WORDS Yolanda Wessels and Athane ScholtzPHOTOGRAPHS supplied
In a digital age, fine art photography has limitless potential. From subtle changes in light and white balance to significant manipulation and compilation, Garden Route fine artists explore the possibilities with beautiful results.
“Fine art photography has really come into its own in the digital age,” says Knysna-based fine art photographer Alix Carmichele, whose atmospheric work is sold via online agencies to clients around the world.
“Photography as fine art was not recognised widely in South Africa until the last decade, when the advent of digital photography, social media and accessible photo manipulation software opened it up to creators and consumers of all talents, interests and backgrounds,” she adds.
Alix studied photography in London and has made a living through commercial and art photography since the 1980s. While she still works with film on occasion, she enjoys exploring new technology, such as an entire collection of atmospheric photographs shot on an iPhone.
“Other than adjustment to light, sometimes colour, and white balance, I don’t really manipulate my photographs much. I use my knowledge and experience with the principles of film photography and apply them to digital photography to create the effect in the original image, rather than manipulating an image digitally.”
Her ideas and themed exhibitions are inspired by everyday life as much as external influences and other art forms. “I will see someone walking on the beach, in winter with an umbrella, and want to photograph it, and explore the theme further. I enjoy, for instance, the atmosphere that desaturation of images creates.”
In addition to online agencies such as Orms and Room the Agency, Alix exhibits her work at Magpie’s Nest, a shop of beautiful homemade things she owns along with jeweller Emily Pointer.
ormsphotoart.co.za/shop/Alix-Carmichele/ Magpie’s Nest, The Tin House, 3 Gray Street
While Janelia Mould studied bookkeeping at the University of South Africa, she has always been a creator at heart. The Harkerville-based artist changed focus in 2015 when she stumbled across the work of American fine art photographer Brooke Shaden online. She was immediately captivated and could identify with her work. Janelia took out her digital camera, downloaded photo manipulation software and studied YouTube tutorials. “I taught myself to use my camera to its full potential and how to manipulate images to reach the end result I had in mind.”
Janelia does not hide the fact that 99% of her work has been manipulated. Her conceptual scenes are mostly surrealistic, something unexpected. “Through conceptual photography I tell a story or relate a message. In almost all the images I use myself as the object, because I find it easier to use myself as character. I don’t look critically at my self-image, but focus on the story I create.
“For both commissioned portraits and conceptual work, I enjoy using timeless costumes and try to create images with the feel of an old portrait, like those by old masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer. I enjoy creating once-off Old World images that can be appreciated for many years to come.”
A life-changing conversation and an old dream are behind the inspiring work of Nature’s Valley fine art photographer Natascha van Niekerk.
After completing her photography degree at the Tshwane University of Technology, Natascha freelanced in commercial photography and lectured for nine years. “I always wanted to pursue fine art photography and had been mulling over most of the products I now have in my range since my student years.
“In 2013 my husband, Thinus, and I had a serious ‘what would you do with your life if money wasn’t a factor’ conversation and my entire product range jumped into my mind’s eye.”
The couple decided to take the plunge, sold their house in Pretoria and moved to the Garden Route. “It is a decision I have not regretted for even a second. The most incredible forests, mountains, lakes and sea surround us and from here I can dream up and produce my decor prints, fabric range and jewellery. My work is deeply inspired by the area we live in.
“Creativity takes courage; a constant spirit of risk-taking that drives you to keep on putting yourself out there, regardless of the fear of rejection and inadequacy. It is also a pioneering spirit, always seeking the new path, the better way, the more accurate manifestation of your vision.
“It is often a force that does not let you rest until what you have produced is your absolute best and has taken everything out of you, and even then lets you dream about tomorrow when you can, just perhaps, make it even better. Creativity is a way of life that permeates all until you know, in your deepest core, that you are a maker.”
nataschavniekerk.com PHONE072 347 3175 Facebook: Natascha van Niekerk Photography
Natascha will be exhibiting at Decorex Cape Town in April and 100% Design in August
RaQuel de Castro Maia
Professional graphic designer, photographer and illustrator Raquel de Castro Maia has a fine arts degree, specialising in digital media. She combines fine art and computer graphic skills to produce commercial and artistic work.
