Sat | Feb 16, 2019

Symerna Blake creating charms of the Antilles

Published:Sunday | December 30, 2018 | 12:55 AMPaul Williams

Symerna Blake has done it. She has given up her full-time public relations and marketing jobs, and is now spending her nights and days creating and marketing three-dimensional clay representations of the flora and fauna of the Caribbean for your walls, under the brand name of Antillean Charm.

“It celebrates all that is ‘charming’ in our world and the business is based in the Caribbean, hence Antillean,” Blake told Outlook. “I am the head, heart and hands behind Antillean Charm. When I’m not dolled up at art shows or making deliveries, I am a ball of sawdust, clay and paint.”

So, what was it that charmed her away from jobs that could have launched her into high-profile management statuses, and opportunities that others can only dream of?

She said she has always been artistic, and enjoys making things with her hands, and had “dabbled in art and craft” in her spare time, but did not see a career in art and design as viable. As she got more exposure in her jobs, she said she saw where art, if properly packaged, is “actually viable”, and there was a market.

“As a purchaser of art in the course of my work, especially as gifts, I started to think about what I would offer the market. Our natural heritage was a compelling motif, but wanted to showcase it in a way that was arresting and pleasant,” she recalled.

With presentation a key factor, Blake decided to showcase clay pieces in three-dimensional shadow boxes. She would now have to learn how to make them. She delved into the research, sought advice from 'experts', invested in tools, and taught herself to make the pieces.

She said she chose three-dimensional forms because she “wanted to offer the experience of having the actual flora and fauna in your living and working spaces”.

“The outcome, whatever the media, had to be elegant and lifelike,” Blake said. Clay sculptures were the solution. These sculptures, she also said, “should give you a moment of awe”, because the impact of nature on wellness is “well documented”.

“My hope is that the life-like orchids, flowers and hummingbirds, will stir up an appreciation for our natural heritage by bringing the outdoors in, and even stir up more environmental consciousness,” she said. “I wanted to draw attention to the beauty I see in the grandeur, but also in the minute details.

Though the collection initially represented Jamaican flora and fauna, it's now international, also comprising wild orchids of the world, hummingbirds of the Americas, along with flowers of Jamaica. The diversity was motivated she said, by her participation in the Jamaica Orchid Society Show, earlier this year.

The business has been up and running since September 2017, and Blake said the feedback has been “validating”. This is after many moments of wondering, whether she had made the right decisions. She liked what she was doing, but was not sure how people would have reacted to it.

Well, the reaction was positive from the beginning and the “collection was met with appreciation and lots of encouragement”.

Yet, the important thing was to find the right market, and now it seems like it is the gift market, followed by home décor.

“I have had numerous proud moments this year of Antillean Charm, popping up at occasions around the world,” the ‘queen’ of Antillean Charm said.