Meet potter, Carla Astaphan. She originally hails from Dominica but has been in St. Kitts since the mid-1980s so considers both islands home. While she's quite a multi-faceted person, dibbling and dabbling in everything from writing/orating powerful poetry to studying history, she connects most with her pottery.
In 2009, she wrote this of her pottery-making process:
"I have spent quite a lot of time this past week and a half producing pottery. I feel a sense of calm as I go through the process of preparing the clay. I place a couple huge mounds of clay on my wedging board, then I begin wedging. My mind drifts off..sometimes. I notice the sounds of the ocean, waves crashing on the beach not too far away....I can hear the wind russellin through the leaves of the palm trees in both mine and the neighbour's yard in the distance. My thoughts drift to my things that are impacting my life. I allow the thoughts to come and go as I enter into a rhythm with hands, body, clay and board. It's a consistent rocking back and forth as clay hits the board over and over again. I am in my own world! When the clay is at a point where I can feel, through experience, that it is ready...I then proceed to my potter's wheel to 'throw' a few pieces... The feeling I get upon completion of my work, regardless of the technique, is one of pure joy."
Does anyone else feel like we just meditated? Carla makes the process sound so heavenly and looks so calm while spinning the clay on her wheel.
It's almost impossible to watch someone do this and not think of that scene from the movie Ghost. Or is that just me?
If you feel like you need some pottery-making zen in your life, Carla holds workshops upon request. Another option: she had a group ask her to make the pottery but to let them paint it. How fun would that be with kids or adults? She usually holds her workshops/classes at The Craft House, so it's easy to get to and find.
If you'd rather Carla do all the work, she takes special orders. I decided I wanted a couple of cat water bowls. She made them right as I was standing there. Post-kiln, I just figured she could paint some generic paw prints and maybe a couple of cat stick figures on it or something, but then she asked me what my kitties' names were, and I thought, "Yay, that's even better!" Not only did I later message her their names, but pictures too - why not make it really personalized? I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product. Now wouldn't that make a great gift for someone?
These were a special order as well.
Apparently I'm not the only cat person on the island.
Can you tell that Carla's been doing this awhile? She started in 1993 as Pottery Creations by Carla, using Nevisian clay and firing up coconut husks on the beach to use as a kiln. Thanks to lots of practice and training made possible by the bank that gave her the loan to buy her pottery equipment, she kept improving her technique. On the advice of a friend, she took her first pieces, mainly masks, to a trade-show-like event put on by the Four Seasons on Nevis and sold only two pieces that day.
What she didn't know was that the partner of Arthur Leaman, former editor of House & Garden magazine and then-owner of what had been the very haute Golden Lemon hotel, had been there and had loved her work. A curious Arthur called Carla the next day and asked if she'd bring everything to the hotel so he could see what his partner had so excitedly "discovered." Her work could end up in not only the couple's personal collection, but also in two of their shops as well. Can you imagine? You can read the whole story here, but spoiler alert, she sold everything she brought in that one showing. Although exciting, it was also rather overwhelming as she had to price the whole package on the spot. She also found herself unexpectedly bereft after saying goodbye so abruptly to all those pieces she'd so painstakingly and reverently made. Luckily the check she received helped cheer her up.
It didn't take long to build her inventory back up, and The Potter's House gallery and studio was born. Carla's sold her wares on West Bay Road, Basseterre; Camp's Estate Great House; the Spencer Cameron Building on Independence Square; outside Mr. X's Shiggidy Shack on Thursday nights; the port before there was a Port Zante; the craft market located on the ground floor of the Marriott; and she can currently be found at the Amina Craft Market in Port Zante on cruise ship days.
Makes you feel special to own one of her pieces, doesn't it? Carla uses lead-free glazes so pieces are both decorative and useable. Her prices start at US$5, and she's got plenty of small things you can put in your suitcase if you're traveling or planning to ship it. You can reach her through her Facebook page, or if you're not on Facebook, you can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If all that's not enough - phew, it's a good thing she gets her meditation in while she creates her masterpieces - she attends trade shows all over the Caribbean, so sells her pottery internationally as well.