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From dreams to designs


From dreams to designs

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MICHELE MARSHALL COMES from a family of creative people who are good with their hands. The interior designer is the proud owner and brains behind Driftwood Dreams Designs.

“I grew up in a house with everybody doing something creative as a hobby, but only a few of us doing something creative as a job. I got seduced by engineering and I did telecommunications engineering as my field. I went all the way to university with it. I worked for British Telecom, TeleBarbados, Cable & Wireless and all the time this business was in the background but I wasn’t treating it as a business,” she told EASY Magazine.

Designer Pat Brathwaithe is her aunt, and her mother made wedding cakes but Michele said her head was “always in a book” as she loved reading.

Driftwood Dreams Designs began in 2003, but really became established in 2009.

“This business started in 2003 when I had another business at the time I was an owner and operator of a spa. I was getting married and wanted my invitations done but I couldn’t find anybody who would do them the way I wanted so, I started doing them myself. I did all the visuals for my wedding, even worked with the lady who created my dress. I shared the pictures with other people and they said they were getting married and wanted [what I had].

However, in 2009 when she and co-workers were laid off from TeleBarbados she decided the time had come to get serious with Driftwood Dream Designs.

“Instead of looking around for something to do in telecommunications, I decided to go get my diploma in interior design. I went back to England and got my diploma and started to get serious about this thing.”

It was her attraction to balance that drew her to interior design.

She explained: “It might sound strange but when I think of things visually or when I think of telecommunications solutions or even a space, or when I’m painting on a board, I’m always looking for the balance that would make a reflection.

“Whenever I’m doing graphic designs on the computer, when I’m painting with my hands or when I’m sewing I always have a vision, and something that I think about to make it look aesthetically pleasing to the eye and then for other people to enjoy it, that’s what drew me to it.

“Whenever you do a job or are creating a luxury home décor cushion or working with leather or fabric, you have a vision and when you realise it you get that ‘ah ha’ feeling and all artists would say it brings a sense of balance to us. Then when other people enjoy it and it becomes a part of their living space, their event or their day then we say we gain self-satisfaction.”

She likes the natural feel to her work and if you have seen her “pop up” shops, at fairs or farmer’s markets which she used as market research for her “Bajan inspired holiday reminders” then you know what this writer is talking about when describing her pieces as having that laidback vibe that says relax.

Michele’s work entails reclaimed wood plaques, recycled PET bottle decorations, soft furnishings, cloth aprons or the recently added organiser bags.

She thinks that art or any expression of art comes from the soul. She feels that if you are involved in our community or as a global citizen of planet earth then your art, your creations would reflect your lifestyle, feelings and thoughts about the planet.

“You’re quite right that the natural core of what I do is important and it becomes more important, because since you last saw my products I have become even more focused on reclaim, recycle and reuse. This year is the first year that I have a commercial client that approached me to do the decorations for their company for Christmas.

“I’m making ornaments for their tree that are made from recycled PET bottles and making them into jelly fish and using cou cou sticks, enamel cups and what we call coconut boats, the seed pods, as a base for table top decorations. I’m using burlap to make Christmas trees and burlap and polyfibre to make huge, oversized poinsettias,” she disclosed.

She said that she always chooses things that remind people of their Bajan heritage, things that are Bajan inspired, or serve as reminders of the importance of the sea and taking care of the environment.

The driftwood, she noted, is a big thing in Britain. She estimates it is probably because several people do not live near the sea and it reminds them of island living.

“I have a love affair with driftwood. It is not so easy to find. Most Barbadians see it as old wood and tend to ignore it, but it is huge in Britain. If I could just pick up all the wood in Barbados and send pallets to Britain or wherever.”

She loves driftwood so much she had to incorporate it into her business name.

“A lot of my inspiration comes, not necessarily in dreams, but very early in the mornings or late at nights. There’s always a book next to me, I call it my grey book, and I jot down designs, notes, sayings. Sometimes I’ll be listening to music or watching television or somebody might say something and I might link it together.

“Therefore dreams was added so it was Driftwood Dreams and I added Designs because I like alliteration.” 

As she continues to progress and dream, she has been seeking out new markets to sell her items including hotel gift shops and home décor stores. What she likes is that her luxury home décor items are made right here in Barbados and that her holiday reminders can be tailored for other Caribbean markets.

She said that people really liked the “blended dialect” sayings and spellings and the Bajan images she captures in her creations.

Asked to describe them in three words, she said, without missing a beat: “Natural, sustainable, gorgeous.”

Exactly how she wants them to be. (GBM)