mahogany fish 1

Networking

A Boost For The Gallery And Gift Shop.

Business to the hotels was encouraging; I was meeting some managers socially at a night club where my brother was the DJ. During our conversations We would sometimes talk about the gallery, and the needs of the hotels in making the interior decor relevant to the local culture.

The first large order was for ceramic candle shades to be used in the restaurants and around the pool decks; They created a very romantic and tranquil atmosphere.

The orders came from a chain of four hotels on the south coast; the orders were substantial and really boosted our cash flow; at this time I was getting my ceramic supplies from four different potters from Chalky mount, my home district and they all knew me from childhood. I would control the design and color, which was limited,

There was a supply of copper sheeting on the Island, I was inspired to create relief sculptures of beaten patterns, One of the managers was impressed with my work and asked if I could make some hanging and free-standing lamp shades, using similar technique. The hotels are on the beach and the sea blast was reaping havoc with the commercial shades.

Copper was not cheap and neither was my labor, but it was still affordable enough to place orders for 3 of the hotels; This collaboration strengthened my ties with the hotel managers; then came the big break that sustained me for years after.

None of the hotels had gift shops, they wanted the guests to spend most of their money at the hotels. I was invited to set up a pop up shop once a week at each hotel, we would set up tables around the pool close to the beach; this meant we not only had access to the hotel guests but also other tourists who were visiting the beach or visiting the hotel for lunch.

The weekly popup shops served as excellent publicity for the Devonish Gallery; many of the guests were curious enough to visit the gallery to see what else were available.

Help had to be sought, hotel managers saw our displays as entertainment for their guests, and the invitations kept coming; where we could have had a display every day of the week, if we desire.

We kept it to weekends and one day midweek; sometimes we did well, sometimes not so well; but the only overhead expense was our time. The hotels charged us zero. What a lucky break that was, gallery sales were on the up and we were doing sales at the hotels every week.

It was at one of these hotels popup shops that I met a famous English Actor, He was sitting alone at the pool bar, it was a fairly quiet day. He walked over to me and asked, :How much money do you make a day at these displays”

“It depends on the number of people and how deep are their pockets”; I have grown to understand that not all tourists have lots of money or spend large sums of money.

“I will tell you what; I will make it worth your while if you close up shop, and sit at the bar and have lunch and a few drinks with me”

He bought the major sculptures I had on display, and that was the best sales I ever had on any given day. We chatted about my experience in England, one of his films I had seen in England and other small talk about the Island. There was always a bottle of champagne in the ice bucket. We spent about four hours together, I realized that he was fond of his drink from the speed with which the glass was being emptied, so I was cautious and sipped slowly.

Luckily the hotel manager knew where he was staying, his behavior was becoming a little unruly, as he tried to flirt with a very attractive young lady who joined us at the bar.

There was a taxi in the parking lot and the manager, with some resistance, sent him on his way.

My drinking companion had provided me with the details as to where to ship the sculptures; he had added enough cash to more than cover the shipping. I did not hear from him or see him again during his stay on the Island.

Those weekly displays kept us in business; Gallery sales were improving, but I can’t say it was enough profit to write home about.

An offer of another making was in the works; one I could not ignore.

There was a chance conversation with another Englishman who was a captain in the British Army; he was a frequent visitor to the Beer House; he invited me to spend one Sunday afternoon with him at the hotel where he was staying.

The hotel was a historic hotel on the south East coastline of the Island, quite a distance from the bulk of on island hotels, namely the south and west coast of the Island. Many locals and tourists alike visited the hotel for its scenic view and its history.

The owner was an Englishman also and a close friend of the captain. The sea blast on that location was very troublesome, everything rusted.

While having a drink at the scenic bar, the hotel owner joined us, he was aware of the gallery and my connection to pottery and ceramics. He showed me the problems he was having with rust, he had seen my designs in both copper and ceramics, and placed an order right then and there.

“By the way would you like to open a gift shop on the premises? It would be an added attraction for the hotel, and for that I will offer it at a reasonable rent”

The small building was at the entrance to the hotel and no more than 350 square feet; It may have been one of the servants quarters years back. I had to think about it, it would mean hiring a manager that was trust worthy, because I would only to able to visit the location once or twice per week.

Soon Come

devonish art gallery

The year was 1969; days after returning to Barbados after spending seven and a half years in England, I paid a visit to the Ministry of Education. Three months earlier I had posted an application letter for a job as a teacher.

