Tue | Jul 16, 2019

An artistic awakening with Marjorie Keith

Published:Sunday | June 23, 2019 | 12:07 AMKrysta Anderson - Gleaner Writer
Keith displays how she cuts the carved clay from the machine.
Marjorie Keith welcomes you to her artist residence.
A closer look at her many exciting pieces.
A cupful of goodness, overflowing on a customised rack, courtesy of pottery queen Marjorie Keith.
This piece of Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, was inspired by a newspaper clipping.
The proud ceramist showcases Jamaica’s vibrant culture in her work.
Not shy in admitting that she isn’t technologically savvy, she shows us her very own ceramic computer, a main feature of her home gallery.
Here’s a big teapot in a myriad of cultural colour.
Photos by Lionel Rookwood/Photographer Keith, who went to art school as a painter, came out as a potter. These days, she fuses both loves.
Pottery and clay melts the stress away.
Keith creates a happy environment, working with a smile.
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“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

Although expressed by American author Thomas Merton, this rings true for expert ceramist and fine artist Marjorie Keith.

With more than 40 years of experience in the arts industry, Outlook salutes this stalwart by sharing the untold story of her artistic awakening.

Her journey began in the mid-1970s. She graduated from the Jamaica School of Art – the last batch before the school changed its name to Edna Manley. She then progressed to do a postgrad in textiles.

“I went to art school as a painter and came out as a potter because pottery is more technical than painting, and in that sense, I majored in ceramics,” she explained.

Working with the Jamaica Council for the Handicap, she would stay there for six and a half years, exploring batik workshops, before she resigned in 1982 to pursue her passion full-time. Art was burning inside and she had to unleash her talents. She set sail, or rather flight, overseas to gather art supplies and returned to her homeland to pick up her studio pottery. From there on, she had exhibitions at the then Mutual Life Gallery.

“I grew. It was fun and people loved my work. I used to do annual exhibitions and people would come out and support, then look forward to the next year.”

She opened Gallery M.E.K at Devon House in the 1990s and was making tremendous strides in the field, paving the way through mentorship for other artists. Her work took a backseat in order to guide and promote her protégées, Peter Peart, Lennox Coke and Alphonso Blake, among others.

But in 1997, her life took a turn and she was born again.

A call on your life, she says, is a call. One that you can’t ignore.

“It’s very uncomfortable. Even though I was doing good, I still did not mean I was at the place where God wanted me to be.”

She couldn’t stay at Devon House any longer, so she closed that chapter in 1998 and started anew at home.

Starting in her garage in 1995, the project is still incomplete, but has made remarkable improvement, transformed into her very own home gallery.

BEACON OF HOPE

Walking in faith with God, she spent 12 years in the church not doing art – she fell off the art circuit. Evangelising and doing God’s work, there was no balance. But she was reminded that it makes no sense for her to eat the bread of sorrow. No one remembered who Marjorie Keith was. She is grateful for the blessing of her former neighbour, Derick Latibeaudiere, then governor of Jamaica’s central bank, the Bank of Jamaica. He was a beacon of hope during her seemingly artless times. The love of art has not helped her to make art sales from the comfort of her home, but he encouraged her to explore her options by giving her the opportunity, in the early 2000s, to showcase her pieces in the bank for purchase at Christmas time.

By 2009, she fell on hard times. In 2012, a friend from the Tourism Product Development Company brought a friend by and she was commissioned by another governor to do teapots. She was later approached for pieces for the tourism minister and the prime minister.

“Every time you think you can balance the scale, something will throw it off. Nothing is ever constant. But just when you think nothing is happening, a change comes in your corner. And blessings bear fruit.”

Today, the artist specialises in three-dimensional ceramic form, ceramic sculptures, ceramic paintings, fine art paintings and batik paintings. Building her home from the ground up, she took us on a tour of the artist’s residence and invited us behind the scenes of making her pottery, pumping manually and moulding her lump of clay into art.

“The paintings are an inspiration from God, from her garden and from man.”

Keith is still here with an awakening artistic experience, ready and waiting for you to enjoy.

With hopes of starting her own art class, the hard-working and dedicated professional encourages aspiring artists to “be natural, be yourself. Don’t try to copy anybody else. Just do you.”

For more information on how you can get your hands on a Marjorie Keith original, you can call 876-453-6311, visit her gallery at 11F Belvedere Road, Kingston 19, or email: marjoriekeitharts@gmail.com.

krysta.anderson@gleanerjm.com