Posted by: universallearningcentreblog | August 9, 2011


My family and I recently moved to another state.  In our new home, we found ourselves in need of a new kitchen table.  So I started by shopping online a bit to decide what style and shape we wanted.  Then I started looking for promotions at local furniture stores.  Finally, we went to a couple of stores, found a table we liked and purchased it.  Delivery within 48 hours of the purchase.  Fairly straightforward process, easy to manage and quick.  Just the way I like it, not being much for shopping, myself.

As much as possible, I like furniture and decor that are handmade.  But living in the type of society we live in, that can be hard to come by anymore, so I sometimes find myself settling for pieces that simply look like they’re handmade but are in fact machine-made and mass-produced.  When I see pictures, like the ones below, of people making furniture by hand, I can’t help but feel a sense of childish delight.  How I’d love to have such a talent!  (Or at least I tell myself I would love it, despite my propensity for quickly losing interest in art projects.)

In Haiti, vendors often create pieces out in the open, taking advantage of public places like busy streets where people walk to and from work, school or the marketplace, in order to capitalize on free advertising.  On a lucky day, they sell a piece that they labored over for days.   No Internet promotions or newspaper flyers, no mass-produced knock-offs of famous designer pieces.

When planning the first library in Pilate, the ULC team was determined to use employ local people, and to feature local craftsmanship.  Prior to opening the doors in December, 2009, Jacques located a team to build the shelves, tables, and chairs for the library.  They began the project before Jacques arrived, but a project of this type was unheard of in Pilate, especially via long-distance, and the job required in-person direction and support.  So the majority of the work was done once Jacques arrived.  The schedule was tight, though, and with just a few days to complete the job before the grand opening, the team worked late into each night, by candlelight because of a lack of electricity.

It was a nerve-wracking few days as Jacques worried that the library would not be ready for the big grand opening plans.  In the end, however, the pay off was enormous.  The furniture, while simple and without adornment, came out as sturdy as it is attractive, and there was a huge turn out for opening day.  The handiwork of the local craftsmen was displayed in ULC’s first library, for the entire town to see.

A year later, those same shelves now look like this:

And somehow, my new kitchen table, no matter how much I really do love it, pales in comparison to these handmade pieces, built by candlelight.


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