Like many young men in Haiti’s metal art district, Croix des Bouquets, Watson hopes for gainful employment (which doesn’t exist for most). He dreams of designs that will sell well, and he can hear the pounding of metal even when there is nobody working. He spends long, exhausting hours plying oil drums into upcycled art.
Singing Rooster’s Molly (she’s our product designer among other things) met Watson on a trip to the art village in 2017. She had not seen him before, and he sought her attention. Singing Rooster is well-known in the village as an important buyer, and opportunities are limited for artists. When buyers visit, they’re pulled in many directions: “I love working with the metal artists, but most in the village will never earn a living from art. A few jobs trickle in here and there. It’s a tough work environment; I need to remind myself of the importance of shining a light on the wonderful work vs. the multitude of challenges.”
Shining this Light for a Decade
Similar to other fair trade nonprofits, Singing Rooster wholesales and retails Haitian art online. Opening direct access to markets is key to helping some artists survive. But she quickly recognized that most required assistance with commercial relevance. Over the years, Nicaise pivoted her approach.
She began working with artists, like St. Charles, to develop commercially viable art. “When I met Watson, he had these fabulous trees of life sculptures — but something was off. I helped him to make the trees fuller — a few more leaves and branches here & there. Voila, it’s retail ready.” Next, she presented an entirely new design she knew would provide an income for this artist: Milwaukee word art.
Next, Watson & Molly collaborated at perfecting a new backdrop for Singing Rooster’s Nativity sculptures. It must stand, plus, there was much discussion regarding the word for the backdrop”HOPE” vs. “LOVE”. Together, they decided the birth of Christ was God’s give of love. Frosty, a bracelet and 2 angels made the perfect stand-in to determine scale.
More & more, Nicaise brings ideas to the village she knows will be lucrative for small producers. That said, she is an avid patron of the one of a kind artist. On every trip, she reserves one suitcase for truly unique Haitian art. “I spend long, dusty hours in the village. The guys are great; Loui brings me a cold beer when I’m hot and tired –he always knows exactly when. But my true joy is when I take a break to visit artists who create sculptures from flip flops, paint cans, discarded silverware and costume jewelry. I keep this art in my home, on the walls and shelves. I miss it when it’s sold.”