Archives: January 2015

Lulu Kingsley, Designer Extraordinaire

Lulu uses a mirage of materials to design and crochet her bags including ropes, cables, fringe, African textiles, silks and tassels.

Lulu Kingsley uses a mirage of materials to design and crochet her bags including ropes, cables, fringe, African textiles, silks and tassels.

Lulu Kingsley, Creator and Director of Lulu K Designs, has designed just about everything and her life itself has maybe been her greatest design. Born in England but raised in South Africa, Lulu finished school and began in fashion design trading under the name Rizzo Clothing on the then, uber trendy Green Market Square. After her first child was born (Lulu is a mother of 4 beautiful creations) she moved to the UK where she designed anything from shop fittings to gardens. The landscape design led her to an Olive Farm in Spain where she and her growing family lived for 6 years before returning to Cape Town in 2008. Once she returned she began consulting in design until one day Lulu K began with a mere piece of red string. “I came across this cable, it was just a piece of red rope, and I started experimenting with different ways of using it. The look was amazing and I thought let me try to make a bag.” She had an incredible response and before she knew it she was making one-offs bags for people and the orders did not stop.

The Ixia, Crochet weaved cable over traditional African cotton fabric. As you wear it the item loosens to create a chic shape.

The Ixia, Crochet weaved cable over traditional African cotton fabric. As you wear it the item loosens to create a chic shape.

Through Lulu’s life, strewn across the hemispheres, it is clear she is willing to experiment with different mediums and environments. Sometimes being an outsider looking in really helps you to see the gaps or what is needed or even simply what really matters. Lulu says, “When I came back to this country (South Africa) I knew I needed to find a way to work with people from disadvantaged backgrounds.” She placed an ad on Gumtree choosing 4 ladies and she just gave them needles and materials. “I literally paid them to play, knitting and crocheting.” Though she was happy to be employing 4 women, she still wanted to be more involved with the townships. She found an incredible charitable organization, Ikamva Labantu, who work with pensioners in the townships. She got in touch with them and discovered that a factory had recently closed down and a lot of pensioners needed work. At the time in 2011, pensioners in South Africa only received R12,000 a year, less than $100 a month! This was not enough to survive and most of them needed another form of income. She was introduced to a small group of ladies, all in their mid-late 60s. Today Lulu employs 14 women in the townships as weavers making the bags.

Lulu and the Ladies who Weave for Lulu K. Each bag comes complete with a "Passport of Authentication" telling the buyer the name of the bag the person who assembled it and the date which is was made.

Lulu and the Ladies who Weave for Lulu K. Each bag comes complete with a “Passport of Authentication” telling the buyer the name of the bag, the person who assembled it and the date which  it is was made.

Lulu chooses to go into the townships rather than asking the ladies to come into the city to alleviate transportation costs and difficulties. For the last 4 years Lulu has gone in to various townships across the N1 and N2 highway on a weekly basis to work with the ladies.”When you go in and you see their environment, they are living in corrugated shacks, and they’ve got no money, but still they have a smile on their face. They believe in God. It’s very humbling.”Lulu says, ” It really makes sense for how bad your life isn’t, and it works the same way for them. They don’t think their life is bad. Their relationship bonds are much stronger as they have to rely on each other because they have nothing else to rely on.” Lulu concludes, ” As long as I can give an income to these women then it’s an income for my soul.”

A model from Lulu K's latest look book, holds a Dahlia.

A model from Lulu K’s latest look book, holds a Dahlia with fringe.

Lulu admits that in the beginning it was difficult to make ends meet with Lulu K. Although the business was growing, the materials, labor and marketing outweighed the turnover.  She remembers at the Design Indaba last year, “We weren’t ready. We didn’t have enough stock.” The demand was there and Lulu K received orders from several retailers in Europe, but the production wasn’t tight enough. At the next Design Indaba coming up in a few short weeks, they are now ready! Lulu has employed a head of logistics and a head of sales, giving her more time to concentrate on design and marketing.

Lulu K can now produce 10 of each style in a week. There ware 7-8 styles, though they are always being updated, changed or fixed. All the bags are named with African names: Adia, Ixia, Emem, Iris, Boniswa, Mbali, Dahlia, Nuru. Some are named after the ladies who make them and others, like the Mbali, with a beautiful meaning translated from Xhosa as “flower”. Lulu K bags can be found locally at the Watershed, Peach, The One and Only Hotel, Africa Nova, The Mount Nelson and Peacock Blue in Franschoek.

Lulu holds one of her newest designs not yet in stores, an oversized crochet woven clutch available in neon yellow, pink and orange lined in African fabrics.

Lulu holds one of her newest designs not yet in stores, an oversized crochet woven clutch available in neon yellow, pink and orange lined in African fabrics.

All the materials used for the bags are locally made, and Lulu even designs her own cables. She sits with the suppliers and adds a little bit of gold or thickens an already woven rope. “We play with things until we get the right mix.” Lulu explains.

Lulu  K has also started a range of outer-ware with crochet bikinis, short tops with larger crochet weaves and more recently a move into working with new materials of wool, bamboo and mohair for upcoming winter pieces.

