In Nevis, clay is still worked into pottery as in centuries prior. Indestructible shards of pottery provide clues to cultures as far back as 6,000 BC. Even today pottery continues to be used for cooking, serving, transporting, and storage.
The Newcastle Pottery Co-op, located opposite the Nisbet Plantation, is a source for local artisans working together to continue indigenous traditions. From 1675 ‘ 1730, Nevis was a hub for importing enslaved West Africans as they passed to other islands. Slaves brought the art of low fired pottery from Africa and the techniques have changed little today.
In the coolness of the studio, potters Armenia and Lorna are perched on stools, working their individual pieces carefully by hand, sprinkling water on the clay to keep it pliable. Sleek cooking pots are constructed by coiling rolls of clay, creating the basic pot shapes, before the finished form is hand smoothed and molded.
Local clay containing traces of volcanic sand is ‘mined’ nearby and stored outside the back door until dug up for use. This red clay is then divided into large cement ‘trays’ and water is slowly added to make the elements pliable.
When the pottery is finished, it is spread in the back yard to dry in the sun. Then pots are piled into a heap and covered with dry wood and coconut husks, which are set fire. From this smoking mound come finished artifacts.
With the beauty of fire marks in the red finish, this ancient African art form survives today at Newcastle Pottery. Throughout Nevis you will encounter samples of Newcastle Pottery in the form of wall sconces, ashtrays, votive candleholders, cook pots and vessels.
And if you have an idea for something custom, the form easily translates to modern pieces as well.
- Both functional and handsome, larger cooking pots with lids are priced on average around $150 EC (or $58 US). These larger items can be packed and shipped internationally via DHL.
- Don’t want to ship’ There are lovely smaller items available on wood shelving near the front door, which can wrap and pack carefully inside your carry-on.