The secretary came out with my unopened letter of application, opened it before my very eyes, read it then went back in to the office, She came back ten minutes later and arranged an appointment for an interview.

The interview was very encouraging, The chief education officer was please he had found someone who knew about ceramics; knew how to use an electric kiln, mix glazes, teach how to use the potter’s wheel, and a trained teacher at that.

There was only one ceramic teacher on the Island, but he was due to go on study leave, so the chief education officer was happy to be able to replace him. The job was offered to me on the spot.

I was made aware of three other English trained teachers on the Island who were paid a higher salary than the local teachers, plus a housing allowance. I asked if I would be paid the same salary as the English teachers and was told “Definitely not”

We had several discussions on the matter as I stressed the point that since my application was sent from England and my qualifications were equivalent to the English teachers, I should be paid the same salary. It took some persuasion but it was finally agreed to honor my request.

My assignment was to a secondary school, to teach Art, English, Religious Education and History.

I was surprised to discover that the headmaster was my Godfather; he was delighted and proud to welcome his Godson to the staff.

I was then escorted to the class and introduced as the form teacher for the school year.

About ten minutes later a student came to the classroom with a message that there was a telephone call awaiting me in the headmaster’s office.

The call was from the chief education officer instructing me that there were some objections raised, and my salary was adjusted downwards.

I did not say anything to anyone, but walked back to the classroom, picked up my briefcase, asked one of the students to deliver a message to the headmaster that Mr Devonish has left school and the class needed a teacher.

I never did return. The monthly checks arrived for four months after my walking off the job; of course I returned them every time.

My wife and I had already decided to look for a suitable retail space in Bridgetown to open an Art gallery, Boutique and Gift Shop.

We found a two- story retail space on a busy side street in Bridgetown, and started to source inventory; we also decided to invite some other artists to submit work on consignment.

The name Devonish was synonymous with Pottery and the potters all came from Chalky Mount where I was born. Many of the family members were potters and even though I had studied some ceramics at college; my specialty was sculpture in wood, stone and copper; plus I dabbled in some black and white pen and ink abstract drawings.

We visited the chalky mount potters and negotiated to purchase some pottery and offered new designs for the gift shop; no businesses in Barbados were marketing the chalky mount pottery for sale, the potters would take their ceramics to the Bridgetown market every Saturday and sometimes they would visit affluent areas of the Island with a tray full of pottery on their heads, mainly plant pots and ashtrays.

devonish art

Boutique Inventory

Before I left England I had abandoned the jacket and tie and was wearing shirt Jacks. I could not believe that as hot as Barbados was civil servants and office workers were still wearing jackets and tie. I visited a local clothing manufacturer and introduced the owner to the shirt jack and we made a verbal agreement that he will only manufacture for our gallery since the idea and the design was ours, but technically it was not; but they were never made n Barbados before.

There were 2 floors in the building, but we were not sure what to do with the second floor. One day while repainting the walls I asked someone which restaurants served local foods. I was recommended to one restaurant that I later learnt was known to locals as the tourist trap.

That visit was so dramatic that it sparked off the decision to open a restaurant on the second floor.

The Lunch Break

As I walked into the restaurant, no one greeted me, so I seated myself at one of the few vacant tables; I sat there for at least half an hour and watched as tourists were greeted at the door, seated and some even served drinks before any one came to take my order.

The cashier was overheard to say to the waiter-“There is a gentleman sitting over there, why don’t you take his order”

The waiter marched over to my table like he had just seen his girl friend in the arms of another young man,” wa you want?”

Is that how you address all your customers, don’t I get a menu?

He stomped off, returned and flung the menu onto the table.

I decided to order the most expensive lunch I could find on the menu; a bottle of the most expensive champagne, 16 ounce ribeye steak, and the most expensive dessert.

“Can you please bring me everything on one tray, my lunch hour is up” I uttered in a soft trembling whisper; My voice tends to get softer when I am angry.

As he exited the kitchen door and walked over to the bar to collect the bottle of champagne; I got up from my table and met him at the bar.

For this occasion my fiery voice was loud enough for the whole restaurant to hear-” You deserve to be a slave all your dam life and all these people here should be whipping your ass all like now;” then leaned over and whispered to him-“I will make sure you pay for this lunch or be fired” and slowly walked out with every wide- eye focused on my exit.

