Interview of Michael Hunt on Februrary 15, 2015
Cedars Pottery on Buckleys Road, Antigua
Q : (By Mr. Brandon) So this is an interview withnMichael Hunt, and he is an artist, and I will just ask a couple questions, and try to get a bit of his bio. So, Mr. Hunt, where were you born?
A: Right here in Antigua. My parents actually were working in Curacao, one of the Dutch islands further down the chain, on the chain, so I was conceived down there. The Dutch, when they leave Holland, seem to have strange ideas about immigration and stuff, so my mother couldn’t have her children there, so she had to come back to Antigua. So she came back here as a twin, her brother, left us after six months to return to work in Curacao, and then from there she and my father moved to the U.K., and they sent for us seven years later. So, we — though I was born here, I grew up in London from the age of seven, hence the accent.
Q : And so when did you end up here permanently?
A: I moved back in ’96, so 18 or 19 years ago.
Q : And where did you get your training in the arts?
A: I went to an art school, did a ceramics degree, three-year degree, after a year in foundation, met my wife in the course, so we both have degrees in ceramics. So, basically we are, strictly speaking we are ceramicists. The art thing, the sculpture and the carving, came later.
Q : And do you work in various mediums, or is it
all basically stone and clay?
A: I carve wood, I construct in concrete, steel. I’ve been branching out sculpturally, but the foundation is still the clay, that’s the basis of everything.
Q : And how long did it take you to make a business out of it?
A: I’m still working on it. It’s not a great business. It’s been the realization for the longest while that it’s not enough to have the talent and the creativity. You have to have a business sense to make a business, and my wife basically supports and underpins the pottery. Every time we get our accountant in London to look at the figures for the year she says “Why doesn’t Michael go and pack shelves in the supermarket or something? Why doesn’t he get a proper day job?” We’re basically just covering our costs. And it’s crazy, but, you know, that’s the way it’s been.
Q : Right.
A: I don’t really have a great business head, I’ll tell you on that. We’re just learning how to market this work. But we still see potential in terms of what we can do with this stuff, we think. We just have to be more targeted.
Q : Well, I can tell you that your art is absolutely phenomenal. It’s beautiful. I guess there’s a difference between being a businessman and a man who owns a business?
A: Right. Yes. Our son is just coming to his final year, he finishes this summer a product design degree in the north of England, Manchester University there, and he tell us all the time, since the age of 13, “You’re not making any sense. You’re not making any money, you’re doing this all wrong.” So, but he’s having an input in the business side of it at the moment.
Q : So are you getting a little bit of support from some of the resorts?
A: Well, not really. We are not, we don’t look for resort help. I mean, we try to get in there when we see there is some development going. We will bombard them with leaflets, pamphlets and brochures, and stuff, which we do, but it’s hit and miss whether you get a take-up. We’re trying to get something happening. There’s a new airport terminal going up. We’re trying to badger whichever government department is dealing with it to get us some footprint up there, some artwork, some public art in the place.
Q : Right.
A: And that’s hard work. There’s a new government, there’s a new team, but we still see potential, there’s still something that can work. But there is not much coming back.
Q : Talking about the business of sculpture and pottery, how is it doing business in Antigua generally?
A For the arts and crafts sector, it’s always going to be uphill. There’s not much incentive coming from the government to do what we do. And it’s always someone with a passion trying a thing, basically, trying to survive, trying to make a living. It’s not a wild living, but there’s no one doing it. Up here and in the U.K. people don’t do pottery any more. A lot of the courses are closing down. We’re like dinosaurs. We don’t know many potters that are doing this, like we knew when we were in college. But you’re asking me, if you’re an artist in Antigua you have to have a day job doing something else, or have someone, a significant other that’s doing something else for the money, because it’s not going to be from the art. So, you do it because it’s a passion, not because it makes a great living, I guess.
Q : Okay. Well, I can see you have the passion.
A: Yes. As long as my wife has the passion to support my passion we are good.
Q : Last question: How do you feel generally about life in Antigua, good for the family, good place to raise kids?
A Absolutely, from zero to probably 14. After that the education thing is an issue. We send our kids up to the U.K. at age 14 to get them into the secondary school to get them ready for A-levels and University courses and stuff. But teaching, education-wise the secondary school is not the greatest place here. People are trying a thing. There are some folks that started a Montessori program nearby that has just been accredited. So, you know, people are trying things, but, if you get them off the island you do it, but from grade one to 14 it’s a great atmosphere for kids to grow up in.
Q : Perfect. Well, thank you very much.
A: You’re welcome. Thank you.
(Michael Hunt’s amazing work can be seen at Cedars Pottery, Buckleys Road, Antigua, 268-460-5293. Email to: Pottery@candw.ag)