Designers along the way

Handmade in Mexico Exhibition and POP-UP

AMY ON A JOURNEY, exhibited Handmade in Mexico and Pacific Coast Vintage POP-UP last Thursday, after returning from a 3 month adventure in Mexico from Oaxaca to Baja and the US Pacific Coast.

Handmade in Mexico Exhibition in Cape Town of embroidered dress and other textiles from Oaxaca, Mexico.

Handmade embroidered dresses from Oaxaca were the most loved! One dress can take up to a week’s work of embroidery- they are truly works of art! Embroidered cotton bags and belts as an alternative to leather were also a favorite.

The best embroidery comes from Oaxaca where it has long been a traditional skill and craft. I met this young vendor at the market in Rosarito, over 3,000km North from Oaxaca. It’s is a family business. His mother, father and sisters all embroider these works of art onto natural fabrics and he takes them to market.

A customer enjoys a sip of Mezcal while shopping. Made from the Agave cactus, Mezcal is another artesian craft that comes from Oaxaca.

Thanks to all for coming out to see and shop!

A few dresses, baskets and other exquisite pieces are left from the Mexican journey.

Contact by email, amyonajourney@gmail.com, for details of whats left and how to get it!

Mexican embroidered dresses, ponchos and shirts for sale in Cape Town.

Coming up next….Amy on a Journey to Northern India. Follow me on INSTAGRAM at amyjourney to see what treasures I find along the way and who are the artisans making them!

See you at the next Pop-Up!  ( end of September 2017)

Stay tuned…

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Topiaries From the Elgin Valley

In the heart of the Elgin Valley on Brookelands farm, men and women of the Grabouw community are gathering seeds, sticks, leaves, stems and flowers to create holiday-inspired, handmade topiaries. Andrea’s Topiary Creations employs disadvantaged men and women from the local farm community to craft and create the topiaries. My partner Grant and I made the trip out, just an hour outside Cape Town, to visit Andrea’s Topiaries and meet some of the talented crafters who make these creations by hand.

Local crafter, Franklin, uses indigenous cape fynbos to create handmade topiaries in the Elgin Valley.

Local crafter, Franklin, uses indigenous cape fynbos to create handmade topiaries in the Elgin Valley.

The farm boosts generations of bursting protea bushes and all sorts of indigenous Cape fynbos. At the moment the farm grows oranges and lemons, but is moving towards growing only blueberries in the near future. On the farm, guests can stay at the cosy, charming stone cottage for two and meander through all the botanical life with a natural stream running right under your doorstep. All of the “farm charm” can be thanks to Andrea’s elegant style and Rob, her husband’s love of the bush, farming and creating amazing spaces in nature.

A glimpse of county farm life in the main house on Brookelands Farm.

A glimpse of county farm life in the main house on Brookelands Farm.

What started as a hobby for farm owner, Andrea, and her daughter Kate fourteen years ago has developed into a thriving business supplying locally sourced and community crafted topiary creations to the hotel and interior design industries. Cape indigenous foliage is used to create works of art in the form of bunnies, reindeer, wreaths, trees, hearts, baskets and more.

 

This holiday season why not gift the ones you love with a locally- made, indigeously crafted topiary. The holiday forest scent lasts for years and each creation is treated to maintain its colour indefinitely. It’s a gift that keeps on giving year after year.

Exhibition of new work by Lyndi Sales: NO PLACE

Rainbows are ethereal and have represented throughout history for almost every culture some form of utopian thinking. In Cape Town artist, Lyndi Sales’ new exhibition of work at WHAT IF THE WORLD gallery entitled No Place, she seeks to observe the artistic and scientific bridge between nature and humanity in an intersection of reason and wonder focused around the ephemeral rainbow.

Sales finds rainbows everywhere and they have been a theme throughout her work as an artist exploring ideas of space, illusion and time. In this latest collection Sales uses the medium of weaving through color and reflection to investigate the rainbow in all its magic and transience and relate it to a desire for alternatives, a better way of living. Sales took a weaving course to bring this new medium through and into her work in this exhibition. So inspired by it, she plans on visiting Morocco next year for another course in the ancient craft.

