An Insider Guide to The Bahamas with Ceramicist Florence St George
The English potter Florence St George brings us behind the scenes in The Bahamas
16 December, 2021
Pottery has always been praised for its calming and therapeutic benefits, so it's no wonder that this was a hobby Florence St George took up when she was diagnosed with postnatal depression in 2014. Moved by its meditative effects, Florence soon upgraded the activity from a hobby to a passion, and began to forage for clay in the heart of Grand Bahama, the Bahamian island she and her family have called home for the last decade. Here, between the old limestone coral reefs endemic to the island, she happened upon the rich, earthy clay that she now works with on the wheel to create her collections. Curious to know more about her finds on the island, we sat down with Florence to gather her insider tips on where to eat, sleep and grab a cocktail on the island.
She sells sea shells: meet ceramicist Florence St George
What inspired you to become a ceramicist?
I started playing with clay after being diagnosed with postnatal depression in 2014 - this began as a hobby but has become my passion. The first time I really understood how healing and powerful clay could be was when I started foraging for it in The Bahamas. The Bahamian islands are made from old coral reef limestone, so it was really surprising to strike gold and find clay when we started digging. I use this clay when I work on the wheel. It has a high iron content, making it a lovely rich red colour - it's beautiful to work with.
What led you to the Bahamas?
I relocated to The Bahamas almost ten years ago. We moved to the northernmost Bahamian island - Grand Bahama - with our young family, as this is where my husband works. It's an island of contrasts: beautifully pristine virgin beaches, shores upon shores of wildlife and migratory birds. But Grand Bahama is also the main island for industry.
Describe The Bahamas' vibe in three words…
Corals, coconuts and cocktails (particularly a Rum Dum)
When's the best time to visit?
Hurricane season happens between July and September. It can get hot and sticky, so if you enjoy the heat, this is the time to come. I prefer the cooler months, between November and June. The north wind can be surprisingly chilly, so I always suggest that friends coming to stay should bring a cashmere scarf and a pair of sheepskin boots to wear with their bikinis, à la Elle McPherson.
Describe a perfect day in the Bahamas...
I'm sure most people would say the perfect Bahamian day would be lying on a pristine beach with a piña colada in hand. Mine is on the dappled-with-shade deck of my studio, making pottery at my wheel with a piña colada in hand.
Where should we go for a long, lazy brunch?
The Other Side is a solar-powered glamping site in Eleuthera across 'the other side' of Harbour Island, hence its name. It's totally wild over there, with lovely beaches. Bring bug spray with you if you go in the summer.
What about coffee on Monday morning?
If you want to be up drinking coffee on Monday morning, the Bahamas isn't the place for you - you're better off with a Rum Dum on the balcony of The Dunmore. You can't ever be in a rush here.
A picnic dinner under the stars on a floating jetty at the Cove Hotel in Eleuthera.
What are some of your favourite independent shops on the islands?
The Tern Gallery at the island house in Nassau. Owner Lauren Holowesko has a background at Sotheby's and a brilliant eye for island talent. You'll browse beautiful artworks by local photographer Melissa Alcena or ceramicist, Anina Major. (You can also find a few of my pots here.)
The Sugar Mill in Harbour Island is carefully curated and full of local treasures, with a sprinkling of designer bikinis.
Tell us about a secret spot only locals know about …
Bonefishing in Grand Bahama. The north shore of the island is unbelievably wild, quiet and magical. The flats go on for miles. This is where eagle rays and stingrays breed, turtles nest and sharks hunt. It's a fizz of wildlife activity, yet so quiet that you could hear a pin drop.
One thing we shouldn't miss while we're in the Bahamas?
Bring a pair of binoculars - the shorebirds that breed in the arctic complete a perilous migratory journey every autumn, and they set up home here in the Bahamas for 10 months. Bird watching on the island is something to behold. Plus, the birds' names are wonderfully romantic; the Northern Parula, the Louisiana Waterthrush, the Painted Bunting and the Scarlet Tanager.
Visit my neighbours at Coral Vita's coral farm, the winners of this year's Earth Shot prize. They use micro fragmenting to cut and grow coral in tanks on land, then replant it back into the sea to restore our island's coral reefs.
Suggestions for day trips?
Bonefishing in Grand Bahama and lunch at Stoned Crab, a beautifully decorated, family-run restaurant.
New year in Harbour Island is also a must. Check out The Dunmore for stunning views of the pink sandy beaches and cocktails that'll grow hairs on your chest.
Shark diving with 'the shark lady' Cristina Zenato in Grand Bahama. She encourages large bull sharks in the wild to fall asleep in the palm of her hand and removes the fishing hooks from their gills.
Where are the best beaches?
Gold Rock beach for a skinny dip and a midnight swim under the stars, and Lighthouse beach in Harbour Island for its soft, pink sand.
Where can we find the best shells?
Bootle Bay Grand Bahama or west end Grand Bahama. Here you'll find the huge conch shells, sea biscuits and sand dollars that litter these beaches. The walks along these sandy stretches inspired the designs for my collection of ceramics, named The Conch. The edges of the Conch bowl reflect the rippling waves of the sea. My fingerprint marks at the base of the bowl give the impression of footprints in the sand, while the pinky watercolour colour glaze of the bowl reflects the setting sun on the pink sandy shores here.
Where should we wake up?
I have to admit, I love a spin at a roulette table, and Baha Mar in Nassau is just the ticket for the occasional gambler. We recently stayed at The Rosewood Hotel, where our kids loved the waterpark and slides.
Must-try local dishes include…
Good old-fashioned fried snapper with a dollop of sticky rice and the odd pea flying about, a dish traditionally eaten at breakfast.
Best local markets?
Look for the local straw markets. The artisan straw weavers here are so talented at what they do; making bags, hats and fans from our indigenous palm tree leaves. You can even ask them to make up one of your own designs in a day or two.
Finally, what's in your SUITCASE?
All the usual bits plus a piece of clay stashed away in an old kinder egg case. Like a stress ball, I use the clay to knead away any anxiety that creeps in when I travel. I'm often left with a lovely little pendant that I then fire in my kiln once I'm home, and I'm reminded forever of that holiday.