Mandy Thody

“South Africa was my home as a child and this strong influence is evident in my watercolors in terms of subject matter and use of earth tones.”

As a teenager I learned batik, weaving, and dressmaking. I put myself through university by designing clothes and shop windows, and by teaching sewing, handcrafts, and adult literacy in the township/squatters camp near Capetown.

In 1985, I left South Africa, met my then husband as a cruising sailor and reached England together after a couple detours to the Virgin Islands, where my son was born, and the East Coast of the US before finally crossing the Atlantic.

I began to paint and draw on silk with blue to turquoise backgrounds and depictions of marine and bird life and mermaids. During the 90s in England, where my daughter was born, I began to draw more and to try watercolors. My primary interest in drawing people began to re-assert itself then. My paintings increased in size and brightness once I returned to the Caribbean in 2000. Many of them were West Indians portraits, local flora and fauna, and mythological and historical subjects. I exhibited work in Grenada and Carriacou, Bequia, and Antigua. Since then, I have lived in the Virgin Islands. My painting “Leather-hat Rasta” won the watercolor prize at the 2002 Caribbean Colors Exhibition. And “Bright Robe,” one of my first pastels, won a drawing media prize in their 2003 show.

In 2003, I began to teach a ceramics class at Maho Bay Camps on St. John. The availability of their studio, and with the assistance and encouragement of the ceramicist, Gail Van de Bogurt, enabled me to expand into ceramics as my primary medium. I produced my first dolls and a repertoire of sculptural pieces including animals, busts, platters, tiles, and large reliefs. My daughter, Merryn, is a keen sculptor, too, and we cooperated on many projects.  In the summer of 2005, we built a small workshop ashore in Johnson Bay, with a Raku kiln, allowing me to produce a number of large commissions.

At the end of 2006, I moved to St Croix, after 22 years of living on and sailing boats, to the rainforest north of Frederiksted. My studio is in and around the ruins of an old Danish plantation in Little La Grange, farmed by the Lawaetz family for four generations. Contemplating the forest, scenery, and ruins awoke a strong feeling in me for the land, most readily seen in my stoneware and raku figures of Faeries, Elves, and other Spirits of the woodland. The history of this area includes the Arawak/Carib Amerindian, Maroon, and Danish Colonial periods. This allows for a plethora of inspiration!  By 2011, we completed our new and larger studio in a restored building.

Since 2013, I have been the Administrative Director of Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti, a 501C3 non-profit with two schools and programs benefiting two rural communities.  Our belief is that all humans have the minimum right to stability, peace, and basic resources. I still live on St. Croix, but travel to Haiti frequently. Our programs are to develop these communities in a holistic way, but depends on donations.  Our agriculture program feeds the schools, our small business loans and microcredit programs enable families to climb out of poverty and get their children to school. Scholarships help older children get placed in grade schools and better jobs. Adult literacy and craft classes improve skills and job prospects in the villages.