News

In St Thomas, Finding the Cure for the Common Souvenir

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - February 23, 2015

By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor

My expectations were low.

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Our cruise had just docked at the port in St Thomas, where store after store proffered the usual: tie-dye T-shirts, gauzy sun-dresses, and duty-free designer-branded bling. There’s nothing authentic here, no locally made mementos to be found in this retail wasteland, I thought.

I was wrong.

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Because there, near the mojito stand and the ice cream shop, an aqua-and-white storefront suddenly caught my eye. Sea glass jewelry; hand-painted driftwood signs; and tea towels with marine motifs displayed on tables outside looked promising. Inside, a mosaic of brightly colored canvases hung on the walls made my pulse quicken: Could I have found my local “shopportunity?”

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I was right.

Turns out that Art Haven, a two-year-old kiosk at the Yacht Haven Grande complex, specializes in Virgin Islands-made art, craft and jewelry.

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There are silver-and-leather wrist wraps from Banana Rum Studios; watercolor prints by celebrated VI artist Ray Miles; silver bracelets and earrings from IB Designs; and tasteful ceramic sea urchin paperweights from Gina Fedderson’s Isola Bella line. I was particularly charmed by the original oil paintings by Art Haven’s owner Jen Papataros, who takes discarded cabinet doors and transforms them into works of art.

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“We have so much talent here in the USVI,” Jen told me. “I love to share our artists’ work.” And hers is a gift that keeps on giving, with a trove of souvenirs that start at a very reasonable $20 and go up to $700 for an original oil on canvas.

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