Two sisters, one successful and the other struggling to find a market for her products, have joined to display handmade hats, bags and a few novelty items at GuyExpo 2009 in hope of locating buyers and opportunities for business linkages.

Petal Frank (left) and her sister Doreen Morrison (right) standing in their GuyExpo booth. Morrison is wearing a woven hat and bag made by her sister.
Petal Frank (left) and her sister Doreen Morrison (right) standing in their GuyExpo booth. Morrison is wearing a woven hat and bag made by her sister.

Doreen Morrison and her sister Petal Frank have been practicing their respective trades for decades. Their products, made from natural and local materials, are on display at one of the many booths in the Local Exhibitors Annex at the National Exhibition Site, Sophia.

Morrison produces designer curtains, covers for refrigerators and gas bottles and pot holders in addition to handbags with beads and other natural materials woven into them. Hats and bags woven from straw bought locally from the Amerindians are handmade by Frank. The sisters have been involved in their respective trades for more than 20 years.

“I now have a market for my straw hats and bag,” Frank told Stabroek News yesterday, “but it doesn’t generate as much income as I would like… I still remember how hard it used to be trying to find market for my things.”

Frank said she watched other people who went to craft school and just decided that she was interested in the industry. “I just started to create,” she said with a shrug, continuing to explain that in the beginning people displayed a demand for her products but often purchased them for far less that they were worth.

She buys straw from Amerindians in bundles and knits and shapes them into hats and bags. It takes Frank hours to make one hat or bag, but on average she can complete four hats daily. The bags, Frank said, take a little more time. Currently, Guyana Stores and another entity buy most of her products. Finding a market for her bags, Morrison said, has been difficult over the years. She works from home and sews curtains and other household articles to order. Morrison expressed hope that buyers will notice her products.

The sisters also hope to sell some of their products during the exhibition. However, Morrison and Frank expressed disappointment yesterday at the response so far. Sales, the women said, were very slow on the opening night and they expect things to get “brighter” as the exhibition progresses.

“This is our first year at GuyExpo and we paid handsomely for our booth,” Morrison said. “I am really hoping that we can make our money and a bit of profit at the end of this event.”

Setting up the booth and displaying the pieces, Morrison pointed out, is only the end stage of the GuyExpo experience. Preparation for the event, she explained, began weeks before its commencement.

“I have been surviving on one and three hours sleep for weeks now,” Morrison told this newspaper. “This is hard work for the few nights we will be here and if it doesn’t provide some advantage for our small businesses then it would’ve been a wasted effort and one we could hardly afford to begin with.”

Besides the available craft in the Local Exhibitors’ Annex there are the many booths which have colourful collections of tie-dyed clothing on display.

From evening to casual wear in a variety of colours and styles fashioned from cotton and other cool fabrics are available at a large number of booths. Denyse Fashion and Fabric Designs, which appears to cater for the medium to large built ladies, has an interesting range to offer.

When Stabroek News visited Denyse Fashion and Fabric Designs, owner Denyse Grant was still at home working on several pieces. A representative explained that preparation for GuyExpo started weeks before the event and some of the newer and more colourful designs were chosen as sample pieces.

“Colour is being worn now,” the representative said, “and it catches the eyes of customers. We’re at GuyExpo to get our things sold.”

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