Video: Growing Appreciation for Locally Made Items

by Suelin Low Chew Tung, NOW Grenada

According to the National Export Strategy, ‘the Grenada Craft and Gift Industry is defined as companies, groups and individuals involved in the design, production and/or marketing of products with unique and distinctive characteristics of design, technique and presentation peculiar to Grenada.’

Apart from church, parish and NGO bazaars, fairs and fundraisers, and the ‘craft days’ at select hotels, at the end of 2017 other events where the talents of the Grenada’s craftspersons have been on display included (with apologies for oversights/omissions):

  • Made in Grenada Expo during Independence celebrations at the National Stadium
  • Easter and Christmas Bazaars at True Blue Bay Boutique Resort
  • Pop up Craft Market at the Grenada National Museum
  • Pop up tt Show by the Grenada Arts Council
  • Grenada Investment Development Corporation (GIDC) Entrepreneur/Agri-business Expo on the Carenage
  • St Pauls Community Centre Annual Extravaganza
  • Grenada Chocolate Festival
  • Carols By Candlelight

The most recent event — and possibly the last for 2017 — was the Christmas Craft Market on the pedestrian plaza of the Carenage, organised by Tamara Prosper (Tambran by Tamara) and Cindy Mckenzie (Rustic Selections). NOW Grenada interviewed Mckenzie and Prosper, Debbie Mason (Caribbean Naturals), Pippa Stokes; Lystra Walters (Artsyl); Bontrice Hutton (GD Creations) and David Ambrose, author of White Spice.

Author of Force Ripe, Cindy Mckenzie, with her business Rustic Selections, creates personalised pottery from cement, and items sourced from the beach. She and Prosper were at the GIDC Entrepreneur Expo in November, and decided to do a craft market-mini expo before Christmas. Mckenzie was keen to bring the foot traffic back to the Carenage, a perfect spot, and to use the plaza to socialise and to collaborate.

Mckenzie’s Facebook post of 21 December showed her passion for this initiative. “Let us share, support and empower one another. We will try to accommodate all vendors. WE have to be flexible. This idea came up because we saw the need, we have planted the seed..now we need good weather and LOTS OF SUPPORT!!!”

Lystra Walters of Artsyl has a penchant for things uniquely arty. She produces handpainted bags with bangles, and other delightfully unusual combinations inspired by her ‘thinking outside the box.’

Bontrice Hutton of GD Creations is an inspired hardworking woman in the construction field, who is building her jewellery line, and is pleasantly surprised at how big she can produce handcrafted statement pieces from a simple idea.

David Ambrose, author of White Spice and lecturer at T A Marryshow Community College (TAMCC), attends craft and made-in Grenada events like this to make his book available to everyone, to encourage people to read more, to build their vocabulary and learn a few things about Grenada.

The Carenage used to be the hub for souvenirs and handicraft once upon a time, and these entrepreneurs are determined to (i) change the mindset of Grenadians about handmade craft, and (ii) bring life back to the Carenage by staging frequent artisan markets on the pedestrian plaza.

Debbie Mason of Caribbean Naturals was one of the participants at the Agency for Reconstruction and Development (ARD) roundtable, and a contributor to the export strategy. During the Carenage craft market, she said: “…quality craft is [still] not getting the exposure it deserves…local support is needed to keep it vibrant but is not there for many reasons… [they may be] unaware of what is available, lack of marketing or a preference for imported over locally made products.”

The 2012 Grenada Chamber of Industry & Commerce (GCIC) Business Woman of The Year artisan and advocate for Grenada-made products, Mason said this situation is compounded by a lack of statistics. “There are no stats to tell you how many craft people there are doing these things as a living, as their sole means of sustaining themselves. No stats to say what contribution they make to the GDP, to seriously promote what they sell.”

Apart from Mason, other handmade producers have garnered awards, including Art Fabrik on Young Street (UNESCO Award of Excellence for Handicrafts 2012) and Tamara Prosper, who has won several awards for her eco-products including the Eco-Challenge Caribbean Award, Young Americas Business Trust 2014; and the GCIC Business Award, Environmental Excellence 2013.

At the recent more compact Christmas bazaar at True Blue Bay, among the 50 made-in-Grenada producers present were:

  • Ellen Smalley: pepper jam, bottled curried goat, canned fresh caught Yellow Fin tuna
  • Tamara Prosper: eco-jewellery
  • Art Fabrik: fine wearable batik art
  • Caribbean Naturals: Cocoa Crunch and other chocolate products
  • Jesma Noel: paintings

At the last craft event for this year on the Carenage, the weekend before Christmas, NOW Grenada discovered that while the products are good, and the quality is good, and there is more appreciation for locally produced ‘made in Grenada’ items than there was 10 years ago, there is still no trade association or umbrella grouping — and presumably not as much financial backing/underwriting — as envisaged by the sector economic profile.

In 2005, the Grenada Business and Agriculture Revitalisation Project (GBAR) provided training for 200 handmade craft producers across the State, at the conclusion of which, a 3-day ‘Buy Grenada’ Craft Fair was held in November, at the Ministry of Finance car park.