When the time came to interview staff for the restaurant, as the Gods would have it, who should walk in but the same waiter from the tourist trap; he turned around to walk out as soon as a saw that I was doing the interviewing; I called him back and his first words were -“you made me lose my job”

“So I guess you could not afford the lunch, you deserved it anyway, but have you learnt anything”

Yes sure did, but locals don’t tip and we like da tips cause the pay no good”

I gave him a lecture on the experiences of immigrants in England and we must learn to respect our own.

You taught me a lesson; I will never do da again.

He was hired as the bartender for the Beer House, which was the name we gave to the restaurant.

Soon Come.

devonish hand-carved heartWould you like to join my hearts club?

Work Space

Have  You Sourced Your Ceramic Equipment And Supplies.

To begin your new project, you must first organize your work space with enough shelves for commercial production or you can use another space for storing and drying.

Have a roll of soft plastic or large garbage bags; you will need them for covering unfinished greenware or to facilitate the slow drying Of green ware.

Cutting tools for clay including a needle tool.

Commercial Production

You will be creating commercial production, therefore time management and a brand is very important.

During my training courses, I always started with the use of leaves.

My favorite leaf is the sea grape leaf; it is a comfortable size and nice shape; but this is your brand; so choose a favorite leaf.

Look around your yard or neighborhood for an attractive and not too complicated leaf, the more simple the better for the beginning.

This is your first production exercise so do not choose large leaves, plus you have to always keep the size of your kiln shelves in mind.

A leaf around 6 to 7 inches in diameter for a round leaf or 5 inches wide by 5 to 6 inches long is a comfortable size for starters.

To influence your choice of leaves lets examine the kind of leaf products you can produce-trivets, candy or nut trays, soap dishes, holder for pins and clips etc. ; You might even have an original idea, don’t be afraid to try it.

Set the slab roller to roll clay to your preferred thickness; I normally suggest ¼ thickness for earthenware, a little thinner for stoneware .

I would not recommend porcelain for beginners.

Slab roller rule- you can roll your clay to thickness and length but not width. Always make sure your slab of clay is wide enough to accommodate the width of your leaf.

Rolling out of the clay-Watch this video on how to use the slab roller or  just Goggle -How to Use the slab roller and pick your choice

-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdwX1qEPUxw

Your slab roller should come with 2 lengths of canvas, one length will lay on the table to prevent the clay from sticking to the table, the second length to prevent the clay from sticking to the roller.

Roll the clay between the two sheets, learn this art first before attempting to roll clay, If it is not done correctly the canvas can get tangled up in the clay.

The clay will be in blocks about 5 to 6 inches by 12 inches long and 6 to 8 inches thick for rolling; cut the clay in 2 to 3 inch slabs, you will have to create a thin edge to start the rolling.

If possible try to arrange a visit to a ceramic workshop, community or art college that has a slab roller and observe or if you are close to a supplier ask for a demonstration.

Design Details

There are two ways to roll out your leaves, If you have access to a large supply of leaves; after you have rolled the clay to the required thickness, place the leaf neatly over the clay and roll a second time; this will reproduce the leaf pattern on the clay.

Sheer some of the thickness off the stem or else the stem will go too deep into the clay creating a weakness.

You should leave a stem of about an inch long and exaggerate the width to about half an inch at least or to your taste; but beware; if the stem is too thin you will have unnecessary losses.

If your supply of leaves are limited make a template of the leaf from hard card or I/8 to 1/4 inch plywood.; you can then use a needle tool to copy and cut the leaf pattern.

You can copy the pattern on the leaf on to the clay, be careful not to go too deep into the clay, this also create a weaknesses in the clay.

You should aim to start with a minimum of 6 to 12 leaves per day.

When the leaves are leather hard, clean the edges with a damp sponge, write your signature at the back of the leaf or a position of you choice

Leave the green ware leaves on the shelf until they are bone dry.

Glazing and firing to come next.

i Can teach Anybody Can Be A Ceramic Artist-

how to produce ceramics from day 1

Background

During the eighties I worked for the Canadian Training Awards Project (CTAP) as a ceramic consultant; traveling around the Eastern Caribbean researching clay deposits, sourcing ceramic supplies and training students in ceramic production.
The training was designed to start earning from day one; most of the students were women of all ages and from different backgrounds; but I always insisted on including a selection of school children in the classes.

The first stage of training on the wheel was designed towards earning also; but in this post I will use the Slab Roller only.