Lyndi Sales’ No Place is on exhibit at WHAT IF THE WORLD GALLERY in Woodstock through until 17 October 2015.

Petro Steyn aka SKEET, Designer of Abstract Street Wear

Petro Steyn is the creator of and designer for the street wear label SKEET, though these days Steyn says of her designs, ” I don’t know where I fit in? It’s not fashion. It’s not art. It’s couture. It’s avant garde.” Steyn has never really fit in, hence the name, Skeet. The direct translation of the word Skeet from Afrikaans to English is defined as: caprice, fart, hypochondria, imaginary ailment, whim. Skeet was the name her sister Antonia gave her many years ago and her longtime friend Anri du Toit, AKA: Yolandi Visser from Die Antwoord convinced her to name her new label Skeet when it first emerged. “Ninja drew up the logo for me in like less than 3 minutes with his left hand.” Steyn remembers.  In many ways, Skeet’s designs carry this whimsical, magical element of design and creation with her latest creations landing her designs on the front cover of the new local hipster magazine, The Lake.

Petro Steyn, Skeet Creator and Designer, in one of her latest neoprene designed masks.

Petro Steyn, Skeet Creator and Designer, in one of her latest neoprene designed masks.

In her earlier years Petro was part of a very prestigious Ballet School which she remembers as very degrading. She says it was like The Black Swan. She wanted to get away from it so she began studying at the Haute Couture School of Fashion Design in Cape Town. Fresh out of Haute Couture she started making hoodies that were also scarves, many one-off pieces, and she began selling her designs at Misfit, the then “It” clothing store for local street fashion in Cape Town. For years she designed under the label Misfit. I tell Petro I still have one of the incredible dresses she designed almost a decade ago. I called it the Chanel dress with a double V low back and front in marble black matte, thick satin fabric and vertically pleated from the waist to the knee. You know if a dress makes it 10 years in the wardrobe and is still there, it is a gem! After attending the Magic Show in Las Vegas to represent Misfit, she decided to start teaching pattern making in the fashion design department as the University of Technology.

Skeet: Street Couture

Skeet: Street Couture

She taught for 3 years before getting the itch to design a label again and from there White Noise was created as a street couture label. It was all black and white with cartoony eyes. She did a show at The District 6 Museum and much of her work was sold. This is when she began to really create and source out new and interesting materials to work with. She started getting off-cuts of neoprene from surf shops. She says, “It was like magic. Gluing the pieces together and suddenly I had two animal ears and birds tails and futuristic shoulder pieces.”

Skeet's neoprene designs launch at the What If The World Show in Cape Town.

Skeet’s neoprene designs launch at the What If The World Show in Cape Town in 2008.

In 2008, Steyn launched the neoprene masks and bodysuits at a What if The World Show. Though she didn’t sell a lot at that particular show, it was very well received and led to her inclusion in a Nike campaign for their new shoes “Dunks.”

Neoprene bodysuit designed by Petro Steyn for Nike "Dunks" Campaign.

Neoprene bodysuit designed by Petro Steyn for Nike’s Dunks Campaign.

Petro’s designs took another turn inwards, one could say with her dedication to her practice of Kundalini Yoga. She began designing yoga clothing for Gururamdas studio in Cape Town. She was making harem pants designed for yoga. At the same time her old friends Die Antwoord were becoming increasing popular as they shot to fame through you tube videos with their music and performance. Yolandi and Ninja approached her and asked her if she could design outfits for them to perform in. She made white tracksuits for both of them and Ninja painted on them in Roger Ballen style. The costumes became their permanent performance clothing in the beginning. Die Antwoord used all of their friends as part of their artistic circle like Sins of Style, Scar and Chommies. Although Skeet started in 2010 with a colorful range of delicious monsters and octopuses on tracksuit style clothing, Steyn admits, ” I didn’t even have a website so I missed the boat. I can’t sell. I can only make. It’s only now, yesterday, that I made an Etsy Shop Skeeeet to be ready for your blog.”