The post-fair report stated in part: “Greater emphasis was placed on the development of different designs linking the crafts sector with our diversified tourism segments of garden, culture and heritage tourism, boosting community tourism and employment in rural areas. It was hoped that initiatives such as this would serve to encourage mass-production of high-quality crafts and transform Grenada’s cottage craft industry into one of vibrant entrepreneurship, able to service the local and tourist market as well as participate in niche export markets.”

Items showcased included:

  • Fashion accessories from calabash, fabric, leather and straw
  • Jewellery from indigenous resources: seeds, beads, bone, shell, sea glass, etc.
  • Toys, musical instruments, and carved items made from bamboo, calabash and wood

Under LESSONS LEARNED, the report noted infrastructure was needed to support:

  • Product design, development of prototypes and market testing
  • Standards set for craft that is characteristic of Grenada, including use of required percentage of indigenous materials — which emphasise history and culture
  • Wholesaling, costing and pricing
  • Customer service

The comprehensive Craft & Gift Sector document created in 2006 for inclusion in the National Export Strategy noted in 2003, the estimated level of craft employment over the past 20 years had declined by more than 2/3, to fewer than 1,000 persons. The document also referenced the 20 studies written on the sector, from 1982–2003, the last created for the Government of Grenada by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

That CDB document noted that ‘the single underlying impediment to cost effective and sustainable craft sector development (in Grenada) is the absence of a significant private sector business-oriented approach – to put in place a craft marketing and development agency with a clear mandate and authority to establish strategies for product development; market research and development, sector branding and awareness programmes.’

The CDB document ‘proposed a market development strategy oriented to external and destination markets, with 6 locations recommended for craft facilities, contiguous to attractions with potential for site-specific promotion and interpretation of local craft production. These programmes would firmly establish market niches and positioning for the Grenada’s cultural and heritage crafts.’

It also noted that ‘In spite of these studies, this sector has been continually ignored as a source of export earnings, in part due to sector fragmentation marked by a lack of organisation, cooperation and collaboration among producers, and a marked absence of communication between producers, government and private sectors, leading to limited trade support services. There is difficulty in acquiring true statistics for this sector, as current surveys do not capture craft production and export.’

The report stated ‘in 2005 USAID–Carana, as part of their post-hurricane Ivan recovery initiative (the GBAR Project) created a preliminary database of approximately 270 craft producers (by parish, products manufactured, and materials used) across the state. Study of this database shows this sector to be a high value-adding sector, given that many of the materials used can be sourced locally at moderate cost.’

The document listed products within 2 main target item groups — Functional and Decorative items — under 4 design categories, which would allow ‘for maximised exploration of product and materials potential.’

  • Small furniture or hard furnishings
  • Hand printed/ handmade textiles, clothing, table linen, and other soft furnishings
  • Handmade books, cards, stationery
  • Handmade jewellery, Wall art and sculpture
  • Health and Beauty Items: soaps, etc
  • Housewares: dishes, baskets, etc
  • Musical Instruments: drum, steel pan, shak shak, etc
  • Packaged agro-processed gift items
  • Toys and games; Dolls, including spice dolls
  • Model boats, and model houses

The design categories were Amerindian, Festival, Grenadian(a) and Heritage.

  • Amerindian: Based on symbols on existing pottery artefacts and rock petroglyphs
  • Festival: Influenced by various festival and carnival characters
  • Grenadian(a): Based on items in everyday use and or influenced by a combination of the above categories
  • Heritage: influenced by traditional items and or symbols from West Africa, UK and France

The Agency for Reconstruction and Development (ARD), in June 2007 commissioned an economic profile of the Grenada Craft & Gift Sector, part of the Welcome Grenada-Investment Climate Enhancement Programme. Discussion topics included:

  • Sector strengthening through trade and industry associations
  • The teaming and clustering of producers to merge disciplines to produce new and innovative marketable finished products
  • Attracting investment to the sector
  • Superior Craft & Gift product design and packaging
  • The supply and increased use of indigenous (and recyclable) materials.

The need to establish an umbrella trade industry association to represent and seek the interests of stakeholders in Grenada’s Craft and Gift sector, was the consensus of a roundtable discussion attended by 12 representatives (craft and gift producers, retailers and non-governmental organisations) and a representative from the Grenada Cooperative Bank and the Grenada Development Bank. 13 stakeholders covering development, finance, trade and banking did not respond to the invitation to discuss the challenges faced in attracting investment to this sector.

It was agreed that the umbrella association should include producers, designers, retailers, wholesalers, exporters and investors. Training programmes, including business management skills development for craft producers, bulk purchasing, and seeking institutional support from the Government of Grenada were identified as potential responsibilities for such an association. Both banking representatives expressed the view that financing of the sector would be greatly facilitated by an umbrella association.

The ARD’s marketing document provided an overview of the sector, focusing on the following ‘made in Grenada’ sub-sectors:

  • Art and ornamental ware
  • Clothing
  • Costumes, including masquerade and theatrical
  • Decorative Home Furnishings
  • Jewellery
  • Souvenirs
  • Toys and Games

Footnote: a selection of Grenada’s craft has been in the collection of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) since 2008.

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