In Nevis, a Uniquely Caribbean Collage
In Nevis, the art of collage
By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor
NEVIS — I take great pride in my shopping skills and my ability to sniff out a “shopportunity” when I travel. So I was more than a bit concerned when, waking up on my last day of a week’s stay in Nevis, I realized that I STILL hadn’t found anything worthy of opening my wallet.
But then I went to breakfast.
And there, right next to the Four Season’s sumptuous buffet, I saw it: In a gilded frame, a painting in my favorite hues, depicting the very flamboyant trees I’d noticed blooming each morning on my runs, carpeting my path with their scarlet blossoms.
But closer inspection revealed that it wasn’t painting but, in fact, an intricate collage comprising tiny scraps of fabric overstitched with freeform veins of thread.
“I see you like that one” said Deborah Tyrell, the collage’s creator, as she removed the frame, revealing the piece in its entirety. She was exhibiting her work as part of the resort’s Breakfast With the Arts program, which invites a different local artisan every day to display and sell their work in Neve restaurant.
Turns out that Tyrell, a self-described “inventive Trini” who married a Nevisian and has lived here for more than 30 years, faced the same shopping challenge I did when she moved. “I really couldn’t find any good locally made souvenirs on Nevis,” she says. “So I decided to make them myself.”
A proficient seamstress who, as a teen, made her own clothes, she began with burlap beach bags, each featuring a cloth applique on the front pocket. Then, after attending an artists’ conference, she developed her fabric work further, eventually taking her first collage commission from a Four Seasons guest (Tyrell was then the resort’s front office manager) in 2012.
“But I was completely intimidated by the scope of the work,” she tells me. “Soon after I started it I just panicked. I folded it up, put it away, and returned my client’s deposit.”
But Tyrell wasn’t completely discouraged. She continued to make smaller items – spectacle cases, sleep masks, girls’ dresses, and smaller-scale collages – which she now sells under her Island Living Nevis brand, online at nevisislandliving.com and at select Nevisian resorts. And her multicolored landscape, “Two Kids At The Beach,” now has pride of place in at the Four Seasons Nevis’ Coral Grill restaurant.
Using mainly recycled material in solids and patterns, primary and muted colors, Tyrell allows the fabrics to tell the story, and may use as many as eight different swatches in a 3” x 5” piece. It’s intricate and painstaking work, and a single item can take anywhere from three hours to four months to complete.
Which is why the flamboyant piece I have my eye on isn’t cheap. The letter-size work goes for $400 but considering the 25 hours Tyrell tells me it took to make, the tab seems fair. However, it’s not in my budget right now so it’s a shopportunity I reluctantly have to miss.
The silver lining of the story: I now I have yet another reason to return to Nevis. And when I do, perhaps I’ll pop into the Charlestown Art Gallery and purchase that original commission that, more than a year later, Tyrell finally finished. It’s called The Pink Lady, and depicts a Gustav Klimt-esque female figure.
It’s also $4,500.
I better start saving.