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Welcome to the Craft Cottage

New small business puts handmade items back into the spotlight
  • The Craft Cottage. Kyle Smith / TNG

SONIA FARMER
Guardian Columnist/Sales Executive
sonia@nasguard.com

Published: Mar 03, 2012

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Tucked away into the lush gardens of Doongalik Studios on Village Road sits a charming cottage with a quaint front porch, wind chimes in the windows and shelves and shelves of handmade treasures.

Indeed the Craft Cottage, as it is so appropriately named, is a treasure chest of goodies – scarves with elaborate pendants, statement jewelry pieces, whimsical hand-painted household items, statement bags, luscious soaps and body scrubs, and more.

But no matter the item, patrons who visit the space are sure to find pieces with delightfully unexpected twists on the norm. For the owner of the Craft Cottage, Sonia Rolle, such outside-of-the-box perspectives drive their very creation.

“I wanted us to be able to use things we could find in everyday living and put it together in different forms, thinking outside of the box,” said Rolle. “People were saying they wanted something different, they didn’t want to see all the same, they go places and see the same stuff, the same things, what can we do to make it different?”

Though the pieces are different in their handmade nature, the cottage itself stands apart from other venues like the straw market and the mall as a relaxed and inviting space – a boutique with an island ease about it. Whenever someone new walks in, they are greeted with a warm “Welcome to the Craft Cottage”.

“I wanted to bring an out-island effect to the capital, so when you come here you have those outside chairs on the porch to relax, for example,” said Rolle.

“I always say to the married women, when you come in with your husbands, leave them on the porch, they can relax on the porch and have a nice lemonade. The children are free to walk the grounds and visit Doongalik gallery as well,” she said. “So it was fitting to have this setting and it’s different from the downtown crowds and going to the mall – it’s more relaxed; it’s more settled. There’s something here for everyone.”

Rolle, who received a Jump Start government grant to help small local businesses for the Craft Cottage, approached four other women she knew had the same mindset and whose creations contributed to an island-chic aesthetic that locals and visitors alike would enjoy.

“They were housewives who were staying home while husbands were at work and they said, you know, we have a little gift, a little talent, something we want to bring out,” said Rolle, “and I thought hey, why don’t we married ladies get together and have things we’re doing right in our homes displayed and brought to the public art large?”

“This is something we do that makes a statement, that says you can be a stay-at-home mom or wife and still have a career doing something that you love, putting your hands together to bring forth crafts that can be sold.”

Indeed one of the ladies, Sosefina Christie, produces handmade jewelry under her business Ba’nesian Creative Designs. Taking inspiration from everything island living has to offer, from shells to sand dollars to seeds, she produces statement pieces for the adventurous woman. Her designs have been featured in many magazines, including eWoman.

Indeed though all of the women under Craft Cottage have their own small businesses, together they have found camaraderie and a collective niche for their craft, said Christie.

“We’re all bringing something to the craft cottage – I speak about my work but I also speak about everyone else’s work here as a group of ladies collaborating together,” she said.

“Everything in here is made by our hands, but everything in here material-wise is not authentically Bahamian, that’s how we’re different,” she continues. “We don’t want to keep ourselves just authentically Bahamian – we design with everything in mind; we use variety. But it’s all the handiwork behind it that makes it special.”

Rolle’s specialty of making such different bags out of native material – straw, coconut husk, goatskin – under her design business, Sonique Couture, led her to showcase such different creations on The Today Show that filmed from Atlantis last month. In fact, both hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb took a bag each of Rolle’s back to The United States, and left Rolle with serious global exposure for her craftwork – her web page went from 300 hits to 10,000 hits in a matter of a few hours.

Such exposure, she said, has really helped Craft Cottage too with their goal of getting Bahamian-made handcrafted items into the global spotlight.

“In my interview for the government grant, I said I would love to take a piece of the island to the world,” she said. “It’s now becoming a reality, and as I look around at the ladies who work with me, their items are now in international magazines and are going places. So I said hey, this is what it’s all about – we’ve brought the world to Nassau; now let’s take Nassau to the world.”

Indeed the Craft Cottage embodies that very driving spirit of pushing Bahamian design. Being on their grounds, the Cottage also joins in the vision of Doongalik Studios to “buy Bahamian” and support local artists, designers and crafters. In fact, it was Jackson Burnside who encouraged Rolle to develop her talent in the first place, so it’s fitting that, with Pam Burnside’s help, she would end up right next door in a cottage that the Burnsides always envisioned as a craft shop.

“Jackson Burnside played a large role in it – when I first started out making crafts I met him in the Junkanoo shack and he told me ‘Why don’t you go ahead and use your talent?’” remembered Rolle. “Even though it’s sad to say he’s passed since I’ve got here, I’m now carrying on his legacy and that this place would actually be a craft store.”

The Craft Cottage will hold its official grand opening to the public on March 17 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., though they are open to the public now Mondays-Fridays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, call 446-7373, email craftcottagebahamas@gmail.com or visit their page on Facebook.

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