Barbidoesmiami

How to Stay Sane in the City of No Shame


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Team Tarpum Bay

My core team: Davette, Sterlene, Zach, Lynn, Queenie, Rose, Simone and Louise, missing is Audrey,  team captain

After the Easter celebrations my studio slowly became a hub. Word was out that the lady with the beach plastic needed help. On Tuesday five women came to sew and throughout the day more joined in. Zach had been helping since the first day – my master assistant who washed the plastic, laid it out to dry, cut it up and drilled it.

harvested beach plastic drying in the sun

We had 180 tee shirts to do. 540 bits of plastic to attach. We also had to make 100 napkin rings for a fundraiser lunch on Saturday the 21st. Another 1200 pieces of beach plastic went into those. I did not think it could be done. I worried. Audrey said don’t worry. Two days later she was right and they all laughed and poked fun at my concern as if my worries were the funniest thing that had happened all week, but I had no idea there were so many talented artisans in town.

adding beach plastic to the tees

By Thursday we were doing bracelets and necklaces. Together we sat around big round tables. I prepped each piece, dismembering the monofilament nylon drift ropes that tangle all over the beaches and reefs, strangling birds and turtles and poisoning whales, dolphins and big fish.  The colors of the monofilament are striking and I look for matching beads from turquoise to seed pearls and crystals. The crafters strung them and I attached the magnetic closures.  We did dozens like this.

 

Before  &  After

Friday was earring day and everyone was excited to learn. I prepped crosses by cutting old washed-up lobster traps, bait pouches and one red and one orange crate. Zach drilled holes in their centers. I laid out the findings and gems.

 

Before & After

While we put the earrings together we  compared birth stories. Rose had six kids, Audrey one, Sterlene two. I had three in two births. We talked about which of the Tarpum Bay super markets had OJ.

Sterlene: I have to get myself some orange juice

Me: I need orange juice, I went to Bert’s but they were out

Sterlene: They were out?

Audrey: Try 6 to 10.

Sterlene: And they stay open till 10

Me: They still have orange juice?

Audrey: Yeah they have orange juice, boat came in yesterday

On the island the rhythm of shopping is determined by the boat and the assortment an important part of daily dialog. As I sat and listened to their languid drawlin’ Bahamian dialect I wished I could stay long enough until I had their way of speaking   down.

On Sunday I went to my favorite beach one last time and spent the morning drawing and collecting beach plastic.

Monday was my last day as artist in residence. I packed up all my belongings, my 180 tees, 100 napkin rings and another 100 pieces of jewelry. I was ready for the Eleuthera Earthday Weekend. But I was melancholy. I had loved my time in the Castle and the Prep building. I loved my new friends. I relished in my daily routine of working at the castle in the morning and sharing my trash to treasure process with my local team in the afternoon.  I’d miss my early evening swims in Winding Bay where dozens of giant starfish dot the sandy ocean bottom and coming home salty and tired and having a vodka lemonade while cooking myself dinner and then working more into the night.  I’d been oddly lonely, but I’d enjoyed the solitude of spending time with myself after many years of being immersed in the bustle of my wild and intense family.

Early Tuesday I moved to Palmetto Point, closer to the Beach House where I will show my new collection and One Beach film during the Welcome Party of Jammin’ for Nature, three days of Earthday celebrations sponsored by The Nature Conservancy and benefitting One Eleuthera. Tomorrow friends arrive from NYC to help and party and I shall be alone no more….

Plastic is Forever website

come and join us!

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Eleutheros – freedom

a sand-cast mural on the castle wall depicting MacMillan Hughes and wife....

I am here because I love Eleuthera.

My love has been reciprocated and the island has given me many gifts. First I found the beach plastic and became fascinated by its implications. This fascination led to a new stage of my creative life where everything I’ve done so far has come together, taking me to a new level of engagement. Over the past year I’ve been invited to share the life of people here and work together to not only make Eleuthera (which is already just perfect as it is) prosper but also to be a beacon to the world. In the coming two weeks we are working together to create a memorable  Earthday that is genuine in its intent to increase respect for our environment; the beaches, the ocean and the island’s natural heritage. The Nature Conservancy, Ginny and Eleanor,  have made an amazing effort to make this happen and the new organization One Eleuthera, Shaun and Michele, are poised to make a huge impact on the ecological future of the island. I am proud to be a part of this team, and feel so priviliged to be the island’s artist in residence.

     

handmade details from the castle, a glass window light, the studded “portal”, cross on the old back door.

In the kitchen of the castle hangs a sepia picture, a history of the island with a map made from bits of sea glass and it is framed with local shells. MacMillan Hughes, the original Eleutheran artist in residence and creator of his castle, wrote in perfect calligraphy the legacy of Eleuthera’s name and the first settlers who came to escape the  “rigid imposing upon all, in matters of judgement, whereby divisions have been made, factions formed, persecutions induced.”

Does this sound like elements of our culture? Has Eleuthera’s destiny come full circle?

Here’s what it says.

