Wed | Aug 21, 2019

Art inspired from depths of the seas

Published:Sunday | December 23, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul H. Williams
Anna-K Cuffe shows off one of her ceramic pieces depicting a marine creature.
Ceramic jewellery holders by Anna-K Cuffe.
An array of Anna-K Cuffe's ceramic sculptures depicting creatures from the sea.

Anna-K Cuffe told Arts and Education that she is a 'mermaid' - a young woman who goes into the depths to embrace the beauty of marine creatures and returns to land to create clay images of what she has seen.

These pieces she sells through her business, named The Artistic Mermaid.

Arts and Education met her recently at the A Jamaican-made Christmas event held at the Grand Ballroom at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel. On display were some of her handmade creative ceramics, some as pure art and some that have utility purposes such as earrings and pendants.

The young entrepreneur said she did art in school at St Andrew High, all the way to CSEC level. She was not the best art student, but she loved art. After fifth form, she decided not to pursue CAPE subjects as she knew that she would be doing art and CAPE was for people who want to be lawyers, doctors, etc.

So, straight to Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts Cuffe applied, not being sure about what she wanted to focus on. She had been playing the drum set, which she loves, in high school, and so she applied to the schools of Art and Music. She got accepted into both and had to make a choice.

"At the time, I was really shy. I didn't think I could play in front of a group of people, so I chose art," Cuffe said. But that was not the end of the options. In first year, she had to choose among painting, visual communication, and ceramics. She opted for visual communication, did not like it, and switched to ceramics, which she really loves.

For four years, Cuffe studied making items from clay, learning the rudiments and skills of ceramics. In her third year, she got the latitude to focus on a theme of her choice, and she chose the ocean. And in her final year, she said she got total freedom to do anything she wanted to do.


National and international concerns


Cuff's thesis was about the crisis that the world's coral reefs are going through. "The final - piece was a large-scale ceramic sculpture, about seven feet tall, eight feet long, three-and-a-half feet wide, showing a coral reef - when it's healthy, when it's dying, when it's dead," she explained.

But what motivated Cuffe to focus on a topic that is the subject of great national and international concerns? "I do snorkelling and diving, and I have always loved water and the ocean from I was a child. And as I grew up and got more involved with the ocean, not just swimming, I see what's happening under the water ... So, I merge the two things I love. I love art and I love the ocean."

She goes into sea with a Go-pro camera strapped to her body and returns with mental and digital pictures to make clay images of them. She might not know the name of everything she captures, but she tries as best as possible to make accurate representations of them.

Since graduating last year, Cuffe has participated in the Potters Association of Jamaica Art and Craft Fair, her first time selling artwork on a broader scale outside of family and friends. She also taught summer school at the University of The Bahamas, and since September of this year, she has been speeding up the pace of her own business, not opting for a regular nine-to-five job, which she did briefly.

"Nine-to-five sucks the life out of my soul," Cuffe revealed. "It is not for me." But how could it be for an "artistic mermaid"?