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Growth & Jobs | Audrey Smith: From the love of wicker to creation of a craft business

Published:Tuesday | March 5, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Audrey Smith displays her craft items.

Today, Audrey Smith is a happy woman. Nine years ago, she was able to transfer her love of wicker weaving to an acquired skill, which she used to create a full-fledged craft business, that now provides her with a viable source of income.

The 56-year-old, who hails from Dumfries, St James, was introduced to the craft by a group of skilled veteran basketmakers, whose mission was to pass on their knowledge to the next generation, thus enabling them to benefit financially from their skills.

The trainers were members of the Basket and Tings Association in Trelawny, which, at the time, partnered with the JN Foundation Members’ Advisory Council (MAC) to finance the workshops that were held in four clusters in Trelawny: Albert Town, Clarks Town, Kinloff and Duanvale.

“I was always interested in basketry, therefore I went ahead and bought a book about it. However, I didn’t know how to start the basket, and I often spoke with persons who made their own baskets, who would promise to show me, but it never happened,” Smith revealed.

“Then, one day, one of the persons whom I had asked to teach me the craft told me about a wicker training event. I turned up to the class, and, on the first day of training, I learned how to make a basket,” she said, glowing with enthusiasm, as she explained how she would stay up late at nights practising.

Smith now sells her products to tourists at the Falmouth Pier in Trelawny, when the cruise ships dock at the port. She said her creations are mostly Afrocentric and depict Jamaican traditions.

Added products

Now, she has expanded her products to include items such as mats and trays. She has also added jewellery making, using wicker in her line of craft products. Her passion for the craft urged her to pass on the skills to her two daughters and close friends, who indicated that they were interested.

“It is beneficial, and you can make a living out of it,” she explained, “I encourage persons who want to learn a skill to consider wickerwork. It is a useful skill to have, because it will help to put bread on your table.”

Smith commended JN Bank for investing in her so many years ago. “I was very happy that somebody put their trust into a small group to learn wicker, and put money into it. It was to our benefit, and I thank Jamaica National for the funding. Nine years later, I continue to earn from their craft initiative,” she said.

Saniah Spencer, chief marketing and product development officer at JN Bank, said the Member Advisory Councils are channels through which JN Bank gives back to its members via community and national-based projects; and members are encouraged to nominate projects for consideration by the MAC in their respective parishes.

JN members are invited to visit the JN Bank website at www.jnbank.com/member-advisory-council to access nomination forms to nominate their projects.

Projects to be nominated should be in the following categories: community development, health and well-being, child safety, early-childhood education, and the vulnerable population.

Since 2006, approximately J$51.4 million in funding has been spent to implement MAC projects, generating more than 370 projects in communities, located in every parish.

The funds are disbursed through the JN Bank’s branch networks to reinvest and benefit the communities in which JN Bank serves.

For further information about MAC projects, please visit the JN Foundation’s website at www.jnfoundation.com/content/members-advisory-council-projects.