“My work explores natural themes and focuses on fine details and delicate aspects that are often overlooked. I have always had a very keen interest and love of nature and wild spaces. I feel man’s well-being resides in the preservation of these spaces.” Raquel believes artists have a huge responsibility. “We have the power to express visually and we can bring down bridges that separate cultures, religion and entrenched social barriers and beliefs. By visually expressing ourselves and communicating a personal perspective, we can change lives and ultimately circumstances that are far reaching.” She hopes to inspire others to recognise the fragility of the wilderness and the urgency that exists in preserving it.
In 2010 Raquel published Ephemeral, a limited edition book of macro photography of wild orchids found in fynbos environments in the Western Cape. “The photographs and composite artworks express my deep concern for the receding fynbos areas and loss of species we are experiencing as a result. Local wild orchids are a less prolific species and will suffer the effects of over-development and loss of habitat acutely, and so it was the main subject for this body of work.”
Tattoos, once the province of those living on the fringes of accepted society, have become part of the mainstream like never before. On the Garden Route internationally respected tattoo artists Moog Muller and Estelle van der Walt attract clients from around the world – and from all walks of life.
WORDS Candice Ludick PHOTOGRAPHS Melanie Maré
Body art has always had a mixed reception – from being a mark of wealth in the upper echelons of European society in the late 1800s and the epitome of 1960s revolutionary expression to subversive subcultures and gang association. Today, tattoos are a recognised art form with a following across all social classes, genders, age groups and races.
Learning from a master
Moog Muller started his trade as an apprentice to tattoo artist Alain Reymond, whose hard-core reputation for travelling to war-torn regions to tattoo the foreign legion was legendary. Moog followed in his mentor’s footsteps and spent years in East and West Africa as well as Johannesburg before he moved to the Garden Route and opened Otherworld Tattoo in Knysna in 2007. He is the only manufacturer of coil tattoo machines in South Africa.
Among Moog’s more well-known clients is 5FM’s DJ Fresh, whose often-featured tattooed tribal armband was designed and inked by Moog. Not that the fame of some of his clients phases him: “I’m interested in the tattooing, the tattoo; it doesn’t matter if you’re a granny or a celeb,” he says.
His interest was sparked as a fine arts student when he got his first tattoo. “The tattooist had really good skills and could work from existing stencils, but had no artistic inclination. I had a specific idea in mind and provided my own drawings, which inadvertently planted the seed for this extraordinary career.”
After completing his art qualification, Moog began an apprenticeship under Alain in Johannesburg and also travelled with Alain for work, inking his first client in Djibouti, East Africa. “It was absolutely nerve-wracking. You’re leaving a permanent mark on someone, you have to do it right the first time.
“I’m ‘old school’ and when I learned, tattoo equipment was not readily available in South Africa. I learned to make all my equipment from scratch, including the coil machines I use to tattoo my clients.” Moog now sells coil machines to tattooists across the world.
Moog takes care to discuss his client’s choice of artwork with them to avoid regrets in future. “It is the main reason why the true professionals will not tattoo spur-of-the-moment walk-in clients under the influence of drugs or alcohol. No serious tattoo artist wants his or her work covered up – we have artistic pride like any other creative professional.” A large percentage of his work, however, is cover-ups. “About 40 to 50% of my work is covering up bad choices of subject matter and poorly executed tattoos.”
While many people choose from designs in reference books, there is a significant increase in people who arrive with definite ideas and pictures. Moog designs and also refines a client’s idea as part of his service but remains flexible to what they want. “There isn’t only one way. It is the client’s tattoo, not mine,” he says.
“The current trend in men’s tattoos is sleeves and for ladies, finer work on their ribs. It is constantly changing. What people see influences them in terms of their tattoo choices.”
Moog charges R900 per hour (Summer 2016/17) and takes a deposit for design work. Booking is essential and a waiting list of several months is not unheard of.
