Wicker maker can’t find an apprentice
St Catherine resident Horace Thomas has been using wicker to produce various craft items for years. However, despite his best efforts, he is unable to find an apprentice. The self-taught Thomas, who hails from High Mountain, Bog Walk, said the trade is often seen as too difficult to learn.
"It is hard work and each time I try to teach someone how to knit and make the products, after a few days they don't come back," Thomas said.
The wicker man, whose business is located near Church Road in Bog Walk, spends several hours daily making products -- hats, baskets, table mats, patio sets and entertainment centres. He said that he feels a sense of fulfilment whenever he completes an item, as the process involved in creating them is tedious and time-consuming.
"When you are making large items like a patio set, it can take up to six weeks to complete. When it's finished, you have to sand and polish it to perfection," Thomas, said as he knitted a basket. The father of one said that he normally sells his items in St Ann, and even Portland, but he also gets walk-in customers. He added that while he is able to eke out a livelihood from his craft, there has been a downturn in business due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"When I started seriously seven years ago, the business was brighter as there were more customers. Now, it's just survival. You have to be very determined and using the Internet as part of the business," said Thomas, who has seen the need to advertise his products in cyberspace.
Thomas logging on to the Internet to sell his products is a giant step from the start of the process. The creation of each piece starts with him going into the hills to harvest 'oak', which he later weaves into works of art. After harvesting the oak , Thomas said that they are stripped, dried, cut and then transformed. The former Bog Walk Secondary School student said he left the institution with woodwork as his trade and it has helped tremendously.
"Sometimes when I am doing a frame for a piece of wicker work, I am able to build it myself. So I am pleased with the efforts so far, I just would like to train someone to continue. It's fulfilling, but at 50 years old, you need help," Thomas said.