I remember very fondly the days of my childhood summers in Mullins River, Stann Creek, and the early morning outings with my cousins – all of us armed with our “kiss kiss” to catch crabs near the beach. I was always impressed by the towering stacks of bamboo, how majestically they stood out from the other vegetation around them. Little did I know that those very trees could be fashioned into the most exotic pieces of furniture, and even jewelry.
I visited the House of Culture on Wednesday to view an exhibit by Janice Young and Ras Gabourel (Roland Seraphim Gabourel), who have honed their craft to the extent that they are able to produce an entire range of items, from jewelry to rain sticks to living room sets (complete with standing lamp), all from bamboo – a great resource to make environmentally friendly items.
Originally from Gales Point Manatee, Janice Young has been making bamboo craft for 23 years, and she continues to learn that it is not just art, not just a craft, but a science in its own right, because the artist must follow a specific process to ensure that the product is not just lovely, but also durable, and safe from insect infestation.
Janice says that when she went to Jamaica some years ago, she was surprised to see all the things that could be made from bamboo.
“Here in Belize, no one was using it. We had no knowledge,” she explained.
Today, Janice and Ras Gabourel are putting to good use all the training they have received through specialized courses in Guatemala and Taiwan. Gabourel says that he is willing to train those who want to learn.
Ras Gabourel has been focusing on the furniture-making aspect, while Janice enjoys working with the parquet design, which allows her to use her creativity to make matrix designs from bamboo, forming artistic pieces such as a map of Belize.
Bamboo is very durable, hard as steel when compressed, says Janice.
The duo also makes picture frames, jewelry, mug and tumbler sets, and other items, and they source much of their bamboo from rural Belize District, where it is abundantly available.
Their talents are known even outside of Belize. They represented Belize in the Central American Expo in Costa Rica, through BELTRAIDE, and in 2007, received “Vendor of the Year” award from the Belize Tourism Board.
Ras Gabourel says that apart from its use for artistic works, bamboo (the shoot) can also be eaten, and is said to be good for cancer.
The artist thinks there is a need to plant more varieties in Belize, to help grow the industry.
The items they make have had appeal for Belizeans and tourists alike, and the team has set their own trend by adding more interesting dimensions to their craft, through engraving.
Janice and Ras Gabourel market their items under Face It Production. They can be reached at 626-7022 or 625-0853, respectively.