Not an ordinary woman
While other girls read Blush magazine, a teenaged Estelle van der Walt read tattoo magazines and drew pictures in pen on herself. “There are many reasons why people choose body art. It is something you do for yourself, no-one can take it away from you and it brings you joy,” she says.
Estelle’s formal education includes textiles and jewellery design in school, 2D and 3D art, and painting at the Cape Technical College. “My dad is an artist, and art has always been an important part of my life.” At 17 Estelle took an apprenticeship in leatherwork, which she regards as part of her journey. “I’m still working with skin and needles,” she laughs. “It is such an amazing job because it is rewarding in the sense that the appreciation is immediate, as opposed to putting artwork in a gallery. It is also one of the most difficult industries to get into. You have to be persistent.”
Estelle worked in henna for a number of years before securing a henna job in a tattoo shop, where she learned the ink trade. Morag Pringle of Skinscape Tattoo in Sea Point was not keen on an apprentice but Estelle’s talent, willingness to learn and persistence eventually paid off. “An apprenticeship is a commitment from both parties. You basically work for two years in exchange for knowledge, it isn’t easy to survive.” She has been tattooing for 11 years. While her business, Ocean Ink Tattoos, is based mostly in Plettenberg Bay, she has travelled to Thailand and Spain to complete commissioned work.
In the beginning she tattooed herself with water and also practiced on oranges. Every time she gets a new tattoo machine she first practices on herself so that she knows first-hand what her clients will feel.
Estelle mostly tattoos her own designs and has a waiting list of clients for new designs and larger pieces, such as backs and sleeves, which require more than one sitting. Many clients will continue adding to their old pieces over the years. A full sleeve can take 35 to 40 hours to complete. “Some people can sit comfortably for three hours while others can sit for six,” she says.
“Every tattoo is for a different person with a different story for a different reason. I interpret people’s ideas onto paper and skin, a lot of it is very intimate.
“People come from all over the world. I have tattooed gynaecologists, doctors, deejays, film producers, professors, primary school teachers, policemen, traffic officers and other tattoo artists – people from all walks of life. The oldest person I have tattooed was 75.”
Estelle says about 50% of her work is cover-ups – either bad work or the clients have emotionally outgrown their existing tattoos. She also helps people cover up scars, for example from cutting, and works with people who want to mark a turning point in their life, like recovering addicts.
She likens tattooing to therapy. “I call it needle therapy. It is a space where people are free to express themselves; a kind of pain therapy.”
Estelle likes to work with the shape of the body. “I often look at a person and get a picture in my head. It may not always be what they see but it is there. Getting a tattoo is a journey, a process; going through with the process is a commitment.”
Estelle charges R850 per hour (Summer 2016/17) and takes a deposit on design work.
CHOOSING YOUR TATTOOIST
The needle-in-skin methodology and permanence of tattoos require careful consideration when choosing a tattooist.
Do your homework: look at samples and reviews of tattoo artists, and ask others to make recommendations.
Check that sterile equipment is being used (a good tattooist will have an autoclave).
All surfaces must be impervious and sterile.
Check that the tattooist uses sterile gloves while working, and sterile needles and fresh ink for each client.
While there is no legal age restriction, most tattooists require permission from parents of minors.
The Western Cape government has bylaws regulating tattooing, generally pertaining to health and safety requirements.
The Council for Piercing and Tattoo Professionals (CPTP): bodyartcouncil.co.za
CONTACT Otherworld Tattoo
082 514 7648
Facebook: Otherworld Tattoo Ocean Ink Tattoos
Estelle van der Walt
073 613 6209
Facebook: Ocean Ink Tattoos SA
Plettenberg Bay-based art curator Michele Bestbier has launched the Southern Cape’s first art tourism map. South takes a closer look at a few artists who have been attracting the attention of collectors and art enthusiasts in recent years.
WORDS Yolande Stander PHOTOGRAPHS Provided
Robert & Brendan Leggat
The iconic dolphin sculpture at the traffic circle in Plettenberg Bay is possibly the most well-known local example of Robert Leggat’s work, but the talented bronze sculptor’s wildlife and bird sculptures feature in indoor and outdoor collections across the country.
