Where ‘The Craft People’ are
There must be something mystical flowing through our land of wood and water, as Jamaica is filled with innovators and creatives like no other country in the world. Crafts that we think are dying are actually thriving in small corners, and it’s up to us to recognise them as they are and nourish them while they grow. One such Jamaican artist keeping her craft alive is Lisa Davis of The Craft People, and Outlook met with her to find out how this multitalented artist knits, sews, draws, paints, and creates crafts that are perfect for the entire family.
Davis’ love for art began during childhood, as she would paint and colour, and learn from her mother and aunt how to crochet, knit and sew.
“I was a kind of loner kid.” A loner but not without company, as she had three siblings. “I liked doing things by myself, especially on rainy days.”
It was the child of one of those siblings, however, who acted as the catalyst to her doll making when she requested that her aunt make a special doll from her favourite cartoon. The dutiful aunt got to work with some scrap fabric and after successfully executing her first client’s wishes – she began learning the art of doll making.
“If you saw the first doll I made, you’d probably laugh.” But still she persisted, learning from prints how to crotchet dolls and the likes, back in the days where there was no .com to download them for yourself.
“It took a while to bank a stock of patterns and learn the skill, as there wasn’t any YouTube to learn from.”
Davis officially began the monetisation of her craft about six years ago as ‘Sweet Feet’, where she’d make baby booties and hats, before it evolved to ‘Knits and Hooks’, when she began crotcheting dolls, baby clothing, and toys. When Davis began drawing her dolls as concepts, figuring out their would-be looks, she took a few classes online, and that is how the colouring book aspect of her crafting in the early half of 2017 was born.
“By that time, I had my baby girl and she would love to draw and colour but I didn’t have little black girls for her to see.”
Colour Me Sweet and Colour me Kool was her fix and after gaining the approval of one sister and the help of the other, she was able to flesh out the look and feel of the book as well as create a journal, perfect for all ages. “It’s just for empowering black women with their natural hair because I hear from a lot of moms that their children were saying their hair was ugly.” Davis sought to remedy the lack of diverse representation by filling that necessary gap with positive images of little black children and black women. Her dolls come in all shapes, colours, and sizes because for Davis, Jamaican people are diverse and so she wants to represent that in the best and truest way possible, getting inspiration from all the people around her. Each of her dolls are uniquely made with locally and internationally sourced yarns, cotton, patterns, and fabrics.
Incorporating art into her repertoire came on a whim after she began painting more.
“I guess it just exploded out of me!” she exclaimed, gesturing to her printed T-shirts and totes and that’s when ‘The Craft People’ was born and stuck. She didn’t want to limit herself to just crotcheting, and as she had already expanded into colouring books and journals, it was simply a natural transition.
“I used the word ‘people’ because in the future I’m hoping it just won’t be me.”
Davis has been getting great reception for her craft. People love her dolls and appreciate what it is that she is working for, so she’s made quite a few sales of her creation and from commissions which she happily takes, especially to create unique characters for boys who typically get animals rather than dolls. In the local market, though, it’s moving slowly but surely because for some, the price point is a bit more steep than they’re used to. However, for time and labour, the cost is understandable, even though Davis understands the concerns of her market.
“They’re versatile and durable so you don’t have to store them, you can actually play with them.”
And they can even act as heirlooms given the complexity and care that’s gone into making them. Davis is constantly learning, joking that her next step is animation, showing her passion and commitment to her craft. “Soft skills like sewing and painting are very therapeutic so more Jamaican people should look into the craft.”