As you might have gathered from some of my previous posts, I’m a huge fan of supporting local brands and makers. Also, whenever I need to buy an item of clothing, homeware or even consumables, I always try to check that it has been made in South Africa and preferably somehow supports small business. Of course, this isn’t ALWAYS possible, but I try…
Anyway, since the coronavirus pandemic hit our shores, leading to the announcement of stringent lockdown measures and an almost total shutdown of the economy, many South African small businesses have been struggling to stay afloat. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to support and buy local.
In the light of this, I’ll be doing a series of posts over the next few weeks, featuring my favourite South African makers and brands – from jewellery designers and artists to skincare products and shoes. I’ll be kicking off my series with artists and illustrators whose work I’d love to collect and hang all over the walls of our new home.
If you have any local brands/makers you love – no matter what they do – please leave a suggestion in the comments!
Donovan Julius Contemporary Art
Earlier this year, my dad and I visited Swellendam for a work assignment. During our time there, we were introduced to Donovan Julius, a local artist and activist who lives and works in Suurbraak.
We spent about an hour browsing through his lovely cottage studio/gallery and sitting on the grass chatting with him, his business partner, Duran Hendricks, and a couple of other locals. During our stroll through the gallery, I was drawn to one painting in particular: soulful eyes – both ancient and childlike – staring out from an astronaut’s helmet, the night sky twinkling in the background.
It formed part of his ‘Dare to Dream’ series, which depicts African children in various dream jobs, roles and designations. I kept returning to it and finally asked if it had been bought by anyone yet. Apart from a lovely little painting I bought in Santiago de Compostela to commemorate my and my mom’s Camino Portugues back in 2017, I’d never invested in art before, but somehow I felt like that little afronaut and I belonged together. Fortunately, it was still available and I put a deposit down. Can’t wait to pick it up one of these days!
Anyway, Donovan is an extremely talented and versatile artist, who has a particular knack for whimsical and wistful portraits. Next time you’re in the Swellendam area, do take a sho’t left and visit his gallery in Suurbraak. If your pockets feel a bit flat, he also creates beautiful bags and mugs, which make for perfect souvenirs.
I’m not sure how or when I stumbled upon her, but Amy Ayanda has become a firm favourite on my Instagram feed. To me, there’s something deeply magical and powerfully feminine about her artworks. I’m a big fan of the colours she currently seems to favour: pink and turquoise, gold and black.
A bit of background from her website:
Her paintings and prints draw inspiration from the local landscape, its flora and colours. Images of proteas, fynbos and the familiar silhouette of Table Mountain recur in both her illustrative work and her more impressionistic canvas pieces. In subject, she returns often to her great grandmother’s flower farm in Constantia from which the family was forcibly removed in the1960s under the Group Areas Act. Reflecting on her historical ties to the land, Amy explores themes of longing and belonging; her work a tender and intimate engagement with home. The places she paints are both real and imagined, a place to come back to – the body of a mother, a mountain, a field of flowers.
During that first, heavy phase of lockdown, Cape Town-based architect and illustrator, Sarah Allderman – aka Sarch Designs – brought a whole lot of light and joy to many with her free art project. For a full nine days, she gave away a free Mother City-themed print to anyone who mentioned her Instagram handle in their stories.
Once the giveaway ended, she started selling those same prints and a few additions ‘for the price of a Woollies coffee’. I scooped up a couple and can’t wait to print them out and start creating a special gallery wall in our home! (On that topic – does anybody know where we can find nice plain wooden frames, like the ones in the screenshot above?)
‘Thingmaker. Illustrator. Graphic designer.’
Don’t you just love the word ‘thingmaker’? I think it’s just perfect!
Anyway, Lauren has been running her own business since 2008. She spends her days drawing commissions and designing custom artwork, but lucky for us, also sells a number of editioned prints as well as – and this is where ‘thingmaking’ comes in – cross-stitch kits on her website.
In the About section, she writes:
“Cross stitch is something very dear to my heart. My wish, is to bring the joy of this craft to all. Especially in this instant gratification, fast paced world we live in. Cross stitch invokes the practice of patience and stillness whilst still keeping the hands busy. A kind of productive meditation.”
Sounds like something we could all spend some time doing right now, or what?
Karabo Poppy Moletsane
Inspired by the visual aesthetic of Africa, both contemporary and traditional, Karabo Poppy Moletsane is a multi-award-winning illustrator, graphic designer and street artist.
On her Behance profile, Karabo writes:
“Our aesthetic has a long rich heritage rooted in constant innovation and hybridity. I believe that every African carries this with them daily and I believe that it is in the everyday seemingly mundane events where this aesthetic is at its most beautiful to me. So I set out to preserve and celebrate it in my work and represent the unrepresented.”
This charismatic young woman has been part of some incredible collaborations, including the recent Karabo Poppy X Nike Air Force 1 collection, where she got to design THREE pairs of shoes inspired by South Africa. Karabo was also named one of Forbes Africa’s 30 under 30 in 2019 .
T-shirts by Imar Krige
Last but definitely not least, I have to mention my brother, Imar and his range of epic t-shirt designs. He’s been drawing all his life and heads up the graphic design division of our family business, Solid Stuff Creative Studio.
If I recall correctly, the first time Imar did a t-shirt design was back in high school for his hockey team. After this, he did a couple more for specific occasions (including a fun ‘Betty’s Bay’ t-shirt for a family Christmas), but with the burden of running his own business and doing client work, he hasn’t been able to find much time to pursue these kind of side projects.
Then, about a year ago, he discovered Cotton Bureau, a curated online community for high-quality graphic tees and hoodies, and decided to submit a couple of designs. Basically, once the design is loaded on the site, the Cotton Bureau team deals with all the selling, printing, shipping and customer service admin.
He currently has a whopping 21 designs up for purchase, including a super cool range based on the Vikings television series.
My personal favourite among his collection, is this Bad Coffee one!
Unfortunately, Cotton Bureau is based in the US, so shipping to SA literally costs an arm and a leg. However, if you’re interested in buying one of his t-shirts, let me know. We can always make up a bigger order and share shipping costs.