Robert and his son Brendan run Bronze Fields Sculpture Studio on the outskirts of town.
Robert has the unique ability to capture the essence and expressions of subjects, whether it is a life-size outdoor piece or a sculpture that can fit in the palm of your hand. He also works in a wide range of materials, from bronze and silver to wood and up-cycled car tyres.
Brendan, who started his sculpting career at the age of 16, has an entirely different approach, which is more impressionist and whimsical. His mainly free-standing sculptures – in which he uses interesting groupings – make them very interactive for the observer.
Brendan’s style portrays movement and the essence of mainly domestic animals, and the patination on his work uses soft blended colour, from green to orange through to grey and white.
The pair’s work can be seen at their gallery and sculpture studio by appointment only.
Born and bred in Knysna, Guy Thesen has always had an interest in the natural world and is inspired by the natural beauty and rich archaeology of the region. “Guy combines the probing curiosity of a scientist with the refined aesthetics of an artist. He is always concerned with the ‘what if‘ questions and the deep structure of his surroundings.
His unassuming and diffident manner masks a profound knowledge of, among other things, the process of the natural environment, of palaeontology, of the Khoisan shamans and of man’s remote past. His pieces are good, finely crafted and intellectually sound – a rare combination indeed,” says Trent Read, owner of Knysna Fine Art where Guy’s work is on display.
His more recent work incorporates themes of past solo exhibitions – such as an attempt to capture the deep hallucinatory trance state of Bushman healers in sculptures and painting, a reflection on the versatile Stone Age hand-axe and the human ability to adapt, as well as a woodcut series focused on early Bushman paintings – but this time it is brought into a more personal narrative.
Based in the Eastern Cape but with a gallery in Prince Albert and regular workshops in Plettenberg Bay, celebrated artist Greg Kerr has deep art roots in the Southern Cape. A former fine art professor at Stellenbosch University, Greg has been painting professionally for more than three decades since his first solo exhibition in 1982.
While most of his work captures the essence of people interacting with their environment, in recent years he has added animal paintings, especially Nguni cattle, to his repertoire.
“I consider myself a fairly traditional painter in the sense that I use figuration, work in oils and other familiar materials and present the images in ways that are unsurprising. I like to think the individual, perhaps idiosyncratic content of that process prevents the work from being old-fashioned or conservative,” says Greg.
Since establishing the gallery, which he describes as an ongoing window for his art, he has also held several shows, including for former students and now well-known artists Liz Vels and Rix Wellmann.
During the PArts Festival in Price Albert this month (September), Greg plans to show a selection of large works dating back to his first show. “Some will be borrowed from present collectors and some will be for sale.”
The Greg Kerr Art Gallery is in Karoo Fijnhuis, 53 Church Street.
Based in Van Wyksdorp, Yoko Reijn is inspired by the Klein Karoo and its landscape and climate. She is an abstract artist working in mostly vibrant coloured acrylics. “Colour is my medium. It is very personal and individual, loaded with feelings, triggering memories and sensations,” says Yoko.
“Everything is impermanent, about cause and effect, and ever-changing. Currently these aspects find expression in my paintings.”
While she hopes to touch each viewer deeply with her work, the true meaning of each piece is in the eye of the beholder. “I can only lay down the finished work in front of them. From there on they start creating it themselves with their own view and reality.”
Her work is on view at ArtKaroo Gallery in Oudtshoorn, Barrydale Karoo Art Hotel and Kunstehuijs Gallery in Swellendam. Her work can also be viewed at her home in Van Wyksdorp, but by appointment only.
083 558 3291
Juliet Goddard Morawski
Specialising in oil painting and mixed media, The Crags-based Juliet Goddard Morawski’s work is influenced by her many travels locally and abroad. She studied advanced art and design, specialising in fine art painting, at Yorkshire Coast College in Scarborough, England and has exhibited her work in galleries in London and Hertfordshire.
