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Making things feeds my soul, says basket weaver Pink

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Donna Pink with some of the baskets she has on display at the Bermuda Arts Centre at Dockyard (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

On Pinterest, Donna Pink saw pictures of baskets made using royal palm and figured it would be easy to create her own.

As it turned out, it was downright frustrating.

For a start there was the challenge of actually finding the fronds. She once begged some off a gardener as he cleared up a yard, but most often had to wait for a branch to fall. She then discovered there was no putting some aside for later.

“Otherwise it turned brown and went rotten,” she said.

“I think I must know every royal palm on the island. Now people see me beside the road with my big cutters and toot their horn.”

Once she finally had the bark in hand it all came down to trial and error.

“I ruined so many nice pieces,” she said. “You have to work with it when it is wet. You have to stitch it wet. Then one day it just clicked.”

The results of her labour can be seen in Naturally Contained, a show on until the end of the month at Bermuda Arts Centre at Dockyard.

Her love of crafting with natural material really took off in 2013 when she made a hat out of banana leaves for the Annual Exhibition.

The 69-year-old had some millinery training from the fashion and technology courses she took in college. With advice from her friend Ronnie Chameau, who makes dolls from banana leaves, she won Best in Show and started churning out hats.

In 2017 the pair published Our History in Hats: Foliage to Fashion — a Bermudian Collection of Handmade Hats.

The book contains photos of people wearing hats from different time periods, and instructions on how to make them from plant bits.

Two years later, one of Ms Pink’s hats was featured on a 50 cent Bermuda stamp.

“The first time I saw the stamp was when it came on a bill,” she laughed, explaining that she doesn’t wear hats herself because she doesn’t look good in them.

Ms Pink ran the make-up department at Trimingham Brothers until Panatel VDS Ltd hired her for her skills in 1995.

She worked her way up from props and costumes to director and producer of local television shows such as Learnalots and Treasures.

Donna Pink’s baskets are on display at the Bermuda Arts Centre at Dockyard (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

“Seeing the final thing was what interested me,” she said. “I just sat and fiddled it out. I was fascinated that you could add sounds here and there.”

She took over the running of the company when the owners moved overseas and then in 2008 her father, William “Cheese” Ray, died.

Her mother, Rosaline, passed away when Ms Pink was five years old. Mr Ray raised her and her sister, Sharon, and their late brother, Paul.

“I never thought I would leave my job at Panatel, but the wind just went out of my sails [after his death],” she said. “I semi-retired.

“Being a big guy and a charismatic man, my father was very commanding almost anywhere he went, but especially in our lives. He was like a super dad to me.”

She always admired the way he talked to everyone — from taxi drivers to the governor — in exactly the same way.

“You watch those sorts of things when you are a kid,” Ms Pink said. “He had a generous spirit and an empathy for people. Those sorts of things really rubbed off on me in a huge way.”

After leaving Panatel she did some travelling with her sister, but still had a drive to create.

“To me, making things feeds my soul,” Ms Pink said. “It really does. When I was little I was always colouring and making stuff.

“I like things that are quick. I want to be able to make something right away. I don’t sit down and just design things. If I see something I gather it all together and say what can I make with this.”

Ms Pink has one son, Harrison, who works for Blizzard, a video game company in California.

• Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens each week. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

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Published September 21, 2022 at 7:49 am (Updated September 22, 2022 at 8:14 am)

Making things feeds my soul, says basket weaver Pink

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