Trinbagonians love traditional architecture, especially features like intricately detailed fretwork, known as gingerbread. Fretwork was the result of hours of work by a skilled artisan, using a scroll saw to carve out a geometric pattern of curves and curls in wood. Fretwork has its origins in Indian, French, and Arabic culture, first adorning buildings during the colonial period and eventually becoming synonymous with Caribbean architecture.
The tradition has faded, as many skilled tradesmen have passed on, and the time and cost associated with hand-produced artwork makes it prohibitive for many who would love to add this nostalgic detail to modern buildings. However, a new technology called Computer Numerical Control (CNC) is making this iconic Caribbean style element more accessible. Fretworks, a fabrication company in Diamond Vale, designs and produces unique, custom architectural details.
Managing Director, Marcus Skinner, can attest to the impressive growth and popularity of the business. The company specialises in decorative elements that can transform spaces like textured walls, ornate ceilings, or eye-catching front doors. The process can produce modern textured panels, retro 3D designs, and signage. Using automated technology, they offer almost limitless options, translating any inspiration—a photograph, sketch, even a feeling—into a pattern using Computer-Aided Design (CAD), and transform those designs into reality with perfect precision using CNC machines, on most materials, including metals, wood, PVC, and acrylics.
But the machines can’t take all the credit: there’s still a need for an artistic vision. The Fretworks team are not only skilled in the technicalities, but also have a vision for what can be created using their equipment. The customer is also involved in expressing their vision of bringing that intimate, personal flair to their home or commercial building. Fretworks will work with them to come up with creative solutions to achieve the blend of aesthetics and functionality they desire, within their budget. They offer standard patterns, create custom pieces based on clients’ ideas, or reproduce designs supplied by professionals, such as architects and event planners.
They also express their love of traditional handiwork through conservation efforts, such as the restoration of the famed gingerbread house around the Queen’s Park Savannah. Skinner presented on the topic for The National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago. “It’s not just the famous, historic buildings that deserve to be returned to their former glory, but also the little gingerbread homes scattered around places like Woodbrook.”
True. The Caribbean has lost much of its architectural heritage through time, neglect, and natural disasters. Having worked “up the islands”, the team is mindful of the devastation caused by last year’s hurricanes. “After the critical rebuilding has taken place, we’d love to be involved in returning those historical touches to the countries affected.” Fretworks is poised to take on any challenge, from wedding mandaps to Christmas trees. A clever idea for those looking to add a new touch to their project—without the fretting.