Sculptor Roger Burnett Creates Amazing ‘Works from Life’ in his Studio/Gallery in Dominica!

The Antrim Valley Sculpture Studio is located on the edge of the rainforest , off of the Imperial Road near Springfield, Dominica.

The Antrim Valley Sculpture Studio is located on the edge of the rainforest , just off of the Imperial Road below Springfield, Dominica.

On a steamy Sunday afternoon during Dominica’s dry season, Jenny and I headed to the mountains for a little

Sculptor/Painter Roger Burnett latest exhibition is entitled 'Working from Life', and he creates what he says!

Sculptor/Painter Roger Burnett’s latest exhibition is entitled ‘Working from Life’, and he creates what he says!

change of scenery.  But this time, we did not don our hiking boots.  Instead, we walked down a shady lane on the edge of the rainforest to spend some time appreciating the eclectic art works  in the gallery of renowned sculptor, Roger Burnett.

While I had visited Roger’s gallery several years ago, I was eager to refresh my memory  about his past works and see what he had created in the mean time.  Jenny, a volunteer with Dominica’s Mountain Chicken Frog Project is an art aficionada as well, and it was actually she who expressed initial interest in viewing the Sculpture Studio.  When Roger recently distributed a flyer announcing his exhibition of “50 years of capturing Caribbean people and places” in over 150  paintings, sketches and sculptures, I immediately decided that I couldn’t wait a moment longer to pay him a visit!

It's a pretty walk down a short lane  from the Imperial Road to the Antrim Valley Sculpture Studio. You can drive in and park beside it, if you like.

It’s a pretty walk down a short lane from the Imperial Road to the Antrim Valley Sculpture Studio. You can drive in and park beside it, if you like.

I had called ahead and booked our appointment, so that when we promptly arrived at 2 p.m., Roger was there to greet us at the door.  We didn’t even have to ring the bell!  The first thing that struck me as he took us through the breeze-way on the way to the gallery, was his effervescent and passionate enthusiasm about art and creating it from  real life.  His zest for his work infected us with an immediate admiration for this profound devotion to his craft.  We were instantly transfixed with Roger’s spellbinding stories about how his creations came into being.  I kept telling him that I wished I had brought my voice recorder – to which he replied that probably would have reduced his spontaneity!

Roger Burnett enthralls Jenny with one his stories about creating art from life.

Roger Burnett enthralled Jenny with one his stories about creating art from life.

However, I did tell him I would be writing a blog post about my visit with him and his studio.  That is when he clearly informed me that he had difficulty with the word ‘blog’, and instead referred to such personal writings as a ‘diary’.  I certainly respect his opinion, and I guess I could use the two words interchangeably, in my case.  But if you’d like to take a look at Roger’s  personal writings, which disclose considerable background about his fascinating  life, as well as details about his art, you must click right here.

The lively septuagenarian told us that he was, at that time, more occupied with the mechanical side of his artistic capabilities.When it came to be known in Dominica that he could repair different kinds of machines, he was highly sought after for that additional talent.  He comes by that aptitude honestly, as he began his career in engineering design, which then naturally morphed into artistic design.

Roger's popular books of his Caribbean art work have been reprinted.  He was also featured in the August 2011 issue of Maco, a glossy Caribbean magazine

Roger’s popular books of his Caribbean art work have been reprinted. He was also featured in the August 2011 issue of Maco, a glossy Caribbean magazine.

Roger and his wife Denise, who is originally from Grenada, relocated to Dominica from England about 10 years ago. The British expatriate had spent

Roger's Sculpture Studio displays his amazing creations, each of which has a story attached to it!

Roger’s Sculpture Studio displays his amazing creations, each of which has a story attached to it!

considerable time in the Caribbean over a span of 50 years, and had always been captivated by the beauty of the West Indies and its people.  Therefore, he commenced expressing his love for these tropical countries at a young age through his creative abilities.  Unsurprisingly, his closest companion, Denise has  often been  the subject of his sculptures and paintings. As well, he has sculpted from other life models, both in Dominica and the U.K. For Roger, it’s got to be the real thing.  No imitations, such as photos, for his creations!

