Barbados Culture

Chalky Mount Potter

Barbados pottery clays have been prized by the early Indian settlers and later much used in storing sugar which was vital to the plantation society that made Barbados the foremost producer of sugar and rum in the early days of British settlement. Chalky Mount has long been a home to fine clay and pottery. Today John Springer, teacher and Chalky Mount Potter, carries on a tradition that spans centuries – Join us as we meet him in this video.

Meet an amazing Barbados Chalky Mount Potter…

Where to Stay For Barbados Culture Vacations

Located just below Chalky Mount Potteries is the secluded and charming Santosha resort. It's a place to enjoy the rustic beauty of the island while maintaining the conveniences of modern life. It fits well into the rugged Chalky Mount Potters ambience, history and culture. Stroll endless miles of beach, mingle with locals at the nearby Sand Dunes bar & restaurant, hike the old train line, and step back in time at historic St.Andrew's church, Morgan Lewis windmill and Farley Hill ruins.

Prefer a more luxurious experience? About 5 minutes drive away, in scenic Tent Bay, is Atlantis Hotel which merges authentic charm with modern accommodation. From the balcony you can watch the colourful traditional fishing boats bobbing in the tranquil waters of the bay and battling the Atlantic waves as they head out for a day at sea.

For a taste of colonial culture, we recommend a stay at Island Inn Hotel (all-inclusive) located in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This building actually began as a rum storage facility for the British Regiment! Today it's a lovely small hotel which serves as the perfect base for exploring the historic buildings nearby.

The small town culture of Barbados is best experienced at Speightstown. Walk through the 2nd oldest town in Barbados; get local produce from friendly street vendors and fresh fish at the market; admire the historic buildings and tour Arlington museum; relax on tranquil beaches. We recommend a stay at either Port St.Charles or Almond Beach Resort (all-inclusive).

Silver Sands is the home of beach culture on the island and where you'll find local watersports legend Brian Talma. This is the spot to enjoy all manner of watersports and enjoy the relaxed Caribbean beach vibe. This area was also the home of the early Amerindian inhabitants of Barbados who were drawn to the area by the sea's bounty and nearby fresh water reserves. The sea and beaches play a vital role in Barbados life  - providing sustenance but also relaxation and rejuvenation. Our top picks in the area are the budget-friendly Round Rock Apts and the secluded Ocean Spray Beach Apartments.

Best Ways to Experience Barbados Culture

Want to see more of the artistic talent of Barbados? Join the wonderful Pelican Arts and Crafts Tour to see local glass-blowers in action, purchase locally made ceramic art & functional pottery, unique straw works and metal art, and see cigars being made by hand.

Travel to the seaside villages of Bathsheba, Tent Bay and Martin's Bay to meet local fishermen and be enthralled by their skills at navigating through treacherous waves, mending their nets, and boning the catch of the day. They love to share stories of their adventures at sea.

The Celebration of Rhythm Bajan Heritage Show immerses you in the unique history and culture of Barbados. You'll meet local folk characters, enjoy some of our favourite dishes and culinary treats, and join the cast in a lively street party!

Hang out in local rum shops in the island that invented rum! Join in a game of dominoes, hear the local gossip and talk of politics and cricket!

Step back in time with a walking tour of the capital city Bridgetown, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore historic buildings, some dating back over 300 years! See how modern city life blends with an intriguing history as past and present cultures meet in harmony.

Book Barbados Culture & Heritage Holidays

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The better way to search, find and book vacation holidays that match your mood, style and taste with the matchmaker engine for travel.  We have taken the time to fully understand all hotels by character and match you up with the best choices.

The Potters Wheel - John Springer Chalky Mount Master Potter


Video Script

First speaker (John Springer): After five or six days, the sun will have evaporated the water. It will look like this, and we walk through this important process called wedging. It removes the air and it also evens the body to one consistency.

I would normally give it 50 of these raps. Now I’ll make it into this cone shape. It’s now ready for the potter’s wheel. Now here I’m going to be using the electrical wheel. Which I will say is a little bit more advanced than what we were using many years ago. The very early potters would have had a wheel to lever. This one would have to be pushed so it takes two people. Then we had a kick wheel. We had a treader. Then, because of our production level, you had to step up a little bit. Now as you can see here, this one is off-centre because of the wobble.

