Another young craft person has encouraged more residents to support the creative talents manifested locally. “Buying local is still not something that Antiguans embrace fully,” said Louise Joseph Ochasi, proprietor of Amya’s Designs.
“Even at fairs and exhibitions, people just walk by, sometimes without paying much attention to all what is there to see," she noted. "And sometimes you have to put out so much effort to sell your product.
I'm not saying that convincing people of a good buy is not good, but sometimes it appears that you basically have to plea, and the comments you receive after all your hard work can be discouraging, but you have to keep pushing."
She added, "The complaints about the price of the product can also become an issue, as some of the customers clearly announce where they can get it cheaper."
She called for more appreciation and support for local entrepreneurs, especially micro-businesses such as hers that struggle to keep their heads above water amidst economic challenges.
“We try to meet the needs of customers at this time, and with this in mind, special offers are made to encourage local purchases," the entrepreneur noted.
"Every year around Christmas time, the Antigua and Barbuda Arts and Designs Association puts on an exhibition where a wide array of local products are on display. It’s usually held at the Heritage Quay bandstand."
Though only in her early 30's, Joseph-Ochasi has been crafting and sewing almost all her life. Inspired by her mother, a seamstress, she began sewing by hand at age six.
By nine, without her mother's knowledge or permission, she started practicing on her sewing machine.
"I began to make little cute clothes for my dolls," she said. "In primary school, I started doing little tops. When I moved on to secondary school, I started doing bags and selling them to my classmates. I always love to design and create, make cards and all these things... anything with decorating. I guess it’s a natural thing in me.”
In fifth form, she discovered an interest in jewelry.
Her determination to become a professional earned her a distinction in Clothing and Textiles at the CXC level.
Fueled by the desire to evolve, Amya was created, derived from her middle name, Amira, which means princess.
Her work is derived from materials like linen, burlap, or cotton, shack-shack, nickel seeds, sea shells, and coconut shells.
Despite the challenges in selling locally, she encouraged anyone with a passion for art and design to pursue it.
“Whatever your passion is, you must put your all into it," she said. "Never give up ... be different and think outside the box. Take it to the next level. Whatever you are going to do, make it your own. You may see something and would like to create something like it, but don't do the same thing... jazz it up in a unique sort of way so when people see they would remember it."
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