This 'Daughter of the Caribbean Sun' sculpture, which overlooks teh gardens at the Antrim Valley Sculpture Studio features someone with whom Roger is well acquainted!

This ‘Daughter of the Caribbean Sun’ sculpture, which overlooks the gardens at the Antrim Valley Sculpture Studio features someone with whom Roger is well acquainted!

As I studied the busts and bodies of those who had ‘modeled’ for him, I gained further insight into the beauty of the human form.  It made we realize that we

The story behind the bust of Mr. Bearder is a fascinating one.  While he is now deceased,  he has every reason to smile in the hereafter.  you've just got to ask Roger about that!

The story behind the bust of Mr. Bearder is a fascinating one. While he is now deceased, he has every reason to smile in the hereafter. You’ve just got to ask Roger about that – or go to the Studio and see for yourself!

should celebrate our uniqueness and differences, as I believe that the Almighty Creator would want us to do so.

Roger's '5-minute' sketch' portrays a lovely form and 50 years of experience!

Roger’s ‘5-minute’ sketch’ portrays a lovely form and 50 years of experience!

I was further astonished when Roger showed us a sketch that he had created in five minutes for a group of students.  When he was asked how he could possibly do that in such a short time, he replied that it had taken him 50 years to be able to do that now!

His water-colours have a dreamy island feel, and I was drawn to them as they evoked feelings of tranquility in me.  I could easily identify with the tropical hues in blues and greens, which made me think of the relaxed Caribbean way-of-life.

At the end of our two-hour session, my mind was filled with sensory delights, both visual and auditory, from seeing and hearing about Roger’s interpretation and adoration of all forms of natural beauty in the West Indies.

This painting depicts Mero Beach on an Easter Monday - busy day by the sea!

This painting depicts Mero Beach on an Easter Monday – a busy day by the sea!

But I would be remiss if I did not mention that Roger is very desirous of sharing and teaching his knowledge to others who have an aptitude in this artistic genre.  While the students have been slow to emerge, he is encouraged and delighted  to be able to inspire or motivate even one potential artist.  In the mean time, he continues with his mechanical projects while he formulates his next artistic plan.

Roger is an artist who loves to express his ideas about life and art.

Roger is an artist who loves to express his ideas about life and art.

I feel particularly proud to report that the morning after our visit, I received this  response to my thank-you email, from Roger:

“Likewise, my thanks to you and Jenny.  I really enjoyed having you along.  And you know what, I think you brought me some good luck, for this morning I started work with an inspirational new model.  I’ll keep you in touch with progress.”

Roger, there is no doubt that you definitely work from life, for life!  I look forward to viewing your next creation.

To get in touch with Sculptor Roger Burnett at the Antrim Valley Sculpture Studio and Art Gallery in Dominica, call or email, as follows:

Telephone: (767) 449-2550; Text: (767) 225-5470/615-5010; Email: sculptor@cwdom.dm

 

 

A Warm Welcome in Wotten Waven, Dominica’s ‘Natural Spa’ Village

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It’s a pretty 15 minute drive through the forest from Roseau to Wotten Waven.  Photo by Edwin Whitford.

Over the past weekend,  cool rain showers and bleak overcast skies kept me indoors despite my desire to spend some healing time in the Nature Island’s interior.  It was not a complete loss – other ‘to-do’ projects got done.  So when Monday morning dawned bright and clear, I  turned off my lap-top, packed my bathing suit and towel, pulled out my walking stick-umbrella, donned my all-terrain sandals and headed up the Roseau Valley to the ‘spa’ village of Wotten Waven.

Geo-thermal activity is abundant in the Wotten Waven area.

Geo-thermal activity is abundant in the Wotten Waven area. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

I did have a bit of a plan: I wanted to walk up to the ‘top’ of the village and check in on a few establishments that I had not frequented for some time.  It was a quiet morning – the cruise shippers were yet to appear  and I had the place practically to myself.  This area is very popular with both residents and visitors, as a number of ‘natural spas’ are in close proximity.  They are all designed differently, but each one offers opportunities to soak in hot, warm or cool  sulphurous mineral pools that are reputed to have healing properties and restorative benefits. In my experience, I have always felt better, had less muscular pain and am more relaxed after a little time in these ‘waters’.  I have previously written about the popular, award-winning Screw’s Sulphur Spa.  You can read about it here.