So my first job then would be to centre the clay. So there you go. Once you saw me dip my hand in the water. I am using this as a lubricant. It lubricates the clay and prevents my hand from dragging on it. If I was going to make a large pot, I could have used all the clay at one time. Sometimes I can make two or three pieces from just one lump. That’s what we call ‘trading from the lump’.

So now we’ve got my clay centred. Now I can open up the bowl. I keep saying that it’s one of the more intriguing arts you can come across. I have been making pots all these years. And there are very few things which thrill me more that to see another potter at work. First time I saw it being done, I really thought I was seeing magic.

Second speaker: Yeah, it does look like magic.

Third speaker: Yeah. Amazing.

Second speaker: Yes, it is magical.

Third speaker: Wow. That's incredible.

First speaker: Now you can see the pot begin to grow taller – I go right to the bottom, I am now stretching these walls taller.

Third speaker: I imagine that if I did that it won’t work the same way.

Second speaker: Oh no.

First speaker: Eventually you will get there. My first time didn’t look like this either. Many years ago.

Second speaker: Do you give classes?

First speaker: Yes, I’m also a part-time teacher.

Second speaker: Okay.

First speaker:I was taught at the primary district of the third level.

Second speaker: Okay, that very good. So they do it in schools there?

First speaker: Yes. You can even do an Associate Degree on higher education at the community college. Of which pottery and ceramics is compulsory.

Second speaker: Okay.

First speaker: Now we’ve got the height of it properly. We’re going to concentrate on the shape. So that once all the shape is ready - I’m now aiming on my final shape. It is now this that will determine what type of neck I will be giving to this vase.

Third speaker: There is no plan. You let the clay take its own shape.

First speaker: It’s more like you are in control.

Second speaker: Wow. That is beautiful. I can see it coming out.

Third speaker: Yeah.

First speaker: I’ve got an uneven rim here. No one wants a pot with uneven rim, so we need to correct that. It should come right here. That should take care of it. Now I’m going to form a ridge here.

And in all my vases and jars you will find this ridge, which I use as a trademark so it can be identified with that particular mark here.

This will cut it off eventually.

There's a little excess water here to the bottom which I don't want there. Sometimes you leave that water there and it can create some problems when it drains. Especially when it dries too fast. So you always make sure that you take care of that water.

And you can now do the final touches on the neck there. Smoothing the edges. You now stop the wheel. Now I am going to use this bit of string, which I call a wire cutter. Cut along the base here. And then you lift it up.

Third speaker: Amazing. Fantastic.

First speaker: I will leave that to drain for an hour. And make a second piece.

Second speaker: So that dries for how long?

First speaker: I would leave it to dry for one day. I then shave the bottom nice and smooth. It takes another 5 or 6 day of drying. Then we take it to a special oven which we call a Kiln. And then bake it there.

I could take it to a high enough temperature where it would take the features of terracotta. That’s the reddish colour you see there – see the red there. Or I could have gone ahead and glazed it, which is a glassed coating. The glaze is actually made from chemistry background –

We have been working on some chemicals using non-toxic materials. I then apply the glaze and then bake them a second time - this time, to the very high temperature of 1200 degrees Centigrade. So you're talking about real heat. The heat would cause those chemicals to react. So they fuse up on the glass surface. The colour then appears at the same time. So what you actually have there is a clay pot with a glass coating.

Another case is where the glaze leaves the pot. It comes when it fuses together then that would have been your final product.

This one I’m making here is a small bowl. You can have it like for your cereal, your nuts, even for your dressing table that you can put your little Knickknacks in.

And I was able to transform this little clay into two works of art. The slate of clay into two works of art.

Second speaker: Yeah, that was beautiful.

First speaker: This is definitely too small for this so I’ll add it to another batch in the week. Here I can sell the scraps for tiles. There are a hundreds of people who will come to see me from time to time. So Most of them live in this area here. So people ask what is different about this area and pottery.

One thing that sets us apart is that we have over 250 years of culture. There was one point in time the utensils used in our homes were pottery from right here in the village. And we also use our local materials that are from right here in the village.

And you always get a chance to see the potter at work.