Involved in even the making of the material, Lulu works with rope suppliers to custom design her own rope.

Involved in even the making of the material, Lulu works with rope suppliers to custom design her own rope.

For Lulu design seems to be an integral part of her life, always evolving and taking shape. She says she still has a dream to do shoes. Ugg sort of boots in a knitted cable. Lulu says, “It’s about finding the right people and putting the right people and materials together and creating something.” If Lulu’s entire life is anything to judge by, there is a lot more to come.

Gemma Orkin, Ceramic Artist: Queen of Quirk

Gemma Orkin inside her studio. Gemma says it takes it her 2 days to complete 50 dishes.

Gemma Orkin inside her studio. 

For most people change is a good thing, but not for ceramic artist Gemma Orkin. Gemma has been making semi-functional ceramic dishes and bowls for over 20 years. Her drawings are quirky, sassy and sweet and totally her own. Her signature, though it has evolved gently over time, is so particular and light-hearted, and well, un-changed. If something works, why change it? Gemma explains, “I don’t like change, but I do love with ceramics that there are so many different areas to it. It’s not monotonous.”

Gemma had a very early introduction to art and the art world as one of 7 children to her artist mother, Gail Catlin. Gemma says art has always been a part of her life. She grew up taking art lessons on a regular basis, not always formally but from her mother or sent to friends of her mother for lessons. Though Gemma did eventually receive formal training at the University of Cape Town, majoring in print-making. “Print-making was a difficult medium to really do something with”, she says. When a friend suggested she come to Barbara Jackson’s studio to try ceramics Gemma gave it a shot and very shortly after she began teaching other students at the studio.

Bowls of the day in between phases of painting. Gemma says she enjoys the quality of dryness of clay for drawing on.

Bowls of the day in between phases of painting. Gemma says she enjoys the quality of dryness of clay for drawing on.

All of Gemma’s work is hand-made with coils, each and every tiny oval dish to her bigger pots. Then of course there is the drawing. Gemma begins with an idea and then draws the image for reference before drawing it onto each piece, then it is hand-painted and finally glazed. Her first signature pieces which put her on the art world stage were her big hair people. I must admit they are my personal favorite. Many of her special one-off pieces were largely inspired however by nature with paintings of indigenous birds and flowers. Life and wellness are her biggest inspirations. She says, “you can go for a walk and feel happy and notice something and then I ‘ll draw it.” Gemma is the queen of quirk and on her ceramics you can find anything from hanging laundry, hot air balloons, rockets, fish or a ramble about being in love or being in life. Her work makes you smile. “There are no hidden meanings,” she says. “It’s light.”

At Melissa's Food Shop on Kloof Street you can always find a range of Gemma Orkin's latest creations.

At Melissa’s Food Shop on Kloof Street you can always find a range of Gemma Orkin’s latest creations.

Gemma’s ceramic art can be found all over the world. Most notably in South Africa are her continuous collections at Melissa’s Food Shop in 9 outlets throughout Cape Town and Johannesburg. She has also appeared at Anthropologie and West Elm in the US, Habari in Vienna, Le Panape de Camela in Geneva and at Angie’s Little Food Shop in England. Though Gemma has made her ceramics a full-time business over the last 12 years she admits, “I don’t advertise myself. I don’t like to sell myself. I am very lucky people find me.” Or rather they are very lucky to find her <3.

To request more information regarding Gemma’s work, please contact amyonajourney@gmail.com.

Coming out alive of 2014….and into the light of 2015!

A few years ago I was at a friend’s house when one of her friend’s who had just recently turned 40 came over. We all sat together on her sunny deck in the back garden at the top of Kloof Street in Cape Town. At the time I was still in my early 30s. I asked her looking back what had been her best years? She replied, the sunlight glistening through her blonde locks, my best years were my hardest years. At the time, I remember thinking what a woman, how evolved of her. Surely most people would say their carefree 20s or that one year when everything went right, but no, she said it was her hardest. Although she wasn’t a close friend of mine, I knew her well enough to know that she had had some really tough years, tough battles.

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Looking back on 2014, it was the hardest year of my life. It was a cosmic battlefield with one blow or loss after another. There were many days when it was just one foot at a time, forget one day at time, but I pulled through. I made it to 2015 and I finally understand just what she meant by her hardest years being her best. Through the losses and the grief and the uncertainty and the constant challenges I transformed and went within because it was the only safe and sure place to go. Although, let’s be honest, I certainly don’t want to relive 2014, but am I grateful for it, absolutely!

2014 taught me to never have any expectations, because they will always let you down. It taught me that when there is nothing left and nowhere to turn, you must turn to your breath and be still. It taught me that everyone will have an opinion, but no one is right or wrong; the only one who knows what’s best for you is you because no one has lived in your shoes. And finally it taught me that with each new day, brings new opportunity or just different problems. Nothing stays the same and everything will pass.

What’s in store for all of you in 2015? Time will tell, just as it will heal. Whatever lies ahead in 2015, fear not, whether good or bad, in the end it’s all part of the journey to transform you into your true self.

Blessings for 2015!!!