Sketchings of Skeet designed costumes for Yolandi Visser of Die Antwoord.

Skeet designed the X X costume that Yolandi wore to perform in her early days during Die Antwoord’s rise to fame.

Steyn AKA Skeet says of the masks she is creating today, ” I looked back at my portfolio and looked at what was unique and what worked. I wanted to create a product that’s not clothing. No one has done neoprene, it’s more sculptural and it had been well received at the WITW Show where they launched. I was inspired by these David Choe dolls to make masks which were actually a gift from Yolandi. I made a cat, a mouse and a fox. I posted them on Facebook and instantly someone wanted to buy one.”

Skeet designed masks and bodysuits are returning to center stage and are not available to purchase.

Skeet designed masks and bodysuits are returning to center stage and are not available to purchase.

I say to Petro, “It’s quite amazing to land on the first issue cover of The Lake. It’s so hipster, the magazine.”

Spoken like a true artist she replies, ” I hate hipster because it’s the next cool thing and this is not. This is not made to be cool or hip. It’s made to be fresh and original, something that no one can copy or make.”

Petro Steyn’s masks are selling for R1800 ($150) and can be purchased on Etsy or by enquiry on Skeet’s Facebook page.

Where in the World is Sylvia Benoist?

When Sitting down with Sylvia Benoist, Design Director of her latest children’s clothing label, WK (short for Where the Wild Kids Are) it is clear she has been all around this world. You can’t quite place her accent? Is it French? Is she from a neighborhood in London I haven’t heard of? Or she could be South African? Her accent is a conglomeration of many years spent living around the globe with her South African husband, photographer Justin and their 11 -year -old son, Noah. Sylvia was born and raised in Normandy, France, though she hasn’t looked back since she left home.  Always the rebel, she headed for London where she met Justin who was there working. She lived in London for 9 years until she became pregnant with Noah, and they decided to set sail back to South Africa. She remembers her London days fondly. “We shopped like mad. Portobello market of course. Everything was very music oriented. Very rock n’ roll.” It was a combination of being pregnant and a love of fashion that led her to her first label Petit Pois in 2003 which began with her first designs on baby grows “Make Love Not War” and prints of Elvis Presley.

For years at Journey Lifestyle, while I was the buyer, we couldn’t get enough Petit Pois on the rails and onto the shelves. Though we catered to young adults we had a smaller children’s section of kitsch toys, baby grows and blankets from Petit Pois with sayings on them like “It’s OK I’m with the band.” White on black. I never ordered pink for girls. And of course Petit Pois’s legendary baby blankets Louis Vutton inspired print with Nelson Mandela faces in between. Though inspired by Sylvia’s London days, she added in her own dashes of local Africa that truly made her label her own. At the time, no one in South Africa was making what Petit Pois was designing. Petit Pois’s children’s clothing range was fresh, hip and cheeky. It was a perfect fit at Journey. Though like all clever best selling designs, South Africa soon caught on and there were many copies of the design to follow saturating the already niche market.

"Hipster Cats" Illustrations by Marista for WK.

“Hipster Cats” by illustrator by Maritsa Odendaal for WK.

From the very beginning in 2004 Petit Pois had always traded at the Biscuit Mill market, back when it was uber hip, but like all things in Cape Town the hip crowd shifted away from the Biscuit Mill once it became commercial. As the hip customer shifted out Sylvia noticed her customer changed significantly. Sylvia found that the new mainstream customer did not want to spend money on children’s clothes. “In South Africa,” she says, “children’s fashion is a much harder selling point. It’s not a money thing. It’s a cultural thing. You go to French schools and kids are so well dressed. It’s the one thing I really miss about France.” Though Sylvia was a rebel even in those days. She remembers she had to beg her mother for her first pair of denims who preferred her in a paddington coat and dresses.

