Thu | Jan 18, 2018

Cool Beans - Chupse creates wearable art as a labour of love

Published:Sunday | April 24, 2016 | 12:00 AM
A labour of love - Chupse jewelry and accessories made from Blue Mountain Coffee beans on display
They are the Chupse! (in front sitting) Willam Lewis (left), Kevarn Laird, (second row, standing, from left), Shayzan Andrade, Omar Williams, Natoya Reid, (third row, standing, from left), Rasheda Tennant, supervisor, Dorothy Stewart (partially hidden), Audrey Warren, Natoya Coombs (partially hidden) and Shinichi Sakai, Japan International Cooperation Agency representative at JAID
Audrey Warren (left) and Natoya Reid, carefully separate beads, which are used to make jewelry and accessories at Chupse, an initiative of Jamaican Association on Intellectual Disabilites
Dorothy Stewart at work at Chupse, on the foreground are an array of string bookmarks that she made
Shayzan Andrade in deep concentration as she matches the right set of beads to make a pair of earrings at Chupse, an initiative of Jamaican Association on Intellectual Disabilites
William Lewis, a member of Chupse, inspects a bracelet that he made for final touches

One is greeted by peals of laughter as a group of these artists sift, sort, and meticulously select the right colour, size, and proportion of beads and separate them. This group of eight is hard at work, unleashing their imagination to create jewellery and accessories, primarily from Blue Mountain Coffee beans.

Huddled in the workshop, sitting in their work stations, the attention to detail, meticulousness, and the enthusiasm to learn of the processes is evident. They are not your average artists, and there is nothing ordinary about them - they are special.

They form Chupse, a trademark of The Jamaican Association on Intellectual Disabilities (JAID), and if anyone thought that intellectual disability (ID) is a challenge, these individuals let their abilities speak through their work.

"It is a labour of love," said Rasheda Tennant, supervisor at Chupse. "They are human beings, and like anyone else, they have their strengths and weaknesses."

The only weakness, one might find, unfortunately, at times, is the inability of the 'normal' people to understand that they are humans, too. Period. To break many stereotypes, this JAID initiative has given an avenue for individuals with ID to express themselves, create works of art, and critically, empower themselves.

Chupse creates Blue Mountain Coffee Bean accessories, lanyards, key rings, bracelets, earrings, necklaces, with the individual pieces having a stamp of the creator.

"We give basic guidance of the process," Tennant said. "These include choosing the right material, proportionate, the right size and dimensions and the design." Once that is firmed, the final product, the colour schemes, and the style, are the individual's choice or preference.

The process is, detailed, organised, and adheres to quality control. The raw materials are segregated individually, graded according to colour and size, the key material being Blue Mountain Coffee beans.

Once this process is completed, the sorted material is placed in clear bags and stored in containers. The coffee beans are also sorted, given a coat of sheen and dried for use.

The coffee that can't be brewed peps up the spirits as wearable art.

Chupse is supported by JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency), and UCC Ueshima Blue Mountain Coffee Company, which donates coffee beans. "The overall objective," said Shinichi Sakai, JICA representative at JAID. "Is to empower and give a sense of pride (to the people with ID, who are at Chupse)."

Pride and empowerment apart, they learn a valuable skill set, are able to express themselves, and get a sense of belonging and inclusion. Each piece of jewellery made is inspected, packaged, and is ready for sale.

Chupse jewellery spreads colourful cheers of joy and also awes people. There is no disability, but the ability to overcome challenges and make a statement.

"When people see these jewellery and accessories, they sometimes don't believe that it was made by members of Chupse," Tennnant, who is a jeweller by training and profession, said. "I have to clarify that; this work done by Chupse, not me. I merely guide them."

Guidance, encouragement, and understanding are the simple key traits that are needed, and the result is awe-inspiring indeed.

At the end of the day, it is all about spreading love, which resonates from the smiles and laughter of creators - Shayzan Andrade, Natoya Coombs, Audrey Warren, Natoya Reid, Dorothy Stewart, William Lewis, Omar Williams and Kevarn Laird - the epitome of resilience, never-say-die spirit, artists, and, above all humans extraordinaire.

More information on Chupse contact:

The Jamaican Association on Intellectual Disabilities, 7 Golding Avenue, Kingston 7

Phone: (876) 977-0134 or (876) 848-4239 Email: