The Art Of Bahama Hand Prints
Vivid colours, enchanting prints and hand-printed fabrics are combined to create a unique 100% Bahamian-made line of clothing and accessories. Completely inspired by The Bahamas, its history, and its indigenous flora and fauna, Bahama Hand Prints’ exclusive designs are loved by Bahamians and visitors alike. Located in the Island Traders Building Annex, off East Bay and Mackey St, just south of Paradise Island exit bridge, Bahama Hand Prints (BHP) is a Bahamian creative success story that has been producing stunningly beautiful and unique products for decades.
Bahama Hand Prints was established in Nassau, The Bahamas in 1966 by graphic artists Helen Astarita and Berta Sands. On a trip to the Florida Keys, the two visited a small factory in Key West where they observed fabric being hand printed, using silk-screens. So impressed were they by the procedure and the spectacularly coloured fabrics produced, that they decided to start their own company back in The Bahamas. Helen and Berta were enthusiastic and quickly mastered the techniques involved in making silk screens, mixing the inks, hand printing the fabric, designing and sewing the final products. Their bold and brilliant designs became the trademark of BHP. Through the years, the company changed hands a few times including owners Ziggy Brozozog and Amanda Lindroth.
Today, BHP is a small factory and boutique where the tradition of hand screen-printing continues under the ownership of Bahamian sisters-in-law Linda Brown and Joie Lamare who purchased the company in 2001 and now own all the vintage prints and artwork. One day Joie walked into the establishment as a customer and was completely blown away. She presented the idea of possibly taking the business over to Linda, together they made some enquiries and when they found out it was available, they jumped on the opportunity. The rest is history.
It hasn’t been an easy road for the pair. It has been back-breaking work that has brought them through a number of highs and lows. But through blood, sweat and tears, they have managed to catapult BHP from a small portfolio to a successful brand that incorporates lines of resortwear clothing, fabric, handbags, and home accessories. They operate from their own factory and sell from their signature retail boutique as well as wholesale to retail stores in The Bahamas and the US.
May 2006 was the real turning point for BHP’s success when Lamare and Brown moved their manufacturing from New York to Nassau. They had developed a wonderful relationship with their manufacturers in New York but in order to streamline the company and really control cost, bringing the bulk of the operation home to Nassau made much more economical sense. It also gave them control over supply and demand so they are able to provide more or less product however the market requires.
Over the years, they have hired a series of sewers and today a talented crew of three sewers manufacture everything for BHP, with the exception of the handbags which are done in Italy.
While the signature style of Bahama Hand Prints began with Helen and Berta, and can be seen in their collection of vintage designs, it continues to evolve today under the direction of their master printer & designer, Dylan Rapillard.
Dylan Rapillard was born in 1979 in Freeport, Grand Bahama, grew up between Nassau and Switzerland, and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Management from Ecole Hoteliere De Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland in 2002. His choice of study was purely an economical and stable one but he soon found himself bored and in need of more profound challenges. Freedom was important to him and a desk job was just the opposite of what his soul searched for. Never did he dream he would become a textile designer.
Under his skillful hands, Dylan produces bold and gorgeous prints for BHP that display strong technique and are drawn from essentially four different inspirations: florals, leaves, shells and abstracts. Dylan was the first designer to introduce abstracts to BHP. This line of work has been extremely gratifying to the artist and designer whose chief reward is to know that people choose and wear and outfit their homes with what he has created.
From the printing table, their fabric is used to create garments and accessories, which are developed in-house, crafted by their talented sewing team and introduced as a new collection each Fall.
In August 2012, Bahama Hand Prints opened its newly renovated boutique where vivid colours, captivating prints and fine fabrics are combined in their stunning collection of garments, bags and home accessories. Their new Fabric Room is a colourful and inspiring space, containing a wide variety of fabrics available by the yard for home design and other projects.
At Bahama Hand Prints, fabric may also be custom printed to the customer’s specifications. They offer a variety of ground fabrics appropriate for a multitude of applications including upholstery, drapery, bedding, indoor/outdoor furnishings, clothing and more. A print can be chosen from their repertoire of designs and hand printed in the colour or colours desired, on any fabric they offer, including cotton poplin, twill, cotton-linen blends, linen and outdoor fabric.
Visitors are welcome to drop-in at the factory and watch their printers at work. (They recommend you give them a call in advance.) It is a thrilling experience to observe yards of plain fabric being transformed into colourful art, with designs that capture the beauty of The Bahama Islands.
Article by Dionne Benjamin-Smith
Source: Bahamian Art & Culture Newsletter
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