Few would argue that Jamaica is brimming with culture. With so many standout elements that define the island's culture, Jamaican crafts can sometimes be overlooked. The handmade goods of this fast-paced Caribbean island are extremely popular – particularly as souvenirs.
Craft mainstays found throughout the Caribbean include jewelry, pottery, and work that incorporates local natural items. Jamaica also produces these crafts, but the island is more commonly known for its crafts inspired by the Rastafarian culture.
There is some overlap between the worlds of crafts and arts. Pottery and ceramics can be found at roadside craft markets as well as refined art galleries. Glazed pottery and ceramic animals make popular souvenirs. Jamaica's red clay has its own history, too – the Taíno would use it for their own pottery before the arrival of Columbus.
Straw goods can be a quintessentially Jamaican item, particularly straw hats, which are really made from palm leaves, because they deflect the strong Caribbean sun. Straw baskets and mats are other common crafts created by this natural and versatile resource. Don't be fooled by the name "straw market." You will find any number of other souvenirs at these popular marketplaces where "everything must go" salesmanship combines with haggling.
Cloth goods are also popular. From brightly colored wall-hangings to embroidered linens and batik clothing, you'll find it all. Many of the most colorful items will include Jamaica's red, yellow, and green shades, but you will also find fabrics adorned with many other colors as well.
Rastafarians, in particular, are known for their beautiful wood carvings. You'll find them in a wood known as lignum vitae, a reddish-colored hardwood. Sometimes carvings can be made out of green wood (which may break as it dries out) or contain wood worms (which cause tiny holes throughout the carving). But watchful vacationers can easily avoid such pieces. These are popular items, so you can take your time and shop around until you find the perfect carving.
Shell items are equally as common. They can be used as adornments on other types of crafts or they can be part of handmade jewelry. Shell items can be found throughout the island.
Craft markets are easily the best way to see or buy these creative goods, but certain items can be found at more built-up shopping centers. Some art galleries offer crafts alongside prints of works by local artists. Popular craft markets can be found in every larger city, from Kingston to Port Antonio.
Crafts are an easy way to take home a piece of Jamaica's culture and style. You can display elements of your trip to the island in many ways, from jewelry to wood carvings and pottery bowls.
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