Saba now has a special room dedicated to its traditional craft: Saba Lace. The opening of the Saba Lace room in Windwardside is a most welcome addition. Not only for the tradition of Saba Lace work, but also for people who want to buy this authentic artwork. The Saba Lace room was opened on Wednesday, January 23 in the presence of the Saba Lace ladies, government officials and guests.
The driving force behind creating the Saba Lace room is Lynn Costenaro, who together with John Magor owns Sea Saba. The Saba Lace room is located next to the Kakona artisan shop and the Sea Saba dive center.
Costenaro explained in her short address during the opening that she approached the Public Entity Saba with the idea some two years ago. “I wanted to set up a room to show this art form, to keep it going, and to pay tribute to the Saba Lace ladies and their wonderful work,” said Costenaro. The Saba Lace room provides the ladies who produce this art form not only a place to showcase it, but also to sell their work.
Castenaro said that the Public Entity Saba has been very supportive of her project. She specifically thanked Commissioner Bruce Zagers for his input. Zagers explained that the government pays the rent of the Saba Lace room.
Zagers said that government found it important to contribute to maintaining a typical Saba culture. “Saba Lace has been a tradition for more than 100 years. It is part of our culture and this room will contribute to Saba Lace continuing to be part of our culture and tradition. This would not have been possible without Lynn,” he said in his remarks. He encouraged the Saba Lace ladies to continue their great work and to pass the art on to others.
The Saba Lace room, where some Saba Spice is also sold, adds to the Windwardside experience, said Zagers. “It stands out. There is a nice story behind it. This is most definitely not your average souvenir shop. These are products that are made here. People, and especially visitors, will very much like it. I am glad to see this project having materialized,” he said. Zagers said the Saba Lace room was a nice addition to the Kakona artisan shop next door which already sells products that are locally made and/or designed.
Saba Lace, also known as Spanish Work, has been a Saba tradition since the 1800’s. The craft of drawn threadwork, was introduced on Saba by Mary Gertrude Hassell from Windwardside who learned the technique either in Curaçao or Caracas, Venezuela. She taught it to others and soon it was practiced by many.
The drawn threadwork is made starting with a solid bolt of linen from which a number of threads that run parallel are cut out and tied off. The thread is then worked back into the space as the lace maker creates a variety of patterns.
The industry of Saba Lace provided the families on the island with much-needed income in the past. In 1915, some 250 of the 2,500 residents made a living from selling drawn threadwork. The women sent samples of their work to the United States through the postal services, making it a mail order business. In the Saba Lace room, a large canvas tells the story of four former Saba Lace ladies: Annie Pearl Zagers (1917-2011), Gladys Bernadette Hassell (1932-2007), Tina Florence Johnson (1934-2004) and Mary Adelina Johnson (1932-2013).
The current group of Saba Lace ladies has 14 members, the youngest being just eight years and the eldest 85. The eldest, Albertine Riley and present at the opening, said that she has been doing lace for some 40 years. “I enjoy it very much. It keeps me occupied. The shop is very nice and it gives me an opportunity to sell some of my work. In the past we could sell through the Saba Artisan Foundation, but that has closed. Now we have a place again,” she said. The Saba Lace room is open 7 days a week.