Barbados’ clay sector is on the snapping point, visual artist and ceramicist Julianna Inniss has warned.
Nonetheless, she said the establishment of a clay reserve and a processing plant would allow the sector to survive.
Addressing attendees at this 12 months’s Central Bank of Barbados Visual Arts Exhibition on the Queen’s Park Gallery on Wednesday, Inniss said although she was thankful for the support artists generally received last 12 months when several projects were conducted across the island, clay crafting had develop into stagnant after years of no support.
Inniss was a part of the team of artists who worked on several art and cultural installations at Golden Square Freedom Park in 2021.
“I don’t exist in a vacuum; there may be a clay sector, a small collection of some two dozen individuals, mostly micro-entrepreneurs, mostly women who use clay, and today, as I speak to you, the clay sector faces a serious challenge. We currently haven’t any prepared clay on the island. Ours is an issue of access – there may be loads of clay in the bottom but the first location from where our clay was once harvested is now taken up by housing,” she said.
“We’d like a clay reserve – a dedicated tract of land that our raw material will be harvested from without obstruction.”
Inniss said that request had been made by Denis Bell of Red Clay Pottery greater than 30 years ago.
“Mr Bell, now 90 years old, has also closed his Red Clay Pottery operation, the only plant that produced prepared clay for all of our island’s schools and most of our studio potters,” she lamented.
Inniss said along with having a clay reserve and processing plant further investment needs to be made into the untapped ceramic market.
“If I said to you that we are actually sitting on an untapped, underutilised, reasonably priced resource to which tremendous value will be added; that its applications are diverse – it could possibly be decorative, functional, architectural, industrial and artistic, offers a platform or gateway to entrepreneurship; already has a baked-in heritage, geographical uniqueness, a universal appeal; and might earn foreign exchange, it’s a natural, green and organic material at your disposal, seems like we’re checking loads of boxes.
“Well, that material, my friends, is clay! Then what are we doing? Why are we not making full use of this resource? Is it because this material and work are considered menial, dirty, too labour intensive? Not trendy enough, and you’re employed along with your hands? But I’ll argue that I actually have never seen anyone who worked with their hands who didn’t engage their brain,” Inniss argued.
She also added her voice to the decision made by other creatives through the years for a national gallery to be established, citing the necessity to preserve the wealthy artistic work Barbadians have produced over the a long time.
“A national gallery is greater than just a fairly constructing to hold artworks. It’s a repository of your culture, heritage, and mental property. It is going to function a centre of our visual art, education, and culture. It’s our mirror image, a mirrored image of ourselves, how we see ourselves as a people, and offers others an insight into who we’re, what we take into consideration, desire and value.
“It’s an environment/space where we are able to reflect on questions of our identity, beliefs, and the connection between the historical and contemporary. What higher gift then, to a nation, than a national gallery as we transition from a constitutional monarchy to a republic?” Inniss contended. (SB)