“In my collage work I like to play with different visual textures, as well as a mix of vintage and modern subject matter. I like my work to have a visual narrative, as if what you are seeing is a still frame of a surreal movie and the viewer is invited to make up the movie’s plot in his or her mind.” says Juliet, “An element of playfulness, and even teasing, is a recurring theme often present in my work.”
Her oil painting is about capturing and magnifying energy. She paints in mostly asymmetrical shapes done in block colours, which creates depth and movement, shadow and light, which then translate into a fluidity leading to detail and the overall picture.
Lisl lives on the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve in the Klein Karoo. Immersed in this environment of generous Karoo skies and landscapes – ever-changing in colour, movement and light – it is only natural that she explores it with her brushes.
Originally a graphic design graduate from Cape Town, Lisl has over the past two decades focused on painting. While she initially favoured the “fluid, light, spontaneous” medium of watercolour, her exploration with painting led to working with oils – something she has been doing for the past 15 years. “Since focusing on oil painting, I’ve experimented with the application of the medium, its range of rich, strong colours and with subject matter.”
Central to her subject matter is life around her and that which connects with her heart. She is also fascinated by light, with many of her pieces capturing ordinary moments elevated to the extraordinary, simply by the changing light.
Lisl exhibited during the Klein Karoo Klassique with Richard Henley in August at her studio and gallery – the Rosenhof Country Lodge and Art Gallery in Oudtshoorn – and will also be participating in the Prince Albert Art Festival this month (September 23 and 25) with the Prince Albert Gallery.
Michelle has been promoting South African art for more than two decades via various avenues, including consulting, buying and selling investment art, as well as motivating collaborations and commissions. She owned and managed a gallery in Johannesburg for three years and now spends most of her time developing artmapsa.com or hosting shows featuring the works of local and national artists.
She is also a photographer and filmmaker – the latest of her projects, The Art of Water, was a multi-media exhibition including photography, short films and prose celebrating the world’s most precious resource.
078 327 3459
The Cape Contemporary Fine Art Palette Garden Route & Klein
Karoo is a map of carefully selected professional artists, studios and galleries in the Garden Route and Karoo. Linked to artmapsa.com – which distributes similar maps for Cape Town and Johannesburg – the full colour brochure presents more than 40 local places to appreciate and buy contemporary art, from Nature’s Valley to Swellendam and inland to Graaff-Reinet. The map will be updated regularly, so look out for the latest copy at tourism offices and hotspots around the region.
In 2009 the initiators of the wildly successful Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) in Oudtshoorn created a sister festival to cater for the locals’ need of quality classical music. Today, the Klein Karoo Klassique attracts performers from around the world and a previously untapped winter audience of passionate aficionados to the Southern Cape.
WORDS Tisha Steyn PHOTOGRAPHS Hans van der Veen and supplied
Driven by attorney and businessman Nic Barrow and a committee of respected local music, art and hospitality roleplayers, the Klein Karoo Klassique is held in August each year to celebrate classical music, food, art and wine.
“We wanted to bring classical music to the rural Klein Karoo,” says Nic, who sensed many others in the community shared his love of classical music. Among them was music teacher Danie Bester, whom Nic called in 2008 to ask his opinion on revitalising the then almost non-functioning Oudtshoorn Music Society. “Klassique was the natural outcome of the re-established society and took the activities of the latter a step further by extending the classical offering to non-members, the rest of the country and even the international community,” says Danie.
The festival’s founding meeting, where Nic was elected chairperson, was held at the Queen’s Hotel and was very well attended. Danie suggested the name Klein Karoo Klassique and the date for the first festival was set for 14 to 16 August 2009. The committee comprised of several other Music Society members and ArtKaroo gallery owner Janet Dixon.
“Many of us felt the KKNK was not representative enough of the true Klein Karoo culture,” says Janet. “We felt we needed to present something more authentically Karoo to the public, such as our unique local cuisine and excellent local wines.”
Klassique was also an opportunity to attract additional tourism to the town in the relatively quiet winter months.