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The Trail-Head for Segment 4 of the Waitukubuli National Trail is easily found at Wotten Waven.

Tia's has natural bamboo cottages and a restaurant above the pools complete the natural spa experience.

Tia’s Bamboo Cottages and  restaurant above the pools complete the natural spa experience.

As I began my little foray, I paused for a moment by the sign for Segment 4 of the Waitukubuli National Trail and recalled my adventures on the day that  I and a number of other intrepids tackled it in reverse from Pond Casse to Middleham Falls as part of Dominica’s annual Hike Fest.  We didn’t make it to this sign, but I assure you we had gone most of the distance of that lengthy and challenging trail, which you can read about here.

Before I walked up the road, I passed by Tia’s Bamboo Cottages to make sure that the friendly Rastafarian was opening his pools on that quiet Monday.  I hadn’t seen him for a while and we greeted each other warmly.  He assured me that the sulphur pools were always there for me – any time.  Wow!  Did I feel special as a longtime client of his unique business.  That certainly put the first smile of the day on my face.  I told him that I was about to take a walk up to  the heights of the village and would return later.

Just before I started my walk in earnest, I met Brenda in front of her shop, which is strategically located at the junction of the

Brenda's is a popular tourist stop for a drink or some home-made chips.

Brenda’s is a popular tourist stop for a drink or some home-made plantain chips.

main roads in Wotten Waven.  When she saw me, she hugged me like an old friend.  Although I have only seen her occasionally over the years, she has never forgotten me and always takes time to talk to me.  We caught up on a little news and then she handed me a packet of her homemade plantain chips – for the road.  They would serve me well a little later.  Many of the tour buses stop at her place for drinks and light snacks and I hope I didn’t deprive a tourist of this special treat!

I was reminded of my real goal on this morning’s walk by a sign located opposite Brenda’s shop.  I had been to the

Dominican Artist David Burton and his sons display their paintings in a gallery surrounded by flowers and beautiful vistas.

Dominican Artist David Burton and his sons display their amazing paintings in a gallery surrounded by  his cultivated flowers and beautiful mountain vistas.

Paradise Art Gallery and Floral Gardens only once before and it was my intention to check it out when I got a little further up the  road. This was not a day for an intense work-out: people chatting along the sides of the road or walking down to the Roseau bus-stop smiled and called out cheery ‘hello’s’ as I responded in kind while gazing at the lovely vistas in the distance.

Fresh mountain breezes carried an occasional hint of sulphur and shimmering leaves loudly rustled in the quiet morning atmosphere.  I inhaled deeply and could feel my sinuses clearing  as I continued up the road.  I noticed a woman working on a flower bed who seemed vaguely familiar.  When she turned around and noticed me, she rushed towards me with the biggest smile and open arms.  I delighted in hugging my ‘flower lady’ , who sells beautiful anthurium lilies at the Roseau Market on Saturdays.  For some reason, she has always spoiled me with big bunches and even  occasional freebies.  I really appreciate her generosity.  To me, she is one of the wonderful Dominicans who lives in Wotten Waven!

While we chatted, I noticed our proximity to the trail-end of Segment 3 of the Waitukubuli National Trail (WNT).  As with Segment 4, I recalled that arduous trek from Bellevue Chopin in a thunder and lightning storm, up and over the muddy mountains at Giraudel, down the precipitous river valley and way back up to Morne Prosper and then gently descending to Wotten Waven, where some rewards awaited Hike Fest participants.  (Note: I have already detailed this hiking adventure here).

Le Petit Paradis in the perfect place to relax before/after a hike, or to connect with nature or to visit  nearby hot pools!

Le Petit Paradis is the perfect place to relax before/after a hike, or to connect with nature or to visit nearby hot pools!

