazine from her Brighton, St Michael home that she started selling the collectibles because she had more material than she wanted for her immediate use and today, more and more people have been ordering her Bajan ornaments which she sells at major craft fairs and private events.
Being the “junkie” that she is, she said she collects ornaments “any time, any place” and she has “a few customers” who are like that and who “do not have a problem buying a Christmas ornament in July”.
“Things get crazy from September, October. Actually, now what I’m finding is that as Barbadians decorate their trees earlier and earlier, the crunch time is coming earlier and earlier in the year. Where in the past I would be winding up, I’m starting to, not wind down, but the craft fairs are pretty much over and the bulk of the traffic has passed. People want to get their ornaments early and get them on the tree early.
“I have people who had their trees up before Independence and I have no problem with that but I personally refuse to put up my tree before Independence,” she said.
Timmi is able to make some ornaments in a few minutes while others could take as long as an hour depending on the complexity. As she crafts her pieces, she tries not to work for long periods at a time to avoid compromising them. She can put in long production hours though.
As with other craftspeople and artists, she creates the pieces when “inspiration moves me” so that she does not have set days for making angels, or elves or the popular Zouave ornaments.
“I do try to do a couple pieces at the time because it is more efficient that way but there were times when I had this idea to create one thing. Most of my pieces I have done multiples, not a lot, because the primary reason for people buying from me over and above is because they are Bajan. They’re not looking for mass produced things. So, I try not to go overboard. I do try to do multiples …but it depends.
“I can custom make items subject to the availability of material. I’ve had some really crazy requests over the years. I haven’t had so many of them recently but I remember one that involved a woman who wanted one for her sister [who was involved in dentistry]. It was an enormous tooth and the tooth fairy was roped into it. That was the only one.
“I’ve done things that customers requested. …One for a customer who had dogs and a cat. One year I made an angel with a pair of glasses,” she recalled.
Timmi said that quite often, prospective customers were not only surprised her ornaments were made in Barbados but that they were handmade.
“They usually seem very pleased that a lot of them, not all of my designs, have a local twist to them. I still do snowmen because I have expatriate customers who still miss home and they don’t mind a little snowman here and there… I try not to do too many of them and stick with more of what’s relevant to Barbados,” she said.
The businesswoman explained that some designs sell more than others and what is not sold this Christmas will be sold next year.
Only this year did she decide to start a Facebook page, because she didn’t want to bite off more than she could chew.
“Despite the fact that I limited my reach to Barbados, or so I thought, I was getting enquires from Australia. I didn’t want to overstep my boundaries and take on more than I could handle, I reached as far as Australia. It was pretty amazing to me. Thankfully, we found somebody who could take it and the customer was able to find someone here who was coming to Australia for vacation,” she said.
What she has also found from the responses on her page is that people like the “idea” that the ornaments “look like the majority of the population”.
“You know, that if you go into Bridgetown, the majority of the ornaments don’t look like the majority of the population,” she added.
Her favourite ornament is also one of her customers’ favourites – the Zouave uniform.
“I think that will always go down as one of my favourites. I have been making that one for quite a few years. I have a customer who I ran into the other day and she’s had hers for years because she bought hers when her boys were little. She had bought one for each boy and she came back now to buy one for [younger relatives].
“That particular design has been around for a while. Back when I was doing the Museum’s craft fair, I was doing that particular design. I never used to do too many of them ‘cause it is a bit time consuming so I don’t do several of them in a season.
“It has been a perennial favourite. I had clients who came to me at least three different times this season, they turned up at a craft fair asking ‘where’s the lady who makes the Zouave soldiers? I said ‘that would me’ and they said, ‘Good, that’s the only reason I’m here’. Many of them were purchasing them to send or take to relatives overseas,” she said.
While she no longer makes “trendy” ornaments such as cartoon characters or gadgets, she “may pay attention” to the colours of the season as she had requests in the past to have angels, for example, wearing fuchsia dresses.
When she isn’t getting her Christmas fix, Timmi creates hand-painted wine glasses and she has some other ideas for next year which are non-seasonal.
“I will be moving away from a Christmas focus from next year,” the mother of two daughter said. She does however, have a customer’s order for Christmas ornaments to fill in April.
At this point, the former science major who did not pursue art formally is “bouncing around the idea” of creating a piece for Barbados’ 50th anniversary of Independence, a keepsake of sorts.
She also received some suggestions for ornaments from customers that reflect our heritage, and, with a laugh, said she was up for the challenge. (Green Bananas Media.)