Artist lives dream left by grandmother

Virginia Christian at her stall at the National Museum's Looky Ya event. - Photo: Jewel Levy

Carrying on a craft passed on by her grandmother, Virginia Christian displays at her craft stall a wide array of the colorful and fascinating items she has created.

On her table there are handmade cotton aprons highlighting Cayman’s colorful roosters, jewelry made from coconut and seashells, dolls dressed in fancy outfits, bags, table mats, hats and much more to entice her customers.

“From the time I was small, I loved to play with dollies and make different things when my grandmother would throw away her cloth clippings … I would use them to make my own designs … guess I inherited that from her, but not without the stern words to keep out of her way,” Mrs. Christian, 60, said, recalling precious memories.

“She would tell me go, leave me, sit down, you cannot do this, but I lingered round to see what she was doing and it began from there,” she said.

While she makes a small income from selling her craft items, Mrs. Christian said she did not realize she could make a living from what she really loved to do until she suffered an unexpected career change, two heart attacks and diabetes. As her health situation required her to take it easy, a work day became sitting quietly in front of the sewing machine and working on materials to make jewelry at her home on Mockingbird Road.

“Working on my crafts is stress-free and calming,” she said. “The thing about crafting is, it is something you have to desire. You have to have it in your body … sometimes people do it just for a hobby, but when I do something, I have to put all the love into that piece. I even talk to my pieces when I am doing them.”

Looking back on her life, it seems as if Mrs. Christian was always pushed into developing the gift she had received early in her childhood. Her grandmother was a multi-talented crafter, artist and seamstress and her childhood was surrounded with her colorful works of art. Mrs. Christian’s art teacher saw her talents and drew her outside one day to tell her to further her education in that field. Despite all of that, Mrs. Christian choose other career paths.

After attending art school in Costa Rica, she went to Jamaica and began working in the Costa Rican Embassy in Kingston. It was there she met East End resident Warren Conolly.

Mr. Conolly was looking for a helper and asked her if she would like to come to Cayman to work for him. After working for Mr. Conolly for two years, she made her way back to Costa Rica, only to return a short time later to marry Tony Christian.

One day at the Bodden Town clinic she met a counselor from Caribbean Haven who told her she had good counseling skills from her interaction with his clients. Mrs. Christian took some courses and started working at Caribbean Haven, teaching mathematics and crafts to clients. After 11 years she was forced to retire because of ill health.

It was while relaxing at home that her crafting ideas came back to her.

“I could not sleep; at night my mind just kept running away with so many craft ideas I would get up and just do it,” she said.