2 arms full of drawings. Illustration is the major theme for Sylvia's latest children's clothing range, WK

Sylvia’s 2 arms filling up with drawings. Illustrations are the central focus for Sylvia’s latest children’s clothing range, WK.

The advent of Sylvia’s kids fashion blog, “where the wild kids are” began as a way to inspire the South African market about children’s fashion. What she found from the blog was that her biggest market was American. Justin even ended up getting work as a photographer from the blog from US clients. Sylvia’s latest children’s label, WK, was developed as a way to grow her brand internationally and focus more specifically on the marrying of illustration with functionality in children’s fashion.  Her brand is now going to focus on export to the UK, US and Japan, though the manufacturing, design and materials will all be sourced locally. The children clothing labels that Sylvia admires most are all in Europe, particularly Mini Rodini. “It’s all about art work. They are a big inspiration. The reason why her brand is so good is because she is such a strong illustrator.”

WK children's clothing range for ages 0-12 years is due to launch with its S/S 16 collection.

WK children’s clothing range for ages 0-12 years is due to launch with its S/S 16 collection.

With WK, “It’s all about the graphic prints and illustrations. The styles are very simple.” Sylvia believes in the athestic less is more. WK will continue with baby grows, harem pants, baby blankets, hoodies, bibs and tote bags, but she is teaming up with her lead illustrator South African Maritsa Odendaal. Sylvia says that she herself is very involved in the illustration process. She has an idea and she asks Maritsa to draw it. “We are all cat crazy, Marista and I. I asked her to do some hipster cats. Even with the cat’s heads I asked her to turn them a specific way.”

Sylvia has always been inspired by graphics, just look at all the tattoos on her arm. It is a natural progression for her to go in this direction and in time after maybe an illustrator course she may be drawing the very designs we see on the WK 100% cotton 100% fresh children’s clothes. WK’s first collection will launch S/S 2016.

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.

It’s all in the NECKLACES by SHIRLEY FINTZ

Wearability, beauty and tradition are key components of Shirley's necklaces.

Wearability, beauty and tradition are key components of Shirley’s necklaces.

Shirley Fintz is more well-known for her ceramic art sculptures, but her necklaces which she designs from found objects, African trade beads and vintage glass are another unique and exceptional talent of hers. “The way I string the beads are what makes them nice,” she says humbly, but it is also her eye for finding the right beads and searching high and low to come across some of the rarest, oldest and most beautiful beads in the world today. In just one necklace intertwined are tradition, beauty, sentiment and sacredness making the wearer feel the wealth of what hangs around their neck.

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Shirley has aways had an appreciation for beadwork. She used to collect Zulu Beadwork, now a dying tradition and becoming more and more difficult to find. 10 years ago, Shirley started Monkey Biz as their Creative Director with a desire to keep the tradition alive and to develop new techniques, but also to create employment in South Africa. Shirley says she has been making necklaces her whole life (starting in Zimbabwe where she is from), but she became more passionate about beading as an art when she met “The African Trade Merchant, Sila”. She was always searching for special beads, ripping them out of a garment she would find or coming across one at a flea market, but Sila changed all that as he was the source of all things traditional African. He made the African trade beads available to Shirley in bulk hand-collected from across the continent.

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Thread through almost all of Shirley’s necklaces are African trade beads. Dating back to over 100 years ago, trade beads from Bohemia (Czech Republic), Amsterdam and Venice were traded by exploring Europeans for slave labor in West Africa. The beads became a form of currency in Africa and a sign of wealth. Chevron beads from Nigeria were worn by Kings and still are today. The more layers of glass the beads have the more expensive they become. They are not easy to find these days. They are very rare and a strand of the beads could cost up to R20,000 or $2,000. As Shirley puts it when describing rare beads, “they are not thick on the ground.”

Blue, white and red thick CHEVRON beads from Nigeria are some of the rarest and most expensive beads in the world today. Traditionally they are worn by Kings and centuries ago were traded by Europeans for slave labor in West Africa.

