WEDNESDAY, MAY 23: Last year artist Ami Zanders won an apprenticeship to study under master wood carver Milton Hill and this week they are hosting an exhibit of the work they have created.
The apprenticeship programme was the Tradition Bearer’s Programme from the Community and Cultural Affairs.
Life Aquatic runs from May 25 to June 12 at the Bermuda Society of Arts. We spoke to Ami Zanders about the work.
What will be exhibited in the show?
This show will feature Milton’s model boats made out of Bermuda cedar as well as his relief scenes of Bermuda houses and horse and carriages.
Milton and I are also making a three-foot long model boat entirely out of Bermuda cedar. The boat is called the Bragdo —it is that boat that my great grandfather came to Bermuda on in the early 1900s. He ran away from Denmark when he was 13, and ended up on the Bragdo. When the ship was leaving Bermuda he jumped off the boat while it was leaving the cut and swam back to shore. Bermudians started calling him Bragdo.
Milton has always wanted to create a model of the ship. By fate or coincidence I ended up being his apprentice and it has been our main project for the apprenticeship programme.
We are also collaborating with mediums I love working with such as textiles and basket weaving. He said that I will make the cake and he will put on the icing.
He has added cedar tops to some of my baskets, he’s turned one into a flower by adding cedar petals and he’s adding ships, dolphins and gombeys to other baskets and textiles as well.
I am also creating mixed medium pieces as well as silk screen prints with nautical themes and an old Bermuda train scene.
How long have you been working on this?
Milton and I have been working on the Bragdo since September. Since we work so well together, Milton thought that we should do an art show. We decided in December to think of what to do for the show.
Why did you decide on the nautical theme?
I have never done a nautical theme before. I have always tried to stay away from doing themes that involve ships and the ocean. It has been a theme that I thought had been done to death. I like the idea of being on a boat but never really paid attention to the detail that goes in the craftsmanship of making one. It also seemed like once I made the decision to be part of the programme that documentaries about pirates, ship builders and life at sea during the 1700’s were everywhere. I started appreciating and loving the idea even more after I became aware of what was involved with creating boats and living a life at sea.
Milton is like a human encyclopedia and every week I would learn something new. Not just about boats but his life in general. He’s led an extraordinary life. Someone needs to write a book about him. Milton has also helped me to embrace the fact that ship building and the ocean are the foundation of Bermuda’s culture as well as something that is naturally in my blood.
I think that every family has stories of certain characters in the family. Bragdo I believe was one the biggest characters of all in my family. My dad used to tell me about his grandfather and how he used to wear the old fashion diving suits as well as go into William Beebe’s Bathysphere. He was also a carpenter. Go figure.
How did you end up getting together on this project?
I saw Milton’s work in art shows a few years ago. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make them as a child. When I saw the ad in the newspaper about the Tradition Bearer’s Programme from the Community and Cultural Affairs I jumped at the chance to do it. Luckily for me I was still in an age range to do it. My children come over from time to time.
How has this influenced you – do you see yourself working on more sculpture in the future?
This has been a very rewarding experience for me. I was always told in art classes to use my culture and background in my work.
I never really understood what that meant until now. Being part of this programme has made me respect where I come from. I always felt that I was running from it. The more I embrace it the better my work is getting.
I see myself getting better and more experimental in the future as well as doing more shows with Milton.