To prosper Dominica desperately needs to put into practice these three elusive words: MADE IN DOMINICA!

Small businesses are currently in vogue but my approach to the challenge of creating employment focuses on initiative rather than funding. During the course of my life I have personally known eight entrepreneurs who became millionaires. Not one of these individuals had a college education and they all started without a penny to their name. The billionaire Richard Branson is a case in point. I have also known scores of highly skilled craftsmen, from blacksmiths to musical instrument makers. None made a fortune but each had a rewarding and independent lifestyle.

Innovation is born out of necessity. To practice what I preach the following is an account of a product developed entirely from Dominica’s natural resources.

My work as a painter requires fine art paper that I purchase at great expense from specialist manufacturers in Europe. While the quality cannot be faulted the papers seldom meet my personal requirements. The paintings in my series Daughters of the Caribbean Sun extol the beauty of the islanders and I want the paper upon which they are painted to speak of the islands of their birth.

Hence, the development of fine quality papers handmade in Dominica from the island’s abundant natural resources. Skills and processes that date back to the 16th century, together with pure river water, tropical sunshine and flora rich in cellulose fibres: sugarcane bagasse, banana stems, pineapple leaves, exotic grasses, palm fronds and bamboo, go into the making of a collection of papers that are unique in colour and texture.

The process is high on skill but low on capital. The ingredients grow in profusion on my doorstep and the equipment has been made in my own workshop. I have just completed the experimental stage with sheet sizes 14” x 17”. The next step is to design more sophisticated equipment that will enhance quality and efficiency. The improvements will also enable me to process a wider range of raw materials and produce larger sheet sizes.

In addition to flora with paper making potential that currently grows in Dominica, there is a tree that could be advantageously introduced. Some of the finest paper in the world is made from the inner bark of the Paper Mulberry tree (Broussonetia papyrifera). The tree is native to Far Eastern countries but can be cultivated in all sub-tropical regions. In addition to its value for fibre, food and medicine, the tree is a vigorous pioneer species and its tenacious roots can help to stabilize land. For Petite Savanne this tree could be a life saver!

Although the paper made at my Antrim Studio is primarily intended for my own use, there is a niche market among art connoisseurs for paper with a difference. Also, these papers reinforces Dominica’s claim as the Nature Island of the Caribbean and as such they have a tangible appeal to visitors.

You can follow the progress of my paper making venture at: sculpturestudiodominica.blogspot.com