Saturday, June 16, 2012

Duck Girl

Jade Drakes in her St James shop, Duck Girl
I've known Jade for a long time - since we were teenagers.  But it had been easily 15 years since last I'd seen her, when she popped in at the sale of a friend of ours.  She looked much the same - dressed quirkily, wearing a very interesting ring she'd made.  It was a clove of garlic, she'd said.  Something for her mum.  She also said she'd just come home to Trinidad after many years rambling around the world, learning to make things.  She'd opened on shop in St James and I should come by.

I did - a couple of weeks ago.  And it was enchanting.  Jade is the kind of person who really should have been born during the 19th Century!  She's a collector and maker of things.  Her shop, which is called Duck Girl, is a little gem of a place - full of things she loves and has made.  I was thrilled to find it.

Jade recently started making aprons, using lace she has collected from all over the world.  She showed me an gorgeous antique apron, made of satin with embroidered flowers.  She has pieces of furniture and light fixtures that she's found about the place; tiny rings and earrings that she's made with beads she's been collecting, and little objects for sale which she thinks are beautiful and interesting.

Going into Jade's shop is a bit of a Looking Glass experience.  I was carried into her world of beautiful things, lovingly and carefully created, and it was a delight.

Some of Jade's aprons

Plants and containers

A collection of buttons and rolls of antique ribbons
You can find Duck Girl on the Western Main Road, on the corner opposite George Cabral Street.

Feeling Crafty!

A few months ago, I was given a hand-me-down couch.  I was thrilled!  I've been wanting a couch for a couple of years now, but buying a new one seemed prohibitively expensive and then too, I needed a two-seater as my living room is small, and I couldn't really find anything I liked.  The trouble with the couch was the upholstery!  A huge plaid pattern printed on a very synthetic fabric!  And it was coming apart at the seams.

I knew I had to recover the couch - but again, I didn't want to go to a professional upholsterer as that would have been expensive.  So I searched online for several days, trying to find a decent how-to guide for making my own slip cover.  I couldn't really find one that made it look anything but very difficult and time-consuming.  So, I ditched the internet searches, went to the fabric shop and bought five yards of cloth, 90 inches wide.  In truth, having decided to make my own slip cover, I figured I could go a little more expensive on the fabric, so I what I ended up buying was TT$80/ yard.

I brought the fabric home, took it out of the bag, and started pinning it to the couch.  And really, that's how I was able to make the cover: pinning the fabric in place, lining up the woven stripe, cutting, sewing and pinning again.  I felt as though I were draping fabric on a mannequin and constantly adjusting.  It came together over a couple of days, and I can't tell you how happy I am with the results!  Oh, an added benefit - the lighter coloured fabric has helped to deal with a dreadful mosquito problem at our apartment!

Here are my before, during and after photos!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Spreading the word. Buy local!

This morning I've been lolling around at home, reading the Guardian UK online and ruminating on various things, including, just what a delight it is reading British newspapers.  It's a different experience to reading them in the flesh, as it were (I mean holding a newspaper and turning its pages; spreading the whole lot out on your bed and having a cup of tea while you spend hours mulling over the different articles) but, as I've just discovered, different can be good.  For one things, lots of articles have hyperlinked keywords to allow readers to delve into a subject in greater depth.

So, while reading design-related articles celebrating the various works of designers I've never heard of, I was able to click on their names and immediately be directed to their websites.  And gosh, what delightful finds was I able to discover!  It made me realise that I don't do enough to spread the word.  I have two blogs now, and really should use them as a platform for sharing work I admire.  So I will be doing more of this in the future.  The thing is, we all need to take it a step further - especially in Trinidad.

We've got one of the largest per capita populations on facebook.  Fully a quarter of Trinbagonians subscribe to facebook.  Which is brilliant when you think that we're able to share what's going on about the place so easily.  But we need to go a step further - instead of just clicking 'like' when someone posts a showtime for a movie or creates a craft fair event, we need to consume - go out and spend some of our hard-earned money supporting local!  (And on the web, you don't even have to go out, half the time!)

One of the most memorable ad-campaigns for me as a teenager in Trinidad was Hi-Lo's buy local drive. We were in recession, loads of products were on the negative list, and we had little choice but to support local.  Local manufacturing really thrived during this period.  But then, as we came out of recession and moved into a period of boom once again, I was dismayed to notice that local products were being sidelined in favour of foreign - pushed to the back of the supermarket shelves.  It's as though what Hi-Lo meant was, buy local because we have no choice, but as soon as we have a choice, buy foreign!!  In truth, this seems to apply to all service-related industries in Trinidad.  In video, for example, local ad agencies will gladly employ local production companies to produce commercials.  But as soon as we went into boom, like clockwork, the foreign production companies and directors were brought in.  This is demoralising and insulting, and proof to me of just how little self-respect we actually have. 

There are gorgeous things being made here - good products that can stand up.  Certainly, if I wanted to buy some olive oil, I'd buy an Italian or Spanish brand.  They are delicious and we don't produce that here.  Nor am I suggesting that we buy sub-standard brands simply because they are local.  But when I tell you it irks me when I go to the supermarket and can't find locally-made pita bread, which is just as good, if not better than foreign.  Instead of buying the sugar coated Kellog's Raisin Brand, try the Sunshine Raisn Oat Bran.  It's just as good, if not better - I promise.

And too, it irks me that shops like DH Gift, Rituals and others don't seek out quality local products.  My friend, designer Marlon Darbeau, has been designing some exquisite products.  He's soon to launch some beautiful salad servers and other things he's designed.  It was a real delight to me to get Marlon's things for my mum at Christmas - not only because they were local, they were also truly gorgeous, good quality, and the work of a friend and fellow Trinidadian.  Yes, it's great to 'like' something on facebook, and to share a link with your networks (which is something we should all make a habit of doing) but we must also take the next step - we must become our own best consumers.

Here are Marlon's beautiful salad servers! And while you're at it, check out these brilliant things:
Arc Magazine, The Caribbean Review of Books, Trinidad Lookbook, The Cloth, Draconian Switch, Del Mano, Janice Derrick Jewellery, Jasmine Girvan Jewellery, Barbara Jardine's jewellery, Lupe Leonard and her delightful delices as well as her Niysa line of accessories.  You see?  Not bad, eh?