             Centuries ago the Arawak name for the island was Cignateo or Cigatoo and when a certain Juan de la Cosa drew his first chart of the island this fact was not known. In 1598 Ortelius of Antwerp called the island Cignatoe, then in 1631 the Dutchman Hondeus printed a map on which Eleuthera is called Gjantteo and also Guatteo. In the 1700s the island usually has two or more names, such as Lucayous, then Alebaster or Cigateo. On very early maps a group of rocks on the eastern coast of Eleuthera are called the Alabaster Rocks. However in 1731 a Natural History of the Bahama Islands was written and Catesby called it Ilathera. Historians have now established beyond a doubt that the name Eleuthera is derived from the Greek word Eleutheros, which means freedom and that was what the early settlers sought through religious liberty. Many people think that the name Lucayos is a derivative from Los Cayos or Cays.                                                                                                                                                                                                         

A certain William Sayle of England in 1647 placed an advertisement in a poster called the Broadsheet. This resulted in the formation of a “Company of Eleutherian Adventurers” in London whose purpose was the settling of the island and the establishment of a colony where religious liberty could be enjoyed. The Articles and Orders of the Company of Eleutherian Adventurers was drawn up on July 9th, 1647. They announced publicly that the Eleutheran Colony would be a republic and enjoy Freedom of Conscience in religious matters.

The Establishment of The Eleutheran Adventurers
             “Resolved to insure … WHEREAS experience has shown us the great inconveniences that have happened… by a rigid imposing upon all…in matters of judgement and practice in the things of religion, whereby divisions have been made, factions formed, persecutions induced. Whereas experience has shown us, that the peace and happy progress of all plantations doth much depend upon the good government thereof, the equal distribution of justice and respect to all persons, without faction or distinction the certain knowledge and manifestation of everyone’s rights and properties and careful provisions for common defence and safety to those who showed godliness, sobriety and justice.”

During the summer of 1648 William Sayle with a group of seventy settlers set sail for Eleuthera. His partner was William raner together with an aged clergyman Patrick Copeland. There was also a young man, Captain Butler, who later quarreled with Sayle and they parted company on reaching Eleutheria as Sayle called the island in his dream of unbounded liberty. After the setback Sayle then set out for what is now believed to be Spanish Wells. Most of the settlers were driven from their homes by the Spaniards in 1680 and many, being destitute emigrated to Boston, setting in North Yarmouth, near Portland Maine. Forty one heads of families are listed in the “Early Settlers of the Bahamas” and to this day many names such as Bethel, Culmers, Ingraham, Knowles testify to the pioneering spirit of the settlers.

foot note by MacMillan Hughes


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Columbus Will Come To Check It Out

The MacMillan Castle in Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera

I had a restless sleep in my tower. The myth in the village is of course that Gordon MacMillan Hughes’ spirit still haunts his castle. Never mind that he died in Ireland, about 4000 miles from here, a mere practicality the spirit-world does not recognize. I went to bed with my windows open. I needed to hear and feel my first night in the settlement. As soon as the sun went down and darkness settled the town had become quiet. No more children shouting and laughing. No more passing cars. For a while there was the shrill pumped-up engine of one lone motorbike, a rebellious teenager with a new toy I imagined, going back and forth crisscrossing the small streets until he got bored or hungry or his mother finally pulled him inside.

I fell asleep in silence but sudden random noises woke me. First a dog barked, then a woman cried out. I’d drowse off and a lone car passed by or a drunkard sang in the distance. It was too hot, a mosquito had found me, I dreamt that my husband and my teenage daughter were smoking pot together and I shouted is this is what you do as soon as I leave? They laughed at me. Throughout my dreams I wasn’t wearing my contacts so everything was blurry. Only people with very bad eyesight can appreciate this dream, when the powerlessness of our disability becomes full-blown reality.

Just before dawn the dogs started their ferocious chorus. In rural towns all over the world stray dogs herald daybreak before the rooster. Maybe they are the ones who wake the roosters who get all the credit for waking us humans.

I got up and closed my windows, turned on the AC, took a Claritin for the mosquito bites and slept till 8am when the sounds of the settlement grinding into action drifted past the humming air conditioner. A group of girls in crisp white shirts with little bow ties that matched their tartan skirts walked by on their way to the elementary school that lies a few hundred yards from the castle. They played loudly in the schoolyard until exactly nine when all went quiet again. Next I heard the teachers starting class, their voices drifting up the hill and from the roof terrace I could see right through their open classroom doors to the bright turquoise water of the Caribbean.

view from the roof, the settlement, the elementary school and the Caribbean

I made my morning cup of PG tips tea and turned on my shower. It sputtered and a grinding noise came from the pipes but nothing happened. I was not surprised. To expect perfect plumbing at a castle would be unreasonable. I called Metta, MacMillan Hughes’ daughter and the castle’s keeper.

“Columbus will come over to check it out,” she said.

He was short, wiry and ageless. His once-white skin had weathered into almost black and was deeply grooved yet his dark brown hair didn’t have a strand of grey. His  legs were short and bandy, and his back was bent but appeared strong under his dirty white tee that advertised the name of a marine supply store. When Columbus and I crossed the roof to my turret chamber (and shower) he lamented the fact that he couldn’t see both oceans from this highest  vantage point in Tarpum Bay.

