Skilled craftsman Skilled craftsman - Furniture making a labour of love for Lennox James

January 14, 2021
Lennox James is putting together one of his masterpieces.
Lennox James is putting together one of his masterpieces.

When Lennox James lost his grandmother in 1993, he returned to his Guys Hill, St Catherine home to build her a coffin as the family was not in a position to buy one from the funeral home. James, at the time, was living in Kingston, and was plying his trade as a cabinet maker, a job he has been doing since 1980.

After completing his coffin-making assignment, James remained in the rural community, where he carried on his furniture-making job. Fast-forward 27 years, James has made a name for himself as a skilled craftsman.

"People patronise me here in the country because they see me doing good work and they love what I do," he said. On Tuesday, when THE STAR visited James' woodwork shop, he was hard at work constructing a frame. Sawdust, which was scattered about the yard, told the tale of a workshop that is actively in use. It was also impossible not to notice his skilfully finished antique-looking pieces.

Give me more drive

"Me have a passion for it because I have been doing it for a while, and this build my life and give me all that I have," said James. "Every time I make the furniture, one of my neighbours come over and take the pictures, and when me see them on the phone, it give me more drive to do more things."

James' love for art and craft is what led him to the trade of furniture making. It was the best decision he has ever made.

"Me was a carver from long-time because me love drawing, so me used to make stuff from coconut shell, like jewellery and bags, but it use to be like hand-to-mouth thing. So I said I have to really use my talent to do something better," he said.

"Then one day, me a come from the craft market and me see a man downtown Kingston making some furniture; so I stopped and was watching him, and he said I can come and learn if I want, and I never left him until I learn the skill."

The 60-year-old said that it was quite challenging for him when he started his business in the northeast St Catherine community.

"Me never really have nuh shop at the time, but then I remember that my grandmother leave a piece a land on the roadside for me, and me put three sheet a zinc on some stick, like a little hut, and start make the furniture them under there," he said.

"The first thing me make was a dresser and a whatnot, and a Englishwoman buy them from me. Is that money me use at the time and buy a portion of board and the spraying material for the furniture, and start the business," said James.

From then, it has been a rewarding journey for this furniture maker, who told THE STAR that business has only become sluggish since the COVID-19 pandemic.

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