A 10-year-old dream is finally becoming reality for one West Bay man, a dream that will turn local artisans’ talents into commercial viability and pride.
Seventh generation Caymanian from North West Point, Jean-Eric Smith, known as Notch, is over the moon that the Cayman Craft Market has found a new home.
The market, a tourist attraction, will be located at the junction of Boiler’s Road and South Church Street, land which was generously made available by the Kirkconnell family for the project. It is slated to be completed in May, depending on availability of building materials.
‘This allows artisans to vend for free, keeping costs down and it allows them to think and become commercially minded in selling to cruise tourists,’ he explained.
The Government made available $125,000 for the project in its last budget and the Department of Tourism has made $40,000 available from its budget.
The market will involve a rotation of artists from Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands, accommodating about 10 different artisans on any one day.
The new home for the market has been long awaited and follows on from a short span at the Almond Tree and the pilot project Savour the Flavour on Cardinal Avenue.
It was Notch’s company, Youngblood Productions, that first came up with the concept to give local artisans the chance to interact with tourists and provide an economic opportunity for them.
He explained, ‘There is great difficulty in getting a retail space, because of overheads and all that goes with it, for art that should be reasonably priced.’
However, believing firmly in the concept that there is strength in numbers, Notch kept pushing forward with the project. He thanked Minister for Tourism McKeeva Bush for being approachable on the project and he also praised the Department of Tourism and Tourism Attractions Board for their involvement.
Notch explained that the idea of a craft market is a very popular concept with other Caribbean islands. The rules of the market will be set by the Tourism Attractions Board under CEO Gilbert Connolly, and Notch (on behalf of his company Youngblood Productions) will regulate them as part of the on-site management.
Vocalist with the band Localmotion and a musician since the age of 11, Notch has an inherent love of creativity, local craftwork and knowledge as his grandmother raised her family on indigenous arts and crafts.
‘We’re forgetting our past and we need to have an awareness of where we’re coming from. This is a chance for those who have any type of entrepreneurship to develop it and sustain themselves and do what they choose rather than be forced into a 9-to-5 job because they can’t make a living from their art,’ he explained.
‘Hopefully the artisans will see it as their craft market. It’s their home and they can make it happen. Hopefully it will help them to operate in a commercially minded way and they can expand. The work will bear the name of the Cayman Islands on the goods and keep money in our economy, which is important in these times,’ he asserted.
Although many local artisans have lost some inventory through Hurricane Ivan, Notch believes there is a lot of opportunity for creativity through natural resources available since the storm, such as wood from fallen trees and the abundant shells on the beaches.
The artisans are building up their supplies of craft work for the market.
Some of his other hopes involve the craft market being an inspiration for aspiring young artisans.
‘Hopefully the Education Ministry will invite school children down to look at the market and implement craft programmes in schools. This has a lot of great implications.’
He also spoke about the good the outlet could do for those coming out of the prisons and young single mothers in getting some income.
‘There are a lot of young talented people, including young single moms. There is a pride in doing the work and selling it. That brings other positive things. I’m over the moon about it and I just hope we reap the full benefits,’ he said.
The arts and crafts available at the market will involve a marriage between the indigenous and commercial.
The site will include tents for the display of wares and public restrooms with offices above. An important feature of the site will be a roundabout to allow buses to drop off passengers and then swing through it and back into George Town again.
The plan is that the Craft Market will open on days of the week cruise ships are in George Town. The outlet will also serve as a live music venue for local artists, incorporating a live sound into the craft market buzz in which artists can have their CDs on sale.
The market will also serve as a wonderful area for residents to visit. It will be a wireless area where people can have internet access on their laptops and relax and enjoy the atmosphere of Cayman’s own Craft Market.