Duck Girl. No, it’s not the latest dance, reality show or YouTube sensation. It’s an unassuming craft store on Western Main Road, St James. You can’t miss it. Or maybe you can; there’s no shingle and really no sign of life until after noon, which is when Jade Drakes, the petite girl with the enormous talent, opens her shop and starts creating. You walk in and the first thing you notice is that it feels like home, or at least like your grandmother’s sitting room. There’s cheery wallpaper adorning a focal wall, a funky duck lamp that’s a homage to her duck-keeping days, quaint kitchen cabinets that display a wide assortment of trinkets: mother/daughter aprons with vintage ribbon, handmade notebooks, quirky ornaments, embroidered letters for children’s rooms, birdhouses, picture frames, bags, puppets. “I’m really a metalsmith,” explains Drakes, who recently moved back home after attending one of the oldest trade schools in the US, North Bennett Street School in Massachusetts, where they offer programmes in everything from bookbinding to preservation carpentry. She became a skilled bench jeweller, and worked resetting stones and resizing rings at some of the biggest and most reputable companies in Boston.
Then came the global financial crisis. “I lost my job, but it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened,” says Drakes. She decided to hone her skills in Italy at a contemporary school called Alchimia. She says it changed her life. “They made you go deep. Now I see beauty in everything, even in what I thought was ugly before.” So how does an accomplished craftsman (Drakes loves that word “because it suggests that you can’t do anything else but work with your hands”) end up opening a little craft shop in Trinidad that hardly anyone knows about? “I always wanted to have a little gift shop with handmade stuff and things that I created. And I wanted it to be a place where friends could drop in and have a cup of tea. I’m too small to cater to the general public, but I can do things by order.” The “Mommy and Me” aprons, for instance, have become quite popular. “An apron is such a symbol of ceremony,” she says.“It’s not about being imprisoned in the kitchen. It can be for gardening, for craft…it’s all about love, because who takes care of you better than your mother?” Drakes is an old soul who wants to bring back a bit of the old-time days through her store. “I am the shop,” she says. “It’s a sweet country and maybe it’ll be contagious and somebody lower down in St James will suddenly get a loom!” She’s only half-joking. “I’m happy to come in here every day,” she says. “You get original stuff… things that working people today would never think of or have the time to do for the people they love. So let me do it for you.” Made with love, by the Duck Girl.