“Only you would care,” I said and Columbus laughed like we were both in on some cosmic joke.

Yes I am here and voila, I am Barbi scissorhands.

I arrived at the MacMillan castle yesterday afternoon for my tenure as the Tarpum Bay artist in residence.

I’ve never been an artist in residence before.

I’ve not been a princess in a turret either.

I’ve been a model and a designer and a wife and a mother but never a damsel in a tower in the Bahamas (beats London). Can I handle it? Alone for the first time in god knows how long (sure I’ve been away from my family but somehow it doesn’t count when I have to show up for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a client.)

OK. So.

I just figured out that if I stand on of one of the towers facing the tiny library on the next corner I can get a good enough signal to upload my pictures and first daily blog….


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TED and me and more on Trash Culture…

siding of a building in Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera

OK

I am procrastenating ( I need spell check) writing this new blog.

Its been a while and I have  much to tell you.

Like I have been less than fair to those who may have wondered whether I did get picked to be one of the eight speakers at the TEDxMIA talks on September 13th in Miami’s New World Center.

between the lines

Yes! YES I did.

Maybe I did not post this jolly news sooner because I was kinda in denial.

Like getting it was one thing, doing it another.

And when I write now, I have to be serious and write about what I’m gonna talk about. Fifteen minutes is apparently only 1500 – 2000 words and thats not very much. I have a lot to say. I want to be poignant yet funny yet serious yet positive yet convincing.

I think too much about it, get dizzy with info and ambition and then I start  loitering around the internet .

nature paints with trash

I visit HuffPost to feel manipulated.

Like this trash story about a woman,  Sandy McMillin, who was evicted from Walmart for wearing a string bikini that she had bought there a year earlier (and visibly worn 24/7 ever since).

“Dress code”, was Walmart’s defense.

I have an opinion on the Walmart dress code.  A strong opinion in fact. I’ve had this opinion for a while, like ever since I’ve had the opportunity to shop at Walmart (which opened in Milford circa 2000.)

You see, if  Walmart really had a true customer dress code then I’d be applying for the job of enforcer (or counselor while I evict).

With enthusiasm.

Call me a snob. Call me shallow. But before you do check out the link  to the tattooed/leg-braced/shaven headed  Sandy McMillin, who was spotted shopping for sour cream in the clothing aisle (was she looking for a new top, and decided on sour cream instead?) and her 15 mins of fame interview and  then check out an entire site devoted to the standard Walmart dresscode, link.

Now I dare you to be saintly yourself.

BTW, can someone explain to me why the story of this year’s “celebrity inspired” bikini  trends, where the fashion reporter chirps: “Kate Middleton and Pippa looked white hot and we loved their sporty chic style”  earned prime exposure  spot right under poor Sandy in her once turquoise threadbare bikini top?

Is HuffPost merely cheering me up?

Or is this a novel guerilla tactic to sell the masses a new bikini? Like, “Well, my last year’s bikini is a lot like Sandy’s and I’d rather look like Pippa diving in that white little number so off to the mall I go….?

synergy

Another reason for not writing sooner was that I went to Eleuthera to teach two workshops. (See ,I’m not such a bad person really, just a Walmart bigot for personality texture).

The first one was at the Tarpum Bay Cultural Center (The Prep) which opened officially with my beach plastic jewelry making event. Twenty-three local kids, teenagers, had signed up and on the first morning we went to Winding Bay  for a beach clean up and to collect plastic that we’d turn into jewelry. I had brought the necessary tools and trimmings, aka findings, like wire and earring hooks and stretchy string.

The inauguration of The Prep in Tarpum Bay

I  displayed my jewelry and showed a slideshow of my work so far for guidance.

It’s hard to describe what happens next, but it feels like a breeze of inspiration enters our space and sweeps everyone along to a level of awareness where creation comes naturally.

Like a spell almost.

After lunch the next day I strung a (recycled) fishing rope between the porch columns and everyone, in turn, dispayed the collection they had created. I made a short film of each workshop and here is the first one:

The next beach plastic workshop was at the Haynes Library in Governor’s Harbour.

Haynes Library porch that overlooks the beach

This landmark building was first built in 1897 but was ready to be demolished when Michele Johnson, local superwoman, and her friend Ros adopted it about two decades ago and carefully restored the ruined site to its former glory. To me it is the most beautiful library anywhere. It sits on a slip of land with Caribbean sea/beach on either side. Every summer the library runs programs for the local kids and this year I was invited to be part of the recycling program.The video below tells it all.

Since I taught these two workshops I’ve answered questions about where to buy tools, supplies and findings to make more jewelry. Michele, Shaun, Toni and others have brainstormed about opening a retail outlet, or maybe just have stalls that sell beach plastic jewels to the tourists who leave their artificial floating environment, i.e. cruise ships, to sample some “local” culture.

Now that would be poetic justice, since those floating cities are one of the worst polluters of Eleutheran beaches.

Sabrina from Haiti and beach plastic star at the Haynes Library