A Feast for the Eyes

Wild Orchid De­signs

Tropical Traveller Magazine - - ISLANDFEATURE -

The won­der­ful thing about dis­cov­er­ing the Pink Plan­ta­tion House is that the sur­prises just keep com­ing: ar­riv­ing at the en­trance through the gar­den path, two storeys peek over the sur­round­ing trees and stately trav­eller palm, and it in the sun­shine the house truly glows - well, pink! Inside there is an in­ti­mate, fam­ily feel and an ob­vi­ous sense of his­tory; the house re­ally does have a quaint, Caribbean am­biance, but turn a cor­ner and a pro­fu­sion of colour re­veals another one of its charms.

Wild Orchid De­signs is the showcase for Michelle's prodi­gious artistry, walls lined with her paint­ings, shelves and an­tique fur­ni­ture pieces bulging with hand-painted ceram­ics and pot­tery, ta­bles dis­play­ing a vi­brant range of silk-screened place­mats, all de­signed by Michelle and cre­ated up­stairs in the stu­dio. Housed in the for­mer great room, the Wild Orchid store is li­able to dis­tract even the hun­gri­est vis­i­tor for a browse. Orig­i­nally a painter, Michelle be­came a ce­ramic artist four­teen years ago, when she couldn’t find the right plates for her fam­ily’s Coal Pot Restau­rant, so, ne­ces­sity be­ing the mother of in­ven­tion, she taught her­self another out­let for her artistry.

“I or­dered the clay, the paints, a kiln and said let’s give this a try. I learnt the real hard way, and for a cou­ple of years we had tech­ni­cal is­sues like hazy glaze and pieces cracking so I brought in an ex­pert for a week who worked through all my is­sues and helped me to find the best way to make our prod­ucts through the most in­dige­nous method pos­si­ble. I’m very much a colour artist, and un­for­tu­nately for me, the lo­cal clays are very heavy and dark with a lot of im­pu­ri­ties, so they wouldn’t work for my pieces. I use an im­ported clay which is a fine, white back­ground to work on with my Caribbean colours.

“Noth­ing in the is­lands is made with­out im­ported prod­ucts, but my de­signs come from lo­cal in­spi­ra­tion and are very colour­ful, so the ma­te­ri­als are spe­cially The pot­tery re­ally took off, but when the re­ces­sion hit I turned to screen-print­ing to of­fer the cus­tomer a lighter, more con­ve­nient prod­uct to carry home.” Up­stairs, the stu­dio is a tiny cot­tage in­dus­try of two, who first sketch Michelle’s de­signs on smooth white plates, plat­ters, mugs and a myr­iad of other won­der­fully use­ful prod­ucts. Minia­ture fish­ing vil­lages spring to life un­der the skilled hands ofcer­maic artists who have a com­bined four­teen years of ex­pe­ri­ence and a lifetime of artis­tic tal­ent; leafy hibis­cus flow­ers and brightly-coloured fish are ac­cented with em­bossed de­tail­ing and ev­ery piece is fired in the kiln for 24 hours.

Be­neath the house a cool, base­ment screen-print­ing stu­dio takes Michelle’s uniquely sig­na­ture but oh-so-Caribbean cre­ations and trans­lates them into crisp, twill place­mats which are like art for the din­ing ta­ble. Up to eleven colours are lay­ered to achieve the fi­nal im­age, and lo­cal ladies pro­vide the sewing ser­vices for the fin­ished prod­uct, and Michelle of course has a mil­lion ideas to ex­pand the line.

De­spite her hum­ble re­luc­tance to blow her own trum­pet, Michelle El­liott is a gifted artist who has in­vested her cre­ative spirit, not only into her paint­ings, cer­maics and screen-print­ing works, but into the house which is now the per­ma­nent home of Wild Orchid De­signs. Her per­sonal touch is front and cen­tral through­out the Pink Plan­ta­tion House, but nowhere more so than in the Wild Orchid show­room.

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