Shawn Foster’s fine wood-crafted furniture ... Banana Ground resident chooses wood over the land

September 01, 2016
Ian Allen/Photographer Shawn Foster inside his small furniture-making workshop, shows parts of a kitchen cupboard that is almost ready for installation.
Ian Allen/Photographer Furniture maker Shawn Foster, of Banana Ground, Manchester, sanding a drawer for a dresser in his work shop.
Ian Allen/Photographer Shawn Foster is very proud of his handiwork, this kitchen cupboard is almost ready to be fitted in the owner's home.
Ian Allen/Photographer Shirley Harrison shop owner for 20 years and mother of furniture maker, Shawn Foster, pours a drink of rum for one of her customers in Banana Ground, Manchester on Monday.
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At first glance, many of the young male residents of Banana Ground, Manchester - home of Olympic double gold medalist Elaine Thompson - are gainfully employed on their farms. It is a farming community where cash crops such as carrots, pak-choy, tomatoes and cabbage are grown.

But for 37 year-old Sean Foster, son of shopkeeper Shirley Harrison (Babs), his trade of choice is cabinet-making. And he seems to be very good at it. His phone and photo album are packed with pictures of his handiwork, particularly kitchen cabinets, which seem to be his main order.

His workshop adjoins his mother's shop along the main road in the community, but as he tells THE STAR, he is working towards completing his own space. For now it's home to chocho-harbour and a few slugs.

"See it there, a fe me dat, and as soon as the money run right, me going to finish it for me workshop," he said proudly showing the roofless structure at the back of the shop.

 

GREAT EXAMPLE

 

Babs is proud of the fact that she has not produced any 'cruff' and her 20 years as a businesswoman has provided a great example for her children to follow. She runs the kind of shop that offers a little of everything including frozen meats and a bar. Her other son Damien is a graphic artist who owns his own small business in Mandeville, but also rears goats in Banana Ground.

"Is here everybody come for a little relaxation after work," she said nodding towards the farmers seated on stools, rum glass/beverage bottle in hand as the rains force passers-by to take cover and Harrison to quickly close her doors.

Foster says he has loved the furniture-making trade since he was a youngster and went straight into apprenticeship in Mandeville when he left Garlogie Primary and Junior High School at age 15. He remained there till he gained enough experience to venture out on his own.

"I love this work, I don't do any farming or anything else, I take pride in my work and I like when my customers are satisfied," the father of three children, ages two, eight and 14, told THE STAR as he sipped his favourite stout.

He proudly showed THE STAR team around his small but well equipped workshop. The tools for his trade are modern and at close examination, the finish on the completed furniture is smooth to the touch.

A pair of night tables, a headboard, two chest of drawers, a dressing table and kitchen cupboards, are carefully stashed waiting to be varnished when the rains stop. Foster says he works mainly with mahoe and cedar but if the customers want something else he will use their preferred lumber. Like most furniture makers, he hires someone else to do the intricate carvings requested by clients.

"People come from all around the communities and ever farther to hire me, I make kitchen cupboards for customers as far as Portmore [St Cathrine] and as near as Spaldings [Clarendon]," he said with pride as he showed off pictures of the jobs he has completed over the years.

Business is slow now, with back-to-school expenses taking away all the available cash, but Foster says he takes good and bad times.

barbara.ellington@gleanerjm.com

For more information, Foster can be contacted at: 489-1542

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