I was told about a unique treehouse in Ranch Hill, Portland, and recently met the owner/builder, Junior, . From the words Jah Jah Bless carved into the bushes at the entrance, and seeing grass hearts growing inside the concrete driveway.... well let's just say the vibes were strong from the start.
Junior exudes happiness, humbleness and peace, along with something that makes you suspect his descendants were African kings. A very tall man. An artist. A true outsider artist. An artist of the land and the trees and whatever else he puts his hand to. Creativity surrounds him and you too if you are fortunate enough to meet. He makes everything beautiful. Literally.
Junior built his treehouse because of a Japanese woman he met some years ago. She suggested he build a treehouse and he decided he would do it. (In the hope she would return) The Laughing Tree House is a work in progress, built organically with hand tools. The land surrounding the treehouse has many tropical edibles. Junior loves to farm and the farm loves him back. (based on the amount of food available on his land). Junior is also a brickmason, and is building a house for his mother as time and finances permit. Current plans to help reach those goals, involve collaborating on sustainability projects, in particular - making breadfruit flour. Thanks to the brilliant Mary McLaughlin at TREES THAT FEED for their knowledge and assistance in this area. Breadfruit will soon be ready, and we will get to work drying and preparing it. Updates posted when that is in the works so everyone can learn the process for themselves. We are also experimenting with drying tropical fruits and medicinal plants. A Laughing Treehouse 100% natural produce brand will be launched soon. Through partnerships with like minded people, we can all reach the goals we set for ourselves. "Ain't nuthin' to it - but to do it" And this visionary brother most definitely is doing it.
So many creative people residing in Portland, Jamaica - I hardly know where to start. Fairy Hill has some of the best artists and stores though in my eyes. Seen this craft shop many times on my way to Port Antonio from Long Bay, and one day my taxi driver stopped to say hi. Very thankful he did. The store is run by Junior, a gifted young man in his early 30's. He has a team of fellow artists (including his mother), who work on the items you see.
The store is located on the main road that goes through Fairy Hill. They specialize in handmade woven items, the weaving skills passed on and preserved through Junior's family, and via their ancestors in West Africa. They also feature beautiful crocheted products and all kinds of natural items. (at really great prices and without any pressure to buy) Junior's store will become Jamaica Naturally's home base in Portland. Our days are spent weaving, designing, painting, sewing, carving and much more. Today I sewed the first of two flags, and the brothers found the right size bamboo to place it on, and we launched it high in the air. Beautiful individuals here making art every day, staying positive, peaceful and progressive. Nothing like working together. So much can be accomplished.
Please support the artists and their work when you see our online store launch within the next week. All products online are 100% natural and made in Jamaica. If you are in Jamaica, please stop by, say hello, and remember Winifred Beach is just around the corner. You can walk to the beach from the store. A gorgeous place and one of the only calm clean beaches in Portland still free for locals and visitors alike. Say hi to our fellow artist Lee at his booth there who makes stunning jewelry pieces using locally sourced materials.
One of our collaborating farmer's is located less than 1/4 mile away, if anyone wants to camp and learn about the land with a young Maroon farmer, this is where you need to be. Backra has vast knowledge of edible and medicinal plants and is a roots man living in harmony with his environment. Please contact us if you plan on visiting Jamaica and want to experience the natural vibez with good people in great places. We link you directly.
Designing on a calabash
There are quite a few ways to design on a calabash, all with unique results.
You can carve on a calabash with simple carving tools or a knife when it is still green and easier to carve into. Easier because the outside surface has not dried and hardened. It does get hard very quickly though so make sure if you choose to design while still green, you work fairly fast. Think ahead about how detailed the design is going to be. You can draw your design on the surface with a pencil and erase later or remove with the technique you decide to use. (carving out the area drawn)
can be done in a few ways.
1. With a soldering type tool plugged into an electrical outlet. (slow unless you invest in the expensive ones.
2. You can also burn into a calabash using the sun and a magnifying glass. This takes a very steady hand. Make sure you wear dark sunglasses while doing this. And AVOID moving the magnifying glass near your skin. Helps to position the elbow of your 'drawing' hand onto a solid surface' to have more control with the design.
3. The other way is to make some tools from metal and heat in a fire or on the stove. Make sure handles are leather bound to avoid heat traveling up into the handle area.
4. You can also darken the calabash skin carefully over the stove on a low heat, or in coals that are not too hot. This technique makes the area much darker, and then it can be carved into when cooled. The areas you carve into will become much more contrasted with the blackened area surrounding it. The combination of burning and carving is one of my favorite ways to decorate a calabash.
Parts of the calabash can be cut away, or drilled to create designs and results in beautiful effects with light. These can be turned into lamps, and covers for tealights creating beautiful lighting effects.
Weaving elements can be added to a calabash, as well as shells, beads or leather. Holes can be drilled in order to put cordage through for this purpose. The possibilities are endless. Many of the techniques described here are used for gourd designs as well. Gourds have different shapes and grow on vines. They are much softer than calabash. Hope you have fun designing natural and functional art forms..
If you want to find some calabash trees in Portland, please contact us and we can link you with someone who can take you on a nature hike to collect a few. Please do not deplete the tree and leave some for others. More tropical nature based projects coming soon.
The images below show some excellent examples by contemporary calabash artists using the techniques described. We are still working on our calabash shown in main photo above utilizing solar design. (Its been raining a lot lately) Will post when they are complete.
Jack Ruby - gone but never forgotten. My early years in Jamaica from 1982 are filled with memories of Jack Ruby's music sessions at his home and business at 1 Music Ave, Ocho Rios. The name of the street has changed but it will always be Music Ave to me. Jack Ruby was most definitely a visionary way ahead of his time. He was constantly listening and reasoning, giving advice to local young men who wanted him to hear their songs and lyrics. Brigadier Jerry, U-Roy, Tiger, SuperCat, Nicodemus, Junior Demus are just a few of the people I got to see at Jack Ruby's back then. Slow winding, slow grinding all night, It was well worth riding from Long Bay on a 50cc motorbike to Ochi and see Briggy do his thing. FatJaw on the turntables, plus nuff young hopefuls hoping to get a turn on the mic. Early morning breakfasts at the restaurant next to his home gave you a reason to stick around longer after the dance was done and way longer than you probably needed to stay. But you just felt like you needed to be there. Like history was being made, but you were not quite aware of it at the time...you just felt the vibez and couldn't leave. That was Jack Ruby's. Felt like magic. Check out the clips and feel the vibez for yourself.