Alvan Phidd: The King carver
LYSSONS, St Thomas:
If the men of St Thomas die poor, let it not be said it was due to a lack of talent, blame it on the neglect thereof.
Rural Xpress spoke with Alvan Phidd, a carver who lives in the community of Lyssons.
Phidd, like many rural craftsmen, has been carving for years but has not been able to get the exposure and support he needs to make a living from his skill.
Instead, he has had to work odd jobs in various fields like carpentry, masonry and wherever else he can earn a dollar.
"I have been carving for as long as I can remember. I even remember having a razor and a piece of board in my pocket every day at school. It was the only thing I enjoyed doing," he said.
Phidd told Rural Xpress that his memory takes him as far back to when he was five years old when he started his first piece of carving - a van.
"Since then, I have carved birds, lions, men, everything you can think of. You name it and I can carve it," he said beaming with self-pride.
But though carving makes him happy, Phidd also has bitter memories caused by his craft.
"I haven't sold any of my pieces in a while. I used to go to Ocho Rios to sell my work to the English people (tourists), but ever since I was robbed I haven't gone back," he told Rural Xpress.
"One time I made an entire band. There were men playing the keyboard, men playing guitar and drums. There were 11 pieces in all. A rastaman bought one of the pieces from me for J$50. When I returned, a lady told me that he resold it for US$50," Phidd recounted, adding that was the last time he went to the tourist area to sell his products.
The 66-year-old spoke of the hard work and time he puts into creating his pieces, also revealing that all he knows was learnt through trial and error, and that he can now carve up to 20 pieces per day.
"I haven't taught anyone how to carve because people aren't attracted to these types of work.
"People are fascinated with the end results but are not very interested in the process and the amount of time it takes to make the finished products. The men around me want 'ready money'.
"For example, most of the men I know they pick ackees and mangoes and sell. That is what I call 'ready money'. The things are already there; all they have to do is pick and sell. They don't want or do they have the time to do work like these. They don't want to work and sweat and wait 'til evening they get paid. They'd rather use what is already there and get paid before evening comes," he explained.
Although the carver has not received compensation for his work, he still has faith in his art.
"I would encourage others to go into carving because it's a good trade. I know it's good, it's just because I'm here in St Thomas. If I was in a tourist area, then it would be much better," he said.
Phidd says if he should start a business, he would name it King Craft.
According to him: "I don't do one type of craft, I do many types. I can carve items out of anything, whether it is a bamboo, coconut, wood or ackee. I can make a bird out of them all."