|Middle Caicos Co-op artisans meet to support their craft|
|Written by Richard Greenemail@example.com|
|Thursday, 16 June 2011 10:04|
Artisans from North and Middle Caicos met recently for a day of exhibit, demonstration and meetings to support each other, to ensure this important source of their income, and to continue preserving the country’s cultural heritage.
More than 50 women and men who create unique and beautiful handmade straw baskets and other popular items gathered June 13 with volunteers and supporters at Conch Bar on Middle Caicos.
An exhibit in the Forbes, Forbes & Forbes real estate office showcased the best selling items, a variety of table settings and a display of new ideas to try, all in an effort to introduce the artisans to each other’s work.
The adjacent co-op studio was busy with demonstrations of a new commercial quilting machine that was donated in hopes that artisans will come to use the machine and work together at the studio.
The group also discussed the co-op’s history and goals, and enjoyed a fine lunch donated by Daniel’s Café.
The co-op was founded in 1998 by Sara Kaufman, Marsha Pardee, Pamela Leach and Barbara Young while they were reopening the Crossing Place Trail in Middle Caicos. Their distinctive approach — to pay the artisans directly for their handcrafts on delivery, not on a commission basis — has been hugely successful in regenerating interest and production of traditional handcrafts.
Since its beginning with six artisans on Middle Caicos, the co-op has grown to more than 60 members throughout the Turks and Caicos Islands and has an active board. While the membership is mostly women, with perhaps 15 percent men, the artisans now include some teen-agers, a very hopeful sign that younger Turks and Caicos Islanders will carry on the tradition. A workshop to decorate straw bags planned for this summer is aimed at encouraging young teens.
Increasing day trips from Providenciales to North and Middle Caicos — especially in the popular and growing ecotourism business — are exposing more visitors to the crafts and the artisans themselves. Sales are growing at all outlets and are especially brisk at the small shop in the Providenciales International Airport departure lounge.
In 2010 more than $60,000 was paid directly to the artisans for their work, and the co-op finally operated in the black without donations from generous supporters over the years, Kaufman told the group to great applause.
Among the items created by the artisans are straw baskets, bags, hats, brooms, brushes, sewn dolls and animals, beach rope rugs, paintings, model sailboats, jewelery and wall hangings. New items include salt products from Salt Cay and sea glass jewelry from Grand Turk, and the co-op’s door is always open to new “handmade in TCI” items of any kind.
You can find handmade co-op items at the Turks and Caicos National Museum on Grand Turk, Middle Caicos Co-op Studio on Middle Caicos, Paradise Arts on Providenciales, and at the Middle Caicos Co-op shop in the Providenciales airport departure lounge.
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