Our Community - Elizabeth Ouvrard - "Creating Crafts in the Caribbean"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 12, No. 36            September 19, 2002

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Elizabeth Ouvrard

Because of the many travelers just recently discovering the beauty of Belize, it has been referred to as "Mother Nature's Best Kept Secret." Adding to the charm and splendor of this destination is the variety of marvelous creations that can be found throughout the land. People from all walks of life have chosen Belize as their home and a large number of them now earn a living creating wonderful works of art. From custom-made clothing to local hardwood carvings and furniture, Belize boasts an extensive choice of beautifully handcrafted souvenirs. This week The San Pedro Sun takes pleasure in introducing one of these skilled artisans - Elizabeth Ouvrard.

    Elizabeth was born in the countryside of northwestern France to Marthe and Stanislas Ouvrard. The youngest of three sisters, Elizabeth was surrounded with much love from her siblings and parents. After completing her elementary and high school studies, Elizabeth enrolled in a one-year art course where she learned crafts including pottery making and cloth weaving. Needing a change of scenery, and being a lover of nature, Elizabeth then moved to southern France and eventually to Switzerland where she worked harvesting pears, apples, apricots and other fruits.

    Elizabeth recalls that she always felt free as a bird and did not need much to be happy, but life in France was too dull for her. Elizabeth recalls there was very little contact among the people. She found her escape in many books describing South and Central America. The colorful scenery and people in these books sparked her interest to live in this part of the new world. Although she decided that life would be better in the tropics, her father convinced her to stay in France a while longer to assist with the family clothing business. 

    When Elizabeth turned twenty, though, she made up her mind to follow her dreams and to leave France. Carrying only hiking gear on her back and very little money in her pockets, Elizabeth hitchhiked all the way to Spain. In "España," Elizabeth camped out on the beach for seven months and sustained herself by selling earrings and necklaces made from the seashells she collected. Elizabeth enjoyed the freedom and simple life she found there, but another adventure presented itself, and this time she opted for a cave in the mountains of the Canary Islands as her temporary home. Again, she financed her ten-month stay by making beautiful jewelry out of seeds and shells, and selling them to tourists on the beach. Elizabeth then made a decision to move to the Americas and returned to France to inform her family. She earned money for the trip by harvesting fruits, and selling her jewelry both at home and in Canada where she traveled first before moving south.

    As luck would have it, while in Canada, Elizabeth was offered an inexpensive trip to Mexico City, so for a mere $50US she immediately signed on. "Life was not easy in Mexico," commented Elizabeth, "but my determination to move ahead was stronger than anything," she said. In Mexico, she encountered a group of American gypsies on their way to Guatemala and joined them on their tour. From Guatemala, Elizabeth traveled to Honduras and El Salvador, living off the money earned selling her crafts at local carnivals and fairs across Central America.

    In 1987, Elizabeth made her way to Belize where she encountered Mr. Israel Turcios (owner of Los Caminantes) who suggested she move to San Pedro. Although Elizabeth had nowhere to stay and no friends on the island, she had the one thing needed to push her forward, a desire to live in paradise. Surviving on a day-to-day basis she would walk along the beach offering her jewelry to the tourists. Eventually, Elizabeth became friends with one of the former owners of Fido's Hotel who offered her a little space in their courtyard where she could sell her jewelry. Since then, Elizabeth has adorned thousands of tourists with her exotic creations and managed to make a name for herself through her craft. Her business, Amber Jewelry features handcrafted jewelry which combines amber, jade, and other semi-precious stones and silver. Besides her own jewelry, Elizabeth also promotes the designs of other local artists.

    Elizabeth is also a loving mother to three children: Nahuel (13), Amber (12) and Elliott (5). When asked if she sees herself finally putting down roots on this island Elizabeth commented, "Where would I go? This is my home." In her spare time, Elizabeth enjoys swimming and taking relaxing strolls on the beach. She likes to meditate and appreciates the beauty of the island. "I enjoy this town very much. The communication that the people have with each other is vital. I like the tranquility of this island - the beauty - the nature. As a child I used to dream of palm trees and the Caribbean Sea and today I am living that dream," Elizabeth concluded.

    Elizabeth says she feels like a complete woman, one who has achieved what she desired. She says she came to this island with nothing and was accepted with open arms. To reciprocate the hospitality and kindness she received, she often contributes to community functions and fundraisers. Like a hummingbird searching for sweet nectar from flower to flower, Elizabeth has traveled the globe in search of life's nourishment and finally found it in "Our Community."

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