Spinning old rope into gold : : Mr. Jacob

Mr. Jacob spins rope into goldTook a shortcut to the beach from the supermarket through the L’Anse aux Pines park, and spotted Mr. Jacob, sitting with his back against a disused shop, stitching something. Drawn like a bee to honey by anyone plying a needle, I went over and got to talking to him.

Mr. Jacob isn’t from Grenada, he hails from some other Caribbean island, but he moves around between the different islands a lot, doing his work, collecting old rope, and selling his handmade baskets and bags to the wealthy tourists on the beaches. He stays at a boarding house in the town, walks every morning to his little spot next to the park’s entrance, and sits there till sundown, making his baskets.

Mr. Jacob spins rope into gold

He first started making his unique, original bowls from recycled rope 20 years ago. Before that, he was a fisherman, but a problem with his ankles (swollen and covered in sores) forced him to stop and find other work. I love that he looked around his original fishing environment, and found a way to use what he had in a new, beautiful, creative way.Mr. Jacob spins rope into gold

Like Naomi Drakes from Guyana, Mr. Jacob puts a lot of unbelievable work into his handmade baskets. He chops frayed nylon rope into short, 1-inch lengths, and then sandwiches the stuff between two layers of invisible, fine fishing net, and stitches through everything, working his way over the surface, until he has a kind of “felt” mat, pushed and molded by hand into a bowl or bag shape. Using this bowl as his ‘canvas’, he then couches down simple designs using lengths of thicker rope, or thin, spread-out layers of brightly coloured fibres, using a needle he made from an umbrella spoke, and ‘thread’ from yet another length of untwisted nylon rope.

Mr. Jacob spins rope into gold


Mr. Jacob spins rope into gold

Unlike Naomi Drakes, however, Mr. Jacob knows the value of his work, and makes a decent living from the sales of his baskets and bags. No doubt this is because he has access to a bigger market with more spending power (all the tourists between Grenada and the British Virgin Islands, basically) and because there are shops and galleries that also carry his work. Any one of the large fruit bowls in the photo above costs a little more than US$100, which I think is a fair price for the two days it takes him to make one.

Mr. Jacob spins rope into gold

What is lovely about him , though, is that he is not at all pushy with his work. He’ll sit and stitch while he answers questions from curious passerby…never forcing his work on anyone, but never backing down on his price, either. He knows that what he makes is unique, that nobody else in the Caribbean makes these baskets, and he believes that the right person will come along and claim each one, in time.

Mr. Jacob spins rope into gold

I didn’t pretend to be a potential buyer. I told him that we live on a boat, that we are traveling on a shoestring and that, much as I love his work, I cannot justify so much money for a fruit basket or bag…a hundred dollars buys us food for many, many days! He dropped the sales talk right away, and Kris and I had many lovely conversations with him about history and politics. I dropped in to see him whenever we went to the supermarket. If I bought a cardboard plate of Oil down from one of the vendors on the beach, I always got one for him, too, and we would eat together, drink the locally made tamarind juice, and chat about rope colours and his design ideas.

Far from lonely, Mr. Jacob’s corner is a magnet for smart people, and I often find him with company. He’s very well-read, well-traveled, cheerful, and because he knows how to listen and isn’t pompous, a lot of smart people hang around to talk to him. Some of the most stimulating conversations that Kris and I have had were with people hanging around Mr. Jacob.

Mr. Jacob spins rope into gold

If you are interested in getting hold of something he’s made, Mr. Jacob can be reached by snail mail, but don’t be surprised if you don’t hear back from him for many months…he moves around the West Indies, stays at boarding houses or with friends on the different islands of the Caribbean, it may be a while before he gets back to read his mail in Bequia (pronounced Bek-way).

Mr. Jacob Scott
St. Vincent & The Grenadines,

West Indies

We are leaving today (I write this on the 17th of July) and I have had these same photos printed for him in town, so he can show his work to people when he doesn’t have many finished pieces on hand. I’ll be going to see him in an hour, to give him the photos and say goodbye. We leave for Venezuela tomorrow, the 18th of July.


24 thoughts on “Spinning old rope into gold : : Mr. Jacob

  1. His work is amazing – I love the fruit bags and I absolutely love the idea of the way he lives his life, very relaxed and obviously doing something that he loves. As a fellow crafter, I know the pull of having someone who is interested in your work for the art of it, not just to buy”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the esteem of another artist seems to pull more weight…and isn’t it true that often it is a fellow artist who will pay the price, no questions asked or attempts to haggle, for something we’ve made? I have always been more or less ‘broke’, but I’ve bought a lot of artwork over the years, even if it meant doing without lunch…or shampoo ๐Ÿ˜‰


  2. Brillint, I can see you and Kris , sitting and listening to these wonderful souls. Really enjoying your tour Thanks for taking us on board. safe travels

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank YOU, Shazz, I’m so honoured that you still, after all these years, think this blogโ€”and haven’t the topics been all over the place!โ€”is worth following. It eases my homesickness (it happens) when you drop me a line. The Aussie connection… ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. Urgh, now that you mention it, “smart people” was a pretty dumb thing to write! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
      Sometimes I just grab the easiest word, to get the post up quickly, because the internet is usually time-limited.
      But we really DID meet some heavy thinkers on Mr. Jacob’s corner…a member of parliament who had Kris’s brain on fire for a few days, and a young Trinidadian whose passion for physics, mathematics, political and environmental radicalism, mythology and mysticism blew us out of the water…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What an amazing story! How neat that you’ve come to know this artist just by walking by him one day! I really enjoyed reading about Mr. Scott and about your interactions with him. His work is truly unique and he employed such ingenuity using materials he was familiar with from his former profession as you described. Thanks for sharing this. I’m loving reading your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I am quite shy with strangers when we travel, but somehow that shyness vanishes when I see somebody doing something clearly creative…I think I know that, regardless of what they’re like, my respect and love for what they do will win them over! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Like a bee to honey, as I said, I can’t NOT talk to a craftsperson!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Mr Jacob’s work is amazing. I love the bag but I especially love the bowls. I’m so glad he gets properly recompensed for his creativity and investment of time. I love that he is recycling too, making beautiful new things out of discarded materials. It was very thoughtful of you to print him the photos to serve as a catalogue of his work.


    1. And into the bottom of every bowl he puts a picture! I love this little secret extra touch, that you might not see if you actually use the bowls, but you know it’s there! Oh, you know, it was the least I could do, since I knew I would be using his work in a blog post…
      Once again, thank you for engaging with my posts!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s