 

Commercial Production

SPACE-a small workshop; 150 to 300 square feet is adequate or a small basement.

Equipment

1 Slab roller; my preference is a Brent, the size depends on how much production you are contemplating.

1 Small Test Kiln-Electric for easy management, or natural gas if it is available; allows more creative and exciting finished pieces; but requires more ceramic knowledge and experience.

1 production Kiln; start with a 2 to 4 cubic feet.

Make sure your kiln comes with a set of kiln furniture

Orton Cones

Earthenware– cones 04 and 05 cones,

Stone ware -04 for bisque firing and cones 5 or 6 depending on your clay supply.

Clay- My preference for beginners is white cone 04; especially if you live in a third world country where the cost of electricity is high.

Kilns & Firing temperatures.

Electric-If you live in an area where the cost of electricity is not so high, and you wish to offer finished pieces at stoneware temperature; you can find low stoneware Clay at cone 5 or 6; but you will need 04 also for bisque firings.

Gas-If you have access to natural gas and is prepared to learn as much as possible about using a gas kiln before commencing production.

Local clay supply-If you can dig your own clay, that is fine, but learn how to eliminate the impurities; frankly unless it is a great source and fairly clean, and is willing to spend the time in preparation; it might be more convenient to purchase a commercial supply.

GLAZES

Start with a small collection of glazes and stains.

Stains-black, brown, green, blue and yellow-06 to 04

Glazes-05 Ready mixed -transparent; opaque white, blue, leaf green, mid brown, turquoise and yellow.

1 Set of brushes and small plastic bottles for pouring from your ceramic supplier.

2 to 4 small sponges

I plastic bin for scrap clay

This training is geared towards creating a brand of commercial production that can be marketed from day one if you follow instructions carefully.

BOOKS AND EQUIPMENT

There are several ceramic suppliers in Europe, Canada and the USA; of course England is known for its ceramics; in the early seventies I bought all my supplies from England, but over the years it became more cost effective to purchase from Canada or the USA.

Suppliers I was happy with are Tuckers Pottery Supplies out of Canada, and Amaco or Brent out of the USA.

You can Google Ceramic suppliers and see who are your nearest and most affordable suppliers.

There are several books on hand building and ceramics for beginners.

You should purchase at least one of each. If you are going the route of a gas kiln, look up how to fire a gas kiln and acquire a publication.

Remember also everything is on the Internet these days, just Google your question and search for appropriate answers.

In my next post I will be offering instructions for your first commercial production.

If you would like to start production and create a hobby and earn some extra cash, start sourcing your supplies, anyone can be a ceramic artist. I have never met anyone I couldn’t train.

Wood Carving Blog- The Creative Process- Stage one

Visitors to the gallery often ask questions that I am usually reluctant to answer or sometimes give an abstract answer or reply with a joke.

One of the most asked questions is. How long did it take you to carve this? Referring to a piece of art they a interested in purchasing; I usually think they want to compare price with time.

I have chosen an abstract sculpture I am in the process of carving to disclose its history from beginning to end.

Fifteen years ago I received a call from a lady telling me she was about to cut down a tree that was too close to the house and was I interested in the wood.

I paid a visit to the house and discovered that the tree was what was locally known as Shack Shack or woman’s tongue. The large dry pods would rattle in the wind.

The tree is related to the ebony family, but is not as dark as the African ebony; but still as hard and beautiful. I selected the pieces I wanted and cut them into manageable pieces so they could fit into my Mitsubishi pickup.

The pieces sat outdoors in the sun for 10 years, since I don’t have a kiln for drying wood; If the wood is not properly cured it would split when exposed to central heating or placed in direct sunlight, particularly through a glass window.

wood carving in progress

Five years ago the wood was stored in a forty-foot container, for protection from the rain and final curing.

My market is 99% Tourist, therefore carving large sculptures is a problem because of the high cost of shipping from Anguilla; I have one large sculpture in the Anguilla social security building.

The piece of wood I have chosen is a cross section of a branch, 18 inches high by 16 inches in diameter.

I am still in the process of stripping the wood naked; this also reveals the grain and first shapes.

The next stage is to place the naked wood in a place where I can view it regularly, sometimes in my bedroom. This is done for inspiration and as part of the creative process.

My first task when carving an abstract sculpture is a term I use “stripping the wood naked; in this process all the defects are removed-worm eaten holes, surface cracks etc; a chain saw is the tool of choice at this stage; if the area is too difficult or too small for the chain saw I will use a variable speed Die grinder with a steel burr.