Blue, white and red thick Dutch CHEVRON beads from Nigeria are some of the rarest and most expensive beads in the world today. Traditionally they are worn by Kings and centuries ago were traded by Europeans for slave labor in West Africa.

Shirley sources African trade beads, vintage glass beads, vintage charms or anything she loves and can drill a hole into to craft her necklaces. She is inspired by beauty, but also by tradition and sentiment where or from whom things come from. “If it’s old and traditional and got a vibration I love working with it. I love the process of making something and the meditative state it can bring.” Shirley went through a phase of collecting vintage perfume bottles or lockets from the Victorian age (some still with locks of hair from those loved ones who had passed.) She has also gone through a phase of collecting vintage toy charms and creating necklaces from found tiny toys, but she always finds herself drawn back to African trade beads. “They (African trade beads) are so valuable, but they look like cheap sweets, not like perfect diamonds.” Shirley always includes one or two random little beads on her necklaces, she says as her signature, or a way to express her vision that beauty lies in imperfection.

One tiny random bead signs off a Shirley Fintz necklace. "I love to make a mistake," says Fintz of randomness and one off ness in her work.

One tiny random bead signs off a Shirley Fintz necklace. “I love to make a mistake,” says Fintz of randomness and one off ness in her work.

To view and purchase Shirley’s necklaces visit …

Amy on a Journey’s ETSY SHOP 

DESIGN AFRIKA, Revitalizing the Ancient Craft of African Basketry

Women weaving for a collaborative project with a French NGO, outside Binky's home or Design Afrika's Headquarters.

Women weaving for a collaborative project with a French NGO, outside Design Afrika’s Headquarters.

It’s no wonder when searching for baskets in South Africa, Binky Newman’s name kept coming up. Binky has been training and working with weavers for the last 20 years. After years of running a safari lodge in Botswana’s Okvangano Delta and working closely with basket weavers on a nearby island, Binky decided to focus her attention fully on craft and development. In 1995, Binky founded Design Afrika. Her passion was then and still is today to assist the many rural basket weavers to get their beautiful handcrafted products to the market place.

Naturally died pop of color through the basket transforms the traditional basket into a contemporary piece.

Naturally dyed color in the weave transforms the traditional basket into a contemporary piece.

Design Afrika’s HQ is at Binky’s home in Woodstock where it is not uncommon to find weavers gathered under a tree or on the front porch weaving, dressed in traditional clothing and speaking their native language of Xhosa. Binky explains that many of the weavers are coming from the rural areas in the Eastern Cape. All of Design Afrika’s weavers are women and often the breadwinners for their entire family.

This is a traditional Xhosa weave native to South Africa.

This is a traditional Xhosa weave native to South Africa.

Design Afrika is a fair trade, sustainable, eco-conscious business. Prices for baskets are always negotiated with the women and their skills are constantly being developed. Binky regularly holds workshops sponsored be various NGOS to illustrate new weaving techniques and incorporate contemporary design into tradition basketry.

Sustainable materials are used to weave the baskets. There are two main plants used, one is a river reed known locally as Imizi and the other is a palm tree leaf known as Ilala. Both plants are indigenous to South Africa and not vulnerable. Weavers use traditional natural dye recipes that have been passed down for generations from mother to daughter.

Design Afrika loves to collaborate. This piece was made from recycled strips of materials with designer Helen Melon.

Design Afrika loves to collaborate. This piece was made from recycled strips of materials with designer Helen Melon.

Although many of the baskets are locally produced in South Africa, some are coming from neighboring countries in Southern Africa like Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. When asked about lead times for ordering Binky explains that some products can take up to 6 months for delivery. Once the first rains have started women go straight into the fields to work the crops. Like most things in Africa, everything is dependent upon the rain!

Contemporary meets kitsch meets tradition in these unique and colorful lampshades.

Contemporary meets kitsch meets tradition in these unique and colorful lampshades with plastic top.