“Musically, Klassique was aimed at complementing the cultural roots of the KKNK by focusing on classical music specifically, with a strong emphasis on supporting South African performing artists – several of them at a relatively young stage in their careers, such as local prodigy Sulayman Human,” says Brett Pyper, the then CEO of the KKNK.
The first programme included all genres of classical music, and of note was the inclusion of Nina Schumann and her husband Luis Magalhães, who played compositions for two pianos by Brahms, Lutoslawski, Arensky and Copland. The couple’s link to the festival would have far-reaching benefits in later years.
Also included in the first programme was the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra, now the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, with conductor Theodore Kuchar and soloists Pretty Yende and Given Nkosi, at the Oudtshoorn Civic Centre. The performance was so much sweeter in light of the orchestra’s previous appearance at the centre in 1983. An apartheid era local municipal bylaw prohibited multiracial audiences from attending a performance in the civic, while the orchestra’s policy determined they could not perform for segregated audiences. “A High Court order forced the municipality to comply in 1983, and so the less controversial 2009 opener was extra special,” says Nic.
What Nic doesn’t say is that he carried the costs of that first performance – not only their transport but also their accommodation in the Queen’s Hotel, according to Danie. “If it wasn’t for Nic’s financial input, the Klassique would never have happened. He also sourced the first handful of sponsors.”
The first Klassique was a huge success. “The Klassique was widely publicised and enthusiasts of classical music from as far afield as Kimberley, Uitenhage and Colesberg attended,” recalls Nic. “Apart from introducing world-class artists performing classical music to the Klein Karoo, the region’s unique natural environment, food, wine and art were also given an international stage.”
During the first two years the programme included mostly solo recitals, chamber music concerts, a symphonic programme and choirs. The line-up gradually expanded to include performances covering the breadth of music described as classical, such as classical pop, classical jazz, light classical songs from musicals and choirs, including the Cape Town Youth Choir, the St George’s Choir and community choirs.
The reaction of those who have since attended Klassique has been overwhelming: “People want to know where we find all these amazing classical musicians,” says Danie. “We are proud of the excellent artists we manage to attract. People who attend regularly often book their shows and accommodation a year in advance.”
Klassique became an additional project of the KKNK festival office from its second year.
Sulayman Human, who started playing the piano at the age of twelve, owes his success largely to Klassique.
“Musician and singer Coenie de Villiers was the first to notice the local schoolboy’s potential at a recital during the KKNK and brought his talent to Nic’s attention,” recalls Danie. Since then Nic and the Klassique team went out of their way to develop his gift.
At the time Sulayman was attending Dysselsdorp Secondary School and taking music lessons from various teachers. When he was about 15 and in Grade 10, renowned classical pianist and educator John Theodore facilitated Sulayman’s move to Oudtshoorn High School where he could take music as a school subject, and started preparing him for external music examinations. Nic gave him a Dietmann piano, which Danie delivered to the residence where Sulayman’s mother was a domestic worker.
Sulayman subsequently became a student of Nina Schumann and Luis Magalhães and his progress culminated in a superb recital at Klassique in 2013.
“It was a pivotal moment when Sulayman performed a brilliant solo recital on the Yamaha G5 grand piano on stage at the Neelsie that day,” recalls Danie. “Coenie was overcome by emotion as the schoolboy, who after only seven years, played such incredible music.”
What to expect
The festival starts with an opening concert, which since 2013 included the winners of the previous year’s ATKV Muziqanto competition, and whose final round coincides with the performance of the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra gala concert on the Saturday night.
This gala concert has been known as the Mimi Coertze Gala Concert since 2012. The legendary opera singer agreed to be the patron of the festival in 2013.
Musicians include local talent such as pianists Sulayman and John, and soprano Friedel Mitas, as well as South African-born musicians from elsewhere in the country and those who have won international acclaim and live and work overseas.
Janet says the Klassique is arguably a much more pleasant festival than the KKNK “because it draws a completely different set of people who are really interested in music, art, the unique Klein Karoo cuisine and our excellent wines”.
“To my mind, Klassique has notably brought younger artists from a range of backgrounds to Oudