KEDELL LAWRENCE, 74, Nr HALF WAY | Sharon Henry
Time-Laspe is a short story feature on the blog designed to capture segments of time, life and culture through stories told by the people of St Helena.
“I didn’t start doing seed work until 2014. Miss Rose Bennett, round Rupert’s taught my daughter Carrie about six years ago. Carrie taught me and that’s how I ended up doing this. A lot of people now don’t do nothing like this, and I think Rosie Bennett was the only one up until now. But, with her sight and age (97), she’s had to stop.”
“I make coasters, mats, necklaces, bracelets and earrings and sell them in the Arts & Crafts shop. I’ve been trying to make belts but nobody seems to know how to start the pattern. Miss Bennett says she’s forgotten how to. She also used to make hair bands and she can’t remember that either. There are no patterns, everything was in her head. I’ve been trying to find someone with an old belt or hair band so I can try work it out, but nobody seems to have any.
Acacia Seeds, Thorn Seeds and Horse Beads
“I think I’m the only one keeping this tradition alive, well me and Carrie. All this kind of stuff is dying out. People these days don’t seem interested in these things.
“I don’t work by a pattern, it’s all in my head. Once you know it, then you can do it. I start off with either 4 or 5 thorn seeds for the coasters and work out from there and make them as big as I want. The 5 seed ones makes 5 pointed mats.
“I have tried to cover a bottle but couldn’t get it to work, so gave up.
“I use ‘casha’ (acacia) seeds, thorn seeds and horse beads. Horse beads are now hard to come by. Rosalie Herne’s husband gave me some seeds a while back, I planted a few and they came up, but with the drought they died off. Carrie took some to Ascension [Island], she grows them down there and she sends some back for me.”
“Horse beads are not plentiful like they used to be, they used to be down New Bridge, at Lemon Valley but not anymore, they’ve all died off. It grows up like corn, then throws up a stem that the horse beads grow off.
“I have plenty of red thorn seeds, growing on that tree in front of the house and ‘casha’ trees are just up the road so they’re easy to get.
“The ‘casha’ seeds can have a lot of weevils so when I pick them, I have to take out the ones with holes, then boil them. This kills of anything and makes the seeds soft to work the needle through.
“I boil the red seeds for just over half an hour, the ‘casha’ less time. They get very soft, easy for the needle but sometimes half way through making a piece a few seeds break off and ruin it so then I have to start all over again. You really need good eyesight for this, and to be able to thread needles!
“If you keep the cloth damp, they’ll stay softer for longer. After they’re boiled I rub a little Vaseline on to give some shine, otherwise they can be quite dull. This pile should be used up in the next couple of days.
“Sometimes I stay all day doing this, then get tired, pack it up and the day after, go again. I can make say about two a day.
“There’s nothing much else to do, so I do this.”
it would be lovely if kedell were To give tuition to a small group on her lovely patio. Perhaps some younger students would come along aswell and help to keep the art alive aswell as gaining a valuable craft Possibly unique to the island and with great prospects for the tourist trade. wish I was there I would definately want to attend.xx
Hello, we HAVE A BELT THAT WAS MADE IN ST HELENA BY a friend many years ago.it was in1980 when we came past on our sailing boat “windweaver” . we can send you some detailed photos of it. It should help to show the method. Please give us an email address to send to.
Ps :our email address is all in lower case letters .
Hi Daphne & Erik, thanks for the info. We’ve sent you an email, hopefully we can get some of those photos to Kedell for you. Cheers 🙂
Well done to Kedell,thanks for sharing!
Thanks Shirley – who’d have thought she is relatively new to the craft? 🙂
it would be rather sad if working with seed were to become a thing of the past. it was a hobby for some and a means of earing for some up until the turn of the 80’s at least. These are ‘some’ people who i remember who worked with seed : Mrs Paddy bennett, mrs bargo (over the run, she made beautiful stuff), mrs irene yon, mrs drabble, mrs bennett (as mentioned)…in fact too many to name. if visitors bought anything down the years (yachts, cruise ships, other ships, even union castle boats), seed work rated at least 2nd place to island hand made lace. great to see all aspects of island life and culture being covered. brilliant!
Totally agree Joanna, it is sad to see seedwork fading out especially as you’ve pointed out quite a few people who used to do it. It really is quite an intricate and beautiful craft, perhaps when the airport opens demand for good quality ‘Island’ products will encourage others to take up this work.