Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 1st 2015 Contents | PROFILES |
By Roslyn Carrington
WE ALL LOVE TRADITIONAL MAS, with
hand-made, bent-wire costumes, feathered
and glittered by hand, so that each is just a
little different. But this new generation is
taking Carnival into the digital age, bringing
a whole new way of looking at how cos-
tumes are designed and created.
Architect Vernelle Noel is one of the many
inventors who received grants in last year's
Idea to Innovation (i2i) contest, put on by
the Council for Competitiveness and inno-
vation, to further such a project. "I'm hoping
to learn from the design skill and knowledge
of makers and designers in the Trinidad Car-
nival to advance design techniques, design
tools, and methods."
She hopes to help masmakers use digital
technology to alleviate problems they en-
counter in costume design and develop-
ment. She interviewed several people
including Albert Bailey, Stephen Derek,
Roland St. George, Peter Minshall, Todd
Gulick, Liselle Frauenfelder, Meiling, and
James Hackett, and others too numerous to
It would be interesting to see how tech-
niques such as hers can encourage people
who see themselves more as technophiles
than artists or "Mas people" to get into the
Mas business. "I'd like to get more and more
people excited about designing and making
costumes in Trinidad and Tobago. I look for-
ward to sharing it with wire benders, design-
ers, design educators, and students in the
"I can't stop dreaming of the possibilities of
design, tools, technologies, and computa-
tion. It's the core of my research and teach-
ing. As a researcher and designer, I always
want to know more, why or how, and what
the possibilities are."
At the moment, Noel is a PhD candidate at
Pennsylvania State University; her position
includes research and teaching. After grad-
uating from MIT, she taught in the Singa-
pore University of Technology & Design.
Her career is the fulfilment of a long-held vi-
sion. "I always loved drawing, using my
hands, understanding the details of objects,
buildings and construction." She was guided
onto her path in architecture by her techni-
cal drawing teacher at Arima Gov't Second-
ary, Mr. Baptiste. "Because of his advice, I
pursued Civil Engineering in John Donaldson
Tech. My family could not afford university,
so we had to find another way."
That way found her through Colin Laird,
who took her under his wing. "I would go to
his office, make models, do drawings, help
with building measurements and read al-
most every book on architecture I could find
in his library. I also worked with Bynoe Rowe
Wiltshire and Brian Awai later on."
She has worked on residential, commercial
and institutional projects in the USA and
India, and, of course, Trinidad, including land-
marks such as the Unit Trust Building and
Nicholas Towers in Port of Spain.
"I love to design, make, think, read, sketch,
and examine... and they are all in my work. I
love sketching and so I sketch architecture.
It's like solving a puzzle, being a detective. I
love it! I like to think of myself as a design
As Carnival approaches, she sees creativity
flowing everywhere. "Carnival for me is the
embodiment of immense artistic skill, craft,
knowledge sharing, activity and innovation.
The skills of the people behind this unique,
cultural design activity (those past and pres-
ent), are the geniuses to me. Using Carnival
to "celebrate their freedom, and express
their creativity and aesthetic sensibilities"...
this is what Carnival means to me.
How has being female affected her work, or
how others have perceived her? "I was
brought up to let my work speak for me.
Being female is one of the many layers that
make me who I am; and everything I am and
have experienced contributes to the way I
see things and approach them."
Her advice to young creatives is to never
stop asking questions. "Do your research,
give credit where credit is due, say thank
you, and do your work so well that almost
no one can do it better. I keep this quote in
mind, "Whatever you do, strive to do it so
well that no man living and no man dead,
ter." - Benjamin E. Mays.
Don't give up, never give up!"
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