For more information on products from Design Afrika please email amyonajourney@gmail.com for a current catalogue.

PICHULIK, South Africa’s Accessories Designer of the Year

Katherine-Mary Pichulik Pichulik Designer and Kat Van Duinen collaborate at this year's Cape Town Fashion Week.

Katherine-Mary Pichulik and Kat Van Duinen collaborate at this year’s Cape Town Fashion Week.

It was a rainy Spring morning in Cape Town yesterday when I headed out to meet Katherine-Mary Pichulik at her studio in Woodstock. Katherine-Mary or Kat is the designer behind the current “it” accessories brand, Pichulik. When I entered, the warm and welcoming Kat offered me a beautifully designed cookie . She had picked some up on the way to the studio for her team of 11, including her to celebrate their latest honor, South Africa’s Accessories Designer of the Year! A great feat for a designer who has had her business, Pichulik, for just two years!

Kat introduces me to her team,mostly woman and one man all sporting vibrant Pichulik designs. The entire team is under 27 -years -old! Kat and I sit down next to a vase of white flowers amidst so much distracting design. I instantly fall in love with Pichulik’s latest range of woven clutches, a collaboration with weavers from Design Afrika. The range of bags will launch this Decemeber at Merchants on Long. Kat also shows me another design in the works, woven rope anklets made to wear over boots. Everything in her studio is gorgeous, handmade and crafted with locally sourced materials.

Gold threaded anklets, one of Pichulik's latest designs

Gold threaded anklets, one of Pichulik’s latest designs

Pichulik and Design Afrika are collaborating on woven clutches with rope edgings. Coming this December!

Pichulik and Design Afrika are collaborating on woven clutches with rope edgings. Coming this December!

Pichulik’s rise to Accessories Designer of the Year started out humbly on Kat’s travels through Europe and Asia. She began making necklaces on long train rides through India. She would wear what she made and people literally began buying them off her neck. Inspired by ornamentation, ceremonies and trade routes Pichulik’s designs have a luxurious tribal aesthetic with rich primary colors, thick ropes, and hints of gold throughout her work. Kat explains to me that jewelry is often used traditionally and tribally to mark an initiation in a women’s life. “Jewlery is not a need and because of this it is about making a woman feel beautiful. When a woman wears this necklace I want her to feel a level of sacredness about herself.”

Black boxes set to go out with Pichulik designs inside. Each person receives a handwritten  note that explains where the each piece is from, reminiscent of trade roots of a long gone era.

Black boxes set to go out with Pichulik designs inside. Each person receives a handwritten note inside that explains where each piece comes from, reminiscent of trade roots of a long gone era.

Although accessory designers usually do not have their own shows at Fashion Weeks, this year, Pichulik did just that at the Cape Town Merecedez Benz Fashion Week. Pichulik premiered her latest collections in collaboration with Kat Van Duinen’s incredible linen garments appearing in all white to compliment Pichulik’s bold designs. Pichulik rose to center stage quickly after doing the accessories for Lalesso, another Cape Town legend, at the August 2012 CTFW. Most recently Pichulik opened a stall at the Watershed as a main retail space in Cape Town. However, Katherine-Mary concedes the online store is doing very well and finds the advantage here is that she is able to track the business so closely and really see what the market is loving.

Wall art designed by Katherine- Mary Pichulik on exhibit at the Watershed.

Wall art designed by Katherine- Mary Pichulik on exhibit at the Watershed.

What’s next for Pichulik, already at the fashion forefront after 2 years, the answer is so much! Kat wants to design a scent that is reminiscent of Africa and she is working towards that right now. Her travels are most certainly going to stay a big part of her inspiration and movement with the brand. In the future, she envisions a kind of moving box or container that travels from one country to another exhibiting her work. There are so many inspiring stories of women in Africa that she says she hopes to document through her work. If Pichulik’s last two years are anything to judge by, you can be sure this is just a scratch on the surface of what’s to come.

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.