Sun | Jun 24, 2018

Magical fingers

Published:Sunday | December 30, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Egerton Brown puts the finishing touches on one of his souvenirs.
Souvenirs made by Egerton Brown in Waterhouse, Kingston.-photos by Ian Allen/Photographer

Olympic Gardens resident creating mind-blowing clay pieces

If you cannot remember or did not know what the Jamaica Omnibus Service (JOS) buses looked like, Egerton Brown can create an exact replica for you as a penholder.

Brown is a deacon at Faith Chapel on Renfrew Road in Kingston 20 and when he is not ministering to the flock, he is using his hands to make amazing clay replicas of some of Jamaica's most colourful and well-known symbols.

He has used clay to create cruise liners and aircraft, some which have not operated for more than a decade.

Brown now plans to recreate the old waving gallery at the Norman Manley International Airport, using clay!

This specially gifted Jamaican can use clay to make anything his mind can conceive.

He describes his gift as "playing a piece of music by ear". Just listening and reproducing it.

The biblical mantra found in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me", aptly captures the skills displayed by Brown, whose training is with ceramics, but who has effortlessly moved to working with clay.

"It's a rush to me. I can make a replica of anything I have seen, somewhere. It doesn't matter how long ago. Sometimes I make a little sketch on cartridge paper, but otherwise I just think it, and do it," Brown said with pride.

When The Sunday Gleaner visited him at his Olympic Gardens home last Friday, he was putting the finishing touches on an impressive collection of a sequel of Air Jamaica aircraft under three different ownership regimes.

His replicas include from the original white-bodied planes with the unbroken orange and yellow strips to the more colourful replicas, which flew under the Gordon 'Butch' Stewart-led Air Jamaica Acquisition Group, which had a picture of the doctor bird at the tail.

latest aircraft made

He also miniaturised the latest models of aircraft flying under the Caribbean Airlines flag.

"With the JOS buses, I use the openings in the top as areas to put the pens or pencils. The opening is where you used to lift up to get air in the buses," Brown said as he pointed to the green, grey and orange-coloured replica.

These were the last set of buses to come to Jamaica under the defunct state-operated JOS.

Brown's replica of a crocodile, caught in the deadly circle of a boa constrictor in 1986-87, holds special memories for him, because when that piece was sold, it bought his wife's wedding band.

The deacon said he likes to create lions, because they represent strength.

On a dressing table inside his bedroom sits a majestic statue of Leo, the lion, one of the pets at the Hope Gardens Zoo eons ago.

Still another lion, being carried by a man, sits on a nearby item of furniture.

Brown said he learnt his trade shortly after he left school in the late 1970s and went to what was then the Jamaica Industrial Development Corporation.

There he learnt the art of ceramic making.

He recalled making tea, casserole and lemonade sets before launching his own ceramic-making business in 1984.

That went belly up, because he was unable to source and secure the equipment needed.

pet business failed

Switching gears, he went into the business of raising and selling pet fishes and birds.

"It was successful to a point, but it went down because the pet shops started their own fish-rearing ventures," he recalled.

Somewhere in that period, his mind began to conceive magic and his fingers would create it.

Brown would secure the original white bricks to make his kiln to fire the clay-crafted souvenirs.

The creations are fired at more than 900°F, before they are cooled and painted with acrylic paints and ready for the market.

"My mind, my fingers and matches stick. They are my tools," Brown stated with a smile.