During the creative process I will make chalk marks on the wood according to my taste and pleasing to the eye.

To be continued.

devonish artThis post was inspired by a comment received.

Let me tell you a little story to support this tip.

In the seventies I operated a ceramic and woodcarving studio in Barbados, plus a retail outlet.

The operation had four employees, one was a young full-time potter.

On one particular day the potter either had too much to drink or smoke. but he was in the retail outlet examining the prices of the ceramics pieces he had thrown on the wheel.

His job was strictly throwing, he was not engaged in preparing the clay for throwing, another employee did that; he was not engaged in the decoration and firing of the pieces he had thrown on the wheel. He was not penalized for pieces that were loss prior to glazing and firing.

On this particular day, he waited until there were customers in the retail outlet and blurted out in a real obnoxious tone- “Look what he is charging for my work and he only pays me X dollars”

I warned him and forgave him for his embarrassing behavior; but placed him on piece work at mutually agreed prices for each piece of pottery thrown; but the pieces had to meet a certain standard.

Courtney on the potter's wheel
The working hours were 9am to 5pm. The week after this new arrangement he left the workplace between 1pm and 2pm each day. In the meantime he had thrown an average of ten percent more pieces as he usually made in the previous arrangement at a fixed salary.

I dismissed him at the end of the week and offered to help him set up is own workshop if he needed help.

About three months after I received a call from him asking if I could lend him some clay and glaze materials; I inquired as to why. His reply was he sold most of the pottery he had made, but he has no money to purchase new raw materials.

He then apologized for his obnoxious behavior and said he now understood the business and that my pricing was more than fair.

He had learnt by experience.

Put aside some savings for replenishing tools and raw materials; take your cost of raw materials out of your sales if you are to continue producing without unnecessary interruptions.

Service your tools regularly and if you live in an area where supplies are not easily available, keep spares and if your raw materials have to be shipped, don’t wait until you run out; order well ahead of time.

Let your work be your pleasure.


Touch forms started during my student days to help fellow student quit smoking.Their major complaint was- they needed something to do with their hands- In the beginning the forms were abstract shapes but from 1998 hearts has become my best selling fine-craft item.

The students were given a piece of clay to form the most comfortable shape to suit their hands, the form was then recreated in a glazed clay form or in wood.
The touch forms have evolved over the years and are now created in wood only, mainly because of its warm feel as a touch form.

There are Collectors from all over the world,many of them are professional who either place them on the desk ao in their office waiting rooms.They are a favorite gift item for repeat visitors and business sponsored groups visiting the Island.They are carried in hand bags,sit on night tables, in living rooms and as paper weights.Recently professional therapists and caregivers have been giving them as gifts to their friends and clients; They are now mainly bought as a stress reliever,

The are super smooth with a mineral oil finish that cry out to be fondled.Price $25.00 per heart-Free shipping.
.
Hearts are available mainly in mahogany but also in other hardwoods depending on availability.finish mineral oil.

Size-Hearts vary slightly, usually 3 1/2 inches x 3 1/2 x 2 inches thick t0 11 x 11 x 4 inches thick.

Hearts are also available in other sizes on request, from small pendants to large sculpture.

You can purchase any number of hearts on request, forward an email to create a Paypal button to accommodate any bulk order.

Allow me to share a comment sent by Linda from Massachusetts on March 17. 2017- a story that touched me deeply; more so because my mother once said to me, when I was about 5 years old-“I can’t explain it, but your hands are blessed”

Story by Linda
“Your carved hearts have comforted my 100+ year old aunt that died”.

When she went to Hospice she would not let go of it; her daughter buried the heart with.
Then my brother just died; when I visited him January 20 he was holding your heart.Your carvings have been a deep blessing; please continue to carve”

Hearts are now my bread and butter craft items and are always in stock.
Large orders orders on request.

free shipping via Anguilla Post Office.

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devonishart on new platform
The move

THE MOVE.

I would like to apologize to all those who might have contacted devonishart.com in the past and did not receive adequate attention.

First the website was hosted and managed by a developer and health issues for the past two years interrupted communications.

Devonish art is now hosted on a new platform and fully managed by myself (Courtney Devonish)

Some of the art will be featured on another website that I own (buzzbrainexercisesnart.com) however all sales will be done from this website.

We look forward to your continued support