David Myrie, Owner and Creative Director of Exquisite Wicker, has always wanted to be creative. “Growing up, I wanted to find an outlet for my creativity. I thought about going to art school, but I was talked out of it. Then one day while working and finishing school I doodled an image of what would become my first piece of furniture [an ultra modern chaise lounge]. I sent the ‘Post It’ to my sister who is a civil engineer and she sketched it out for me as I couldn’t really draw. It took years before it actually got built, now there are four or five of them out there.”
The story of Exquisite Wicker, a wicker furniture making and repair business in Kingston, began a long time before Myrie relocated from Miami (where he had lived since he was nine) and had any interest in designing furniture. It began when his mother Mary Ellen Dempster took over a company she thought had potential. “My mum is a business woman. At the time she owned a business that made modern area rugs. She had rented a space to the guys making the wicker furniture. When the owner decided that he could no longer run it, mum took over. The company continued to make traditional pieces and repair furniture, as it still does today,” he says.
Myrie would come back and forth to Jamaica starting in 2007 but it wasn’t until he returned in 2010 and his mother handed the company over to him that he realized what a great opportunity it could be to express himself creatively. “I knew that this was going to be the best place to start, we already had a factory, I had the designs. I wanted to be creative and not just make what people wanted. In the beginning when I approached the workers with my designs they were like this is not going to work, no way. I didn’t take no for an answer, we just got going. Now, no matter what I bring to them, they do it. Creating these pieces has really opened their minds.”
(seaside) villas, I think the pieces can be incorporated into any décor from modern to traditional. Many of our pieces are in residences in Kingston.”
Business is consistent, he says, but what is his vision for the future of the company? “So far I think I have exceeded my expectations in terms of style and creativity. The response to our products has been great … It hasn’t necessarily translated to (lots) of work — but that will come, it just takes time.”
Chairs and stools range from JMD $18K to $25K each while other larger pieces of furniture are $150K -$175K. Everything is done on property; the welding of the metal frames, the upholstery, the wicker (which is actually the process of weaving and not the material itself ) – while the cane-like grass used in the weaving comes from Portland where it is hand picked, stripped and dried by local farmers. “I don’t think you can just price something based on labour and materials, you have to also price in the creativity. We have a culture and history here of wicker, it was definitely an inspiration of mine to keep part of that culture alive. I have brought my take on these modern designs, but wicker has been having a come back for years,” Myrie says. ∆
Today, the process remains pretty much the same: Myrie does a little sketch, nothing too detailed, and sets out to make whatever piece of furniture, fixture or accessory he is commissioned or is interested in designing. If there are changes to be made, he makes them along the way but essentially this process ensures that there is a little bit of his creativity in every piece. “It’s about 50/50 the way people approach me for pieces; some people come here with a design, others ask me to take one of my own designs and modify it for their own purposes. In our business we really should be stockpiling our raw materials,” Myrie explains, “but I’m always building so we never get the chance. Everything we make goes back into the business.”
A visit to the showroom reflects this 50/50 approach with modern (updated) versions of ‘traditional’ pieces (chairs, settees, bar stools) displayed alongside more bespoke pieces such as oversized hanging lights, metal and mixed media (including wicker) coffee tables, hanging chairs, up-lighting fixtures, accessories and chandeliers. “I think consumers are open to a little bit of design when it comes to buying pieces for their homes. Take the hanging lampshades for instance – they may not be ready to hang them in a big cluster but maybe they’d take home one or two. Wicker furniture isn’t just for