I’m Sylvester Selwyn “Adelabu” Clarke. I was born and raised in St. Phillip, Barbados. My mother always supported my creativity. When she died, I was 13 years old, and it broke my heart. My relationship with my father wasn’t the best. There was a lot of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse. Later in life, I saw that he loved me, but didn’t know how to show it.
My craft is weaving and tie-dying. I make bags, African-style Garments, and wall hangings, using fabric scraps. I like to use wool, yarn, and West Indian Sea Island Cotton to make my fabrics. Each piece is created with passion and dedication. I also like doing acrylic paintings, lino, mono printing, papier-mâché, and sculpture-like clay pinch pots.
I’m creative, faithful, and ambitious.
Being Dyslexic Didn’t Stop Me
After attending college in Trinidad, I returned home to find a way to support myself financially. Being dyslexic came with many challenges. My spelling and reading were bad, and it frustrated others. I never let it stop me from completing job applications. One day, I saw an ad for a salesman job in the paper. I knew I could do the job because I worked a sales job while in college. When my applications were reviewed, people laughed, threw them away, or made rude remarks. To get better at filling out applications, I got someone to help me with spelling. I also wrote down things usually asked on the application, so I wouldn’t be embarrassed.
Business: The Good, Bad and Ugly
Since there wasn’t much luck with jobs, I thought about starting a welding business, which didn’t require much space or expensive equipment. My brother used to tie-dye, and my mother made garments. I wanted to do something different, so I went to a career showcase where I saw a nice young lady weaving. At that moment, I wanted to do the same thing.
I attended the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and got good at it. Then, I bought a loom. Things were going fine because I was tie-dyeing and weaving. However, I wasn’t managing the business too well. After twelve years in business, I sold everything. Debt collectors called all the time. My work as a carpenter (a skill I learned from my dad) made way for me to get out of debt.
A Second Chance
Later, I went into business again. I mostly did tie-dying and entered an exhibition where I won first and second place. My business journey has had some highs and lows. In addition to college education, I’ve received business training from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and other partnership programs in the Caribbean. The training was very useful, and I plan to use what I learned to grow the business.
My biggest struggle over the years is getting funding. Money is needed not just to run the business, but to grow it. Marketing, materials, machinery, and everything else costs money. Right now, I’m looking for help with accounting and marketing.
Looking Towards The Future
It feels so good seeing others like the things that I create! In the future, I would like to do livestream demonstrations on weaving, tie-dying, and hand painting. Even though I love my job as a carpenter, my dream is to crafts full-time by June 2023.
Bio: Sylvester Clark is a published author of My Journey to Freedom. He’s won various arts and crafts awards, exhibitions, and fashion shows. Also, he’s taught weaving at Lester Vaughan Secondary School for the teachers and at C.X.C. Visual Arts. Lastly, he’s the founder of Charity #659 Bajan Stars Dyslexia Support Organization.