“Recycled, Handmade, Community Empowered” – Nature Seekers Craft and Jewellery
If you have been to craft shows in Trinidad and Tobago within the last year or two odds are you have seen Nature Seekers Craft and Jewellery. They have a lovely selection of local jewellery, very nicely displayed and Emma Forster-Hiscock, their programme coordinator is always there pushing sales. Most of us have heard of Nature Seekers but associate them with leatherback turtle preservation certainly not jewellery. Well, they have branched out!
We were introduced to Nature Seekers Craft and Jewellery at Upmarket about a year ago. We liked the simplicity of their designs and loved that they were made of recycled materials in Matura by the community. This was a feature story we wanted to do.
Over the course of the year we touched base with Emma and noticed how the jewellery evolved. Beautiful glass beads in a range of colours and sizes appeared as bracelets and earrings. Stylish seed and coconut bracelets were on the table. We decided we needed to pay them a visit in Matura to truly appreciate the project. We wanted to find out who made the jewellery, how it was organised, produced and financed.
We went to Matura and were blown away. Very impressive setup – all the more so because it is a product of the people of Matura. The most important fact we came away with was the importance of community support. The original board of Nature Seekers was elected literally “in de river” 25 years ago next year and most of the original members are still there. This group does not have a high turn over of staff, it has committed community members. It has come from the community and it contributes to the well being of the community.
Nature Seekers has a 3 story building in Matura of which one floor is dedicated to craft and jewellery. The craft and jewellery project is financed by the Green Fund which is the National Environmental Fund of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. This grant facility is available to Community Groups and Organizations engaged in activities focusing on remediation, reforestation or conservation of the environment. The project employs 12 people and they are working towards making it self sustaining.
This project is about recycling. They work in glass, paper, coconut and seeds. Production is divided along the same lines into four areas; glass burning, bead cleaning, coconut working and assembling.
The glass burning is amazing we could have spent all day looking at this. They collect bottles, break them up and melt them to produce glass beads. Nature Seekers is always looking for different coloured bottles. They are more than happy to come and collect if you give them a call.
There are six glass burners on staff. First, they melt the broken glass into long thin rods ( I loved the rods). The rods are then melted onto a metal rod which is rotated to form a single glass bead. The more glass, the bigger the bead. Each glass bead in a piece of Nature Seekers jewellery is hand rolled. Truly amazing!
After the beads are made they have to be soaked in water, cleaned and hand sanded. We met Miss Merle chilling and sanding beads. Miss Merle informed us that on a good day she can sand an average of 3000 beads. The beads are beautiful. Lovely colours. A single big one on a chain would be fabulous.
They also make paper beads from gift and scrap paper. The ladies at the assembly table were assembling paper beads into bracelets on the day we were there. You would not know that they were paper beads.
The coconut guys were out on the porch (they said it was safer outside away from the ladies and all the talk). They were doing some great work in coconut shell bracelets and rings. The guys are self taught and very creative. A recent addition to the Nature Seekers line is coconut shell buttons.
The creativity of the group was really amazing. The jewellery designs come from the group. They will try something, discuss it and see if it works. We learnt that every Friday afternoon is designated as a period for them to freely create – what a great idea!
The group is not standing still. They are all currently doing a NEDCO training program. NEDCO comes to Matura 2 days per month and is helping staff develop individual business plans. It was interesting that in chatting with the workers some of them mentioned that they were doing their own craft at home and looking towards developing further.
We hope this article has given you some insight into Nature Seekers Jewellery and a real appreciation for each bead that makes up every piece. Go out and support them it’s a worthy cause.
Special thanks to Tracey Austin and Shaneil Sutherland for taking the time to show us around and explain the process.
Tel: (868) 668-7337