Pottery in the Country|Ajoupa Pottery: Weekend Diaries of an Island Girl

In my rear view mirror, the Northern Range shrinks and grows blurry. I have left my village nestled in those beautiful mountains and I am heading to the central plains. Freeport to be exact.

It is much later than I initially intended to visit ‘Central’ but I’m still in good time. There are two hours left before the event is over. Driving around the speed limit for ‘T’ vehicles isn’t so bad with my windows down. I make it there in just over 40 minutes.

Where am I going?

Today’s adventure is a short retreat into nature. I’ll attempt to make a clay pot, cup or something of the sort. A clay vessel if you will. Ajoupa Gardens is hosting a mini pottery workshop with an entrance fee of $20. It would be a waste to miss out on this opportunity.

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With all that is going on in the world and with myself, I find it essential toΒ return to nature as often as possible. For me, it is essential to center myself if I must carry on, and carry on I must because the only way out is through.

I find Ajoupa Pottery easily thanks to a video of the directions they posted on the event page. This video was awesome; the directions were clear and it gave my mother peace of mind, she knew exactly where I’ll be.

I find a spot to park my truck and follow the directions of the sign.

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The walk down the lane is beautiful and serene. There was quite an obvious change moving from the highway and town area into the more rural community. The quiet was made even more pronounced as it was Sunday.

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I could hear the birds, feel the cool air rush over my skin and the uneven road at my feet.

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Ahh, yes, this is what I drove past the light house for. Theses ‘drives’ are always worth it.

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I’m greeted by a new friend (not pictured), I pay my $20 and I am directed to the pottery wheels. This property is breath-giving. It is so relaxing. It is also close to, or in, one of my favourite parts of the island, Grand Couva.

There are a number of people around, Their ages and ethnicities vary. Diversity, acceptance, and inclusion are things that I value. I’m delighted by what I see. It is closing in on 3 pm and most of the guests have come and gone. However, there are still quite a few in the area of the wheels, as well as other wandering the beautifully manicured property.

 

Opposite what resembles a cocoa house, I climb a few stairs into a workshop area and join a line. An old friend tries her hand at forming a clay pot on the wheel under the kind guidance of Bunty. Bunty is interesting. I can tell that she’s spent many years abroad because of her accent. Often, Bunty interjects her speech with Trini sayings in a one hundred percent Trini accent. I am amused.

In the apex roof of the workshop, half a dozen bats cling to the wooden wall. They rest in their positions awaiting the golden light to leave the sky. I suppose they will get up to their own shenanigans then.

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There is a dog, or two making its rounds through the workshop, down into the yard, and beyond my line of sight. Granted that there are still maybe twenty-five or more persons spinning and waiting to spin, the dogs are calm. They seem to take no mind of the children playing games in the grass. They are as cool as the breeze that crosses the plain.

At the wheel, someone asks about the amount of time required to make a clay pot. Perhaps not the answer they initially sought, Bunty replies, ten thousand hours. It’s true. Watching a master at work often conjures thoughts such as, ‘I can do this too!’ The thought, if followed by an attempt, finally changes to, ‘Oh! This was a bit more difficult than I thought’.

Each step is intricate and requires active thought and attention. Each step, from the very beginning of the process that we interact with. One must heartily throw the ball of clay into the center of the wheel’s plate. Resting it on like a plate onto a table will not work. Bunty wears an apron, I think that I should have worn one too.

Besides me are two stands, one holds works in progress and the other, all of the dyes and powdery chemicals used. On one of the containers I see this warning:
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Waiting in the line each of us picks up some of the instruction from the persons ahead of us. However, it isn’t until the clay is under the person’s hands on the wheel, that they can make complete sense of the instructions they have heard.

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There are some things that were not too difficult to make immediate sense of. For instance, when it is all done, hold the line taught to separate the clay piece that you’ve made, from the wheel’s plate before lifting it off.

Bunty guides each person through the steps of centering, shaping and finishing the clay vessel on the wheel.

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I’m the last one to have a go at this clay pot making. Surprisingly, it is my first time doing this. (As far as I remember, if I’ve done this before and don’t remember, I’ll be delighted for you to share your memories with me.)

I smack my clay into theΒ almost center and wet my hands with some water. On comes the wheel. I push the lever and increase the speed of the spinning. The clay feels strange in my hands. I am very much on my first hour of ten thousand.

Bunty guides me and my hands, I use my palms and not my fingers, as instructed. I try to keep my thumb straight as I push it down the center of the clay and form the opening of my vessel. As the wheel spins, an actual, real life, clay pot is formed at my hands. I’m stoked!

