I love art & crafts, but in Jamaica it can be a challenge to find truly locally-made items. Meet my friend, Rock Bottom. He's a talented wood carver with a very large stall in Port Antonio's Musgrave Market, the big market in the center of town on West Street between the Main Square (with the lovely NCB Bank in the old courthouse & the clock tower) and the Port Antonio Square.
You can't miss Musgrave Market - there are always ladies sitting out front selling fruits, vegetables, shoes & other stuff. To find Rock Bottom, walk inside and all the way back to the craft market section (where you can find every imaginable souvenir). Or, instead of walking inside the market, you can walk through the farmers' market area between the buildings, all the way to the north end of the building, and turn left. Here you'll usually find the artist at work in his "studio". I forgot my camera so here's a great photo of him at work from another travel blog.
Rock Bottom looks just like his photo - a big bear of a guy, bald head and a sweet, welcoming smile! And he will always greet you with his trademark "love, peace, unity & respect" & special handshake/thumb-rub. He's a cool friendly guy, has a sweet sense of humor, and would love to tell you about his work if you've got the time.
Rock Bottom's artistic career started off years ago when he bought & re-sold the work of other wood carvers. He decided to give it a try himself, learned the craft from watching other carvers, and has been working here in his studio/gallery since the market opened over 20 years ago. He's developed his own designs which include carvings of Rasta men, birds, Bob Marley, Arawaks, slaves, women, masks, walking sticks, etc. - large and small - usually crafted from Blue Mahoe or driftwood. In fact, the day I visited, he was carving a beautiful & intricate Rasta face on a nice piece of driftwood - the perfect size for a walking stick - which he'd found while strolling along Ennises Bay Beach in the Long Road area of Portland, nearby where he lives.
I need to get something off my chest here. It always irritates me (as a crafter myself) when tourists complain that hand-crafted artwork is "too expensive" or "overpriced". Sheeeessshhhhh! No artist/crafter will ever make that statement. :no: Until you've spent the time to craft something yourself, it's not fair to criticize. Everyone wants a bargain, but the reality is it can take more than a day for Rock Bottom to carve, sand and paint just one item, not to mention the time spent designing it, the cost of the materials, tools, paint, and sales-space rental.
So, one must be willing to create just because (s)he loves it, not because it will make them rich. In fact, you may see Rock Bottom running taxi in his spare time if you spend any time at all in Portland! I think his prices are quite reasonable (i.e. "Rock Bottom"... LOL), and you'll usually get a free gift (bracelet, pipe) with your purchase. Trust me, if you don't think his prices are fair, there are plenty of mass-produced-in-China souvenirs waiting for you right here in Musgrave Market!
Rock Bottom also does carvings on musical instruments, bowls, furniture and other items. He told us he had even created some chairs for our home-base in Jamaica, Hotel Jamaican Colors. He is charming, nice to talk to, and his carvings are well-made. If you're staying in or just passing through Port Antonio, catch a little local color and support a local artist/crafter. Remember Jamaica with one of Rock Bottom's woodcarvings! (You can tell him "Joe's wife, Therese" sent you. Bless him up for me!) :love:
Here's an example of some of Rock Bottom's work: