Archives: October 2014

Grand Opening of the Watershed

Discovering new designs with artist and friend Lyndi Sales

Discovering new designs at the Watershed with Lyndi Sales, installation artist.

The Watershed , Africa’s new home for craft and design held its grand opening last night at the Waterfront. Although it has been open for a few weeks now and already had a soft opening, the grand event was the finale complete with dancing entertainment, food stall trucks, craft beer on tap and wine bars where one could buy not only a glass but could take home an entire case of South African wine if preferred.

With over 150 exhibitors of design and craft from furniture to jewelry, kids clothing to african chic vintage, there is no doubt that one can find the finest on offer in Cape Town. Some of my favorite designers now exhibiting here are Missibaba, Moonbasket, Ithalomso, Puchulik and Skermunkil. Some favorite new discoveries included wallpaper from Robin Sprong, benches by Vogel, rope baskets by Aliza Sholk and chairs by James Mudge among many others. Open 364 days a year from 9am to 9pm with a contemporary market feel, the Watershed is like a permanent Design Indaba, making it the perfect place for anyone interested in export to source designs.

The exhibiting stalls on the first floor gave way to creatively designed spaces put together on the second floor of various designs to be found at the Watershed. This allowed a potential interior designer or connoisseur to envision how one design fit with another. It gave the entire project a mass thread that pulled South African craft onto a stage that is of the best design to be seen in the world.

Inside the World of John Bauer, Eccentric Ceramic Artist

John Bauer outside his home in Cape Town.

John Bauer outside his home in Cape Town.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting John Bauer, acclaimed ceramic artist and wildly-free thinker, in his home in Claremont. I am met outside by the eccentric John himself and dozens of gargoyles scattered across the front veranda. John concedes that for a long time in the early days he did a lot of gargoyles, but John is the kind of artist who moves along swiftly in his inspiration from one genre to the next. He began his entrance to center stage as a ceramic artist with his poetry bowls: beautiful words and drawings of mythical creatures onto exceptionally thin handcrafted porcelain bowls.

John Bauer has been making pots his entire life. He has over 4,000 of his pieces stored in the roof, he tells me. For every piece he has made throughout his life, he makes 3 of a kind. He chooses his best of the 3 to be stored for the day when his entire collection will be exhibited. We half -jokingly say that place will be the Smithsonian.

John’s work appears around the world including far out and off places, like the tiling of an entire palace wall in the United Arab Emirates. Currently and locally, his plates and bowls and other fine ceramic pieces are what a finer diner will feast upon at The Test Kitchen, the restaurant of the moment in Cape Town. When John receives an order, from clients as big as Anthropologie in the US, he says he will over-produce. Guidelines are rather difficult for John as a creator. He says if the order is for 400 pieces he will produce 1000 and then the buyer can choose from what has been created. John explains, “ I have to respond to the voice of the clay, which is far louder than the voice of the client.”

John has a keen interest in bringing things back into fashion. He says he alone brought back the doily. Stacks of doilies on a metal stick are piled almost to the ceiling like flapjacks with a bell on top as if to summon the spirit Doily? John is after all, the self-proclaimed, Doily Lama. John uses the doilies and other found objects to imprint into his work creating a mystical, whimsical and for some possibly scary look.

John says that this year he is bringing back the basket. His techniques are beyond fresh; they are breakthrough. No other ceramic artists are doing what John is doing in terms of technique. At the moment he is making porcelain bowls and light fittings that almost look identical to a basket or crochet weave.

It would be fair to say that John’s entire house is a work of art, including he himself. When asked how he works and if he sleeps, he admits that yes he does sleep, but he does get distracted easily. One of those distractions came one day and inspired him to dig a well outside in his back garden. John explains, “If a saying has lasted a 1000 years, it must be true…Unless you draw your own water you will never be happy.”

Still water runs deep. Inside Bauer's self-dug well.

Still water runs deep. Inside Bauer’s self-dug well.

All Roads Lead Home, Handmade Craft in the Mother City

Perhaps she is called the Mother City because all roads inevitably lead you back to where it all began for all of us so many thousands of years ago. Reminders of the largest continent, Africa, are not only in the languages you hear or the music pulsating out from taxis but most certainly from the wide array of craft that makes its final way to Cape Town before being sold in markets to tourists or exported overseas in containers.

Cape Town graffiti art literally glows gold at different times of the day changing the mood. Mama Africa says farewell on a building as motorists leave the Cape Town's city bowl.

Cape Town graffiti art by Faith 47 glows gold at different times of the day changing her mood. Mama Africa says farewell on a building as motorists leave Cape Town’s city bowl.

Not only is there a wide array of local craft being made in South Africa, there is also craft coming from all over the African continent. Many of the beautifully woven baskets are coming from neighboring countries of Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Jewelry, beads and textiles are coming from Ghana to Ethiopia. Carpets and shoes are coming from Morocco. Wooden art from Gabon. And all of it can be found in the Mother City.

Plastic woven bangles made in Senegal.

Plastic woven bangles made in Senegal.

If you would like to be involved in the crafting, just head down to the African Women’s Market on Long Street and you’ll find one of the seamstress who will make you your own tailored dress with any of the dozens of patterns she has. You can bring your own fabrics or choose from her selection of African textiles.

Seamstress at the African Women's Market on Long Street in Cape Town.

Seamstress at the African Women’s Market on Long Street in Cape Town.

Rob Walker, founder and owner of Ashanti Designs, in Cape Town employs entire villages in Malawi and Mozambique to craft his product: baskets, furniture and bags all woven from natural fibers. When asked about lead times for export orders, Rob smiles and says, “It depends. If there is a funeral in the village they mourn the loss for sometimes weeks unlike Westerners who hold a funeral for maybe a day maybe two. We work on African time.” Lead times for larger export orders are therefore a bit longer 6-8 weeks.

Basket Crafters in Malawi weaving chairs and lampshades to be exported from Cape Town.

Basket Crafters in Malawi weaving chairs and lampshades to be exported from Cape Town.

 Basket making is a centuries old craft handed down from one generation to the next  throughout Africa.

Basket making is a centuries old craft handed down from one generation to the next throughout Africa.

An entire village in Malawi employed to craft baskets to be sold in The Mother City.

An entire village in Malawi employed to craft baskets to be sold in The Mother City.

The Watershed: Africa’s New Home for Craft and Design

The Watershed, Africa’s new home for craft and design is set to open on October 9, 2014 with over 150 crafters and designers to entice you. Formerly know as the Red Shed at the Waterfront next to the Two Oceans Aquarium, the Watershed is a re-invention of what was with more contemporary cutting-edge designers at the forefront of the fashion and design scene in Cape Town. Amongst the new designers on board including Famke, Spaza, Mungo and Jemima, Lulu K, Imagenius and many others you will also find some of the same, yet new and improved, crafters from the olden days of the Red Shed.

The Watershed at the Waterfront in Cape Town set to open October 9, 2014

The Watershed at the Waterfront in Cape Town set to open October 9, 2014

Over 150 South African exhibitors setting up at the Watershed to sell contemporary craft and design made locally.

Over 150 South African exhibitors setting up at the Watershed to sell contemporary craft and design made locally.

Lulu K Designs will be one of the exhibitors to find here. Lulu K designs exquisite handbags and belts made by local women in South Africa through an empowerment project.

Lulu K Designs, www.lulukdesigns.com, will be one of the exhibitors to find here. Lulu K designs exquisite handbags and belts made by local women in South Africa through an empowerment project.

The Watershed is a project run by Trevor and Julian McGowan of The Southern Guild or Source who have been agents for local South African designers and crafters to many top companies for years including Anthropologie and West Elm in the United States and Conrad’s in the UK.

They have completely gutted the former building and you can now walk through what feels more like a warehouse or contemporary marketplace to shop some of Cape Town’s finest designers from 9am-9pm daily. Upstairs is set to be a market place for holistic healing and medicine and right next door is the Food Lover’s Market brewing with fine foods, making this new area of Cape Town sure to be the next hotspot to be seen, heard, fed and now dressed!

Shirley’s House

After over a year back in the USA, I returned to Cape Town where I lived for 12 unforgettable years. What’s not to love in this city? Table Mountain. 2 Oceans. The melting pot of cultures. The Mediterranean climate. The protea forests. I could go on and on and that’s just the landscape. One of the greatest aspects of returning to Cape Town is being able to reconnect with all of my friends. Shirley Fintz, acclaimed ceramic artist and avid art collector, is one of those special people.

Shirley Fintz

Shirley Fintz, www.shirleyfintz.com

Shirley’s house has been photographed and shot for commercials and movies alike dozens of times. Maybe it’s the long wooden African carved boats in the passage way carrying collections of vintage toys as its passengers or maybe it’s the Bat Center baskets of selected top artists in Durban circumnavigating an entire room with a collection of ceramic birds below it painted by her youngest son, Leo.

Shirley has redefined the art of collection, categorizing and display. Her house is a treasure trove of interesting and unique collectables, mostly toys and dolls, in and amongst fine contemporary art.

There is also always a basket full of clothes that Shirley is resurrecting from old vintage slips, lace trims or even table clothes. And of course Shirley’s necklaces and rings. Shirley collects African trade beads, vintage charms and rare glass beads and turns them into exquisite and sometimes off the wall necklaces. Walking back into her house after a long time away, was like a breath of fresh air, resurrected air. There is just something so enticing about the way Shirley sees the world and inside her home is where it all comes to life.

.Bat Centre baskets by selected artists collection of 50 each different. price on request.

Vintage Dolls. Collection for sale. Price on request

Vintage toys in wooden sh

Vintage toys in wooden ship

Monkey biz beaded animals for sale.

Monkey biz beaded animals for sale.

Bongi Bengu framed R20,000/ $2,000

Bongi Bengu framed R20,000/ $2,000

Shirley Fintz ceramic art for sale. Ceramic Oros/Snapple bottles R6000, methylated spirits R2800, pillchards R4500

Shirley Fintz ceramic art for sale. Ceramic Oros/Snapple bottles R6000, methylated spirits R2800, pillchards R4500

Shirley’s private collections are now for sale. For more information on these collections please contact amyonjourney@gmail.com.