It looks like my first clay pot will be a success. Well, it is a success. It transitioned from an ordinary clay pot to an exquisite work of contemporary art.

I’m flattering myself. I hope you can understand that my pot went from a decent little thing in need of a bit of shaping into an oddly shaped, uneven mystery. I am delighted. I did it!

My little pot was so wonderful that I took pleasure in returning it to the mass of clay from the pots created throughout the day. I could take it home but I decide against this. There are enough ‘things’ that I own. Returning it to the clay is its best use. Unfortunately, I forget to take a picture before changing the form of its existence. Take my word for it, it was a real work of art.

Here is what it looked like when I was all done with it:
(It is the bit at the top)
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Pleased with myself for actually leaving home alone and heading out here to do something that I wanted to do, I smile. Often I cannot find company for my adventures. Sometimes, more frequently than I’d like, I’m refused permission to go wander across our beautiful country. Such as a response to theΒ criminal activity in this land. However, the video with directions was wonderful in easing any apprehension that I had. At least I knew that I would not get lost.

I chat with Bunty for a bit. Her grandson and his friend are visiting from England. They move around the workshop talking about the pottery process and making figurines.Β I can tell that Bunty is pleased to have her grandson around.

 

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After our chat, I go to explore the garden for a short while. There are many varieties of plants. Fruit trees, flower, and green plants. This is definitely one of my favourite parts of the country.

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(The group of pictures further up were taken on this walk.)

I head into the house and I’m offered lime juice and cake. In a beautiful clay cup, I sip this refreshing lime juice.

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I meet some people and look at the different completed pieces that are on sale. The work is stunning! (I’ll put links to the artists below.)

 

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It is time for me to head back to my North Western village. I leave and drive back onto the busy highway. I am renewed. I am relaxed. I am calm. With the windows down and the breeze flowing through my truck, Beetle, I cannot help but think of how happy I feel. Everything may not be okay. Some things are far from okay right now, but things will change. I remember the encouraging words of a friend’s mother and smile. One day I’ll be on the other end of this situation, one morning I’ll wake up and it won’t be at the forefront of my mind. It will pass. I’m certain. We are only a mist in the morning grass. We are meaningless in the great scheme of things but oh so meaningful on the small change. Small changes cause world change.

Find your center, find peace.

The Ajoupa Garden is open before 10 am and after 4 pm. There is also a cabin on the property which is available for rent. It boasts a classic Grand Couva-esque view. While I have not been to the cabin, if it is anything like the main house, it is a true gem. There are Raku pottery workshops between January and July. Here is some contact information for Ajoupa.
website:Β http://www.ajoupapottery.com/homeΒ (Upcoming workshops, pictures & history)
facebook:Β https://www.facebook.com/ajoupagardens/
instagram:Β https://www.instagram.com/ajoupapottery/
phone:Β 1(868)673 0605
location: Chickland, Freeport
airbnb:Β Stay at Ajoupa Gardens
Hosts: Bunty & Rory O’Conner
artist whose work is pictured: Adam Williams (www.adam-ceramics.com)

******This is not a paid post. I’m writing about my Sunday evening adventure. I think it is a lovely place that others should check out.

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Stay adventurous, stay salty, stay in,
Rushell

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8 thoughts on “Pottery in the Country|Ajoupa Pottery: Weekend Diaries of an Island Girl

  1. Hi Rushell,

    It was a pleasure to meet you and to get acquainted with your hands ….especially. I saw so many yesterday! Good luck with your travels and come back soon.

    Bunty

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    1. Hello Bunty,
      Thank you for your kind wishes. I will certainly send you this photograph, it was on my list of things to do before you even asked. I’m looking forward to visiting again when I return.
      Kindly,
      Rushell

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  2. Rushell, bunty again. I have tried to steal the photo of me and the two boys from your blog. It is a treasure. Often so difficult to hold down a couple of young boys and a grannie and immortalize them. Could you e mail it to me on bunty@ajoupapottery.com? I am very grateful. Thank you.

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  3. Pottery … real tranquility and peace when you sit at the wheel and try to transform mud into a form. I’m mad about pottery . started a long time ago when I was in Jamaica but gave it up when I returned home but have resumed it in the past few months and am besotted again.
    Hope you get another go at creating a masterpiece πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Rose!
      I really would like to get another go at it when I’m back in the Caribbean. There is so much to learn and I think it can be really meditative once, I’ve spent sufficient time learning behind the wheel. I am excited to discover that which may be created by the minute movements of my hands.
      Be well!
      Happy potting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Have been away from my site … busy potting πŸ™‚ Yes I like the way you put it … the minutest movement of the hands can change ‘everything’!! TC and hope you get another go at the wheel soon.

        Liked by 1 person

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