As I positioned the camera for a shot of Segment 3’s end-point, I recognized the voice of a lady coming up behind me.  Lo and behold, it was none

The end of Segment 3 of the Waitukubuli National Trail gently welcomes you to Wotten Waven!

The end of Segment 3 of the Waitukubuli National Trail gently welcomes you to Wotten Waven!

other than Joan, owner of Le Petit Paradis guest house and restaurant, which is directly across from the Segment 3 trail’s end!  I chuckled when we greeted each other, as we recalled the time I was at her establishment, along with 40+ other damp and dirty hikers.  She had prepared huge pots of hot,  hearty Dominican cuisine to satisfy our enormous appetites after that highly strenuous trail work-out.  Everything was delicious and we left nothing behind!

Her cozy establishment is a great place to end the Segment 3 hike, rest overnight and awake refreshed to tackle Segment 4 next day!  We spoke for a few minutes, and then Joan went back to tidy up for her next set of guests while I continued on my leisurely jaunt.

A few minutes later, I was standing in front of the sign for another popular natural spa: Ti Kwen Glo Cho. I had last spent a pleasant hour or more soaking in the big pool with other hikers after the above-described trek.  That therapeutic down-time had saved me from enduring a lot of sore muscles the next day. I am forever grateful!

As luck would have it, I met up with that spa’s owner, Henry George a few minutes later, when I entered the porch of the Paradise Art Gallery and Floral Gardens. As I approached, I noticed that he and artist David Burton were deep in conversation.  Once they saw me, I was greeted in typical Wotten Waven fashion –  with warm smiles and welcoming words.

There are hundreds of cultivated flowers at Paradise Floral Gardens.

There are hundreds of cultivated flowers at Paradise Floral Gardens.

We spoke together for a few minutes.  While they did not recall my face, they acknowledged that I was no stranger to their places.  Henry left to attend to his business and David stopped working on his floral garden to show me around the art gallery.  He and his sons are all talented artists with slightly different styles.  Their works really capture the essence of Dominica through nature scenes and cultural representations.

The Burton family captures Dominican culture on canvas.

The Burton family captures Dominican life on canvas.

David Burton and his sons are well-known Dominican artists.

David Burton and his sons are well-known Dominican artists.

The massif, Morne Macaque (Micotrin) at the top of the Roseau Valley as seen through the 'scrim' around one of David Burton's flower gardens.

The massif, Morne Watt at the top of the Roseau Valley as seen through the ‘net’ around one of David Burton’s flower gardens.

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Strictly Itals café forms part of the Paradise Art Gallery and is operated by artist David Burton’s wife. Her creative talent is in the kitchen!

He gave me an update on his industrious and creative family, and then described his plans to  further develop the flower gardens.  He also showed me his  colourful fish pond and the new kitchen for his wife’s delectable and wholesome vegetarian meals and beverages. They can  soon be enjoyed right on the site.

Although he had many other things to do, we did speak at length on a whole range of subjects – from his farm on Paradise Estate, which is a little higher up the mountain to meetings about the proposed geothermal plant in the area to life on Dominica to my experiences as an expatriate.

After a time, I thanked him for his hospitality and informed him that it was time for me to walk back down to the bottom of the village for my soak at Tia’s Bamboo Cottages and Sulphur Pools/Spa. Of course, I promised to return another day to experience his wife’s wonderful cooking.

I checked in at Tia’s restaurant where I was bestowed the biggest welcome of all.  Bernadette, Tia’s wife emphatically expressed her delight at seeing me, as it had been a while. She professed that she had even recently asked her husband if I was still on-island, as she had not seen me for so long.  Her sincerity really made me feel like an old friend who had been truly missed.

Tia's 'natural spa' has some private enclosed pools, one of which has wheelchair access.

Tia’s ‘natural spa’ has some private enclosed pools, one of which has wheelchair access.

At that time, I had the place to myself.  There are some enclosed pools, if one prefers privacy, but I opted for the outdoor variety so that I could gaze at the greenery and soak up a little sun as well.  As I moved between pools, I took  a little time to stand under the natural hot water shower.  I situated myself so that the torrent could pummel some sore spots on my neck and shoulders.  After about 10 minutes, the pain was gone.  I lingered a while longer in this exquisite and intimate setting.  Then  visiting British couple Madeleine and Tony joined me and we talked about Dominica and shared some experiences, along with our favourite places.  Madeleine had a tender shoulder, so I suggested that she try the natural ‘shiatsu’ shower.  After several minutes, she declared that it felt better.  I was thrilled that the natural spa treatment worked for her too.

This forceful natural hot water shower at Tia's provides a strong massage for sore muscles

This forceful natural hot water shower at Tia’s provides a strong massage for sore muscles

By then, I’d spent about four hours in Wotten Waven.  It was time to return home and I reluctantly declined an invitation to join the friendly pair for lunch at Papillote Wilderness Retreat    near Trafalgar Falls. I assured them that they would enjoy it immensely!  I wished them a pleasant stay on the Nature Isle and then climbed up the steps to bid Bernadette good-bye for now and declare that I would definitely be back again very soon!

Then I promised myself that when I am feeling a little out-of-sorts, a short trip to  the warm, friendly ‘natural spa’ village of Wotten Waven would be my cure!

Tia's Bamboo Cottages overlook the pools.  They are surrounded by many trees, including nutmeg and cocoa.

Tia’s Bamboo Cottages overlook the pools. They are surrounded by many trees, including nutmeg and cocoa.

The pools at Tia's have different temperatures for your personal preferences.

The  cozy pools at Tia’s have different temperatures to suit your personal preferences.

A Morning on Mero Beach

Mero Beach – northerly direction

On a mid-week morning in March, I ventured up the west coast of Dominica from Roseau to the seaside village of Mero.  My visit was two-fold:  I had an appointment with my French physiotherapist/osteopath Martine Varlet (767-316-2270) so I  looked forward to relief from some of my health challenges; and of course, I  had to allow a little time for a beach ‘lime’ (West Indian for hanging out).

Because it was a beautiful day and there were two cruise ships in port, I decided to visit the beach well before my 11 a.m. appointment. After a half hour on the public bus,  I hopped off it by the Mero Village entrance and within a couple of minutes , I was strolling along the seaside.  To my delight, there was not a soul in sight!   Mero is a popular spot for cruise shippers,  but they would not arrive until about midday on their tour buses.  For now, the pristine beach was all mine!

Mero Beach – southerly direction

I didn’t wander too far  along the expansive stretch of beach this time. I actually had a third goal: French pressed coffee and a slice of  the sensational passionfruit chocolate cake baked by Chef Dominique at Romance Cafe (767-449-7922)  right  on the beach.

Romance Cafe is set right on Mero Beach.

Carla and Tarrie will welcome you at Romance Cafe

Staff Carla and Tarrie greeted me in their usual warm and friendly way and then prepared my order.  Meanwhile, I walked around the tables and admired the very diverse artists’ works that are found on several table-tops.  A number of painters, both local and foreign have created  works of art, upon which one may dine and can even buy, if so desired.

After my perusal of this unusual gallery,  I selected a seat with my favourite table-top painting and gazed out to sea.  It was an idyllic Caribbean setting – the kind that most people dream about, I think.  The calm, inviting surf beckoned me and idle boats drifted lazily around their moorings.  There was no time for a ‘sea bath’  and an inviting lounge chair  that day, but those plans are definitely on the agenda for next time!

A Table-Top Painted by my friend Susan Weeks.

The Beach Chairs Beckon

One View from my table

I savored my treats, while relishing this tranquil and spectacular morning in paradise.

When I had finished the dregs of my coffee and picked up every last crumb on my plate, I glanced at my watch and realized it was almost 11 a.m..  I paid up and parted this lovely locale with promises that I would back very soon.                                                                                                                                                         for  a French/Dominican inspired meal, if I am lucky.

You might call me selfish, but I really don’t mind sharing a slice of the Nature Isle.  I just feel particularly blessed when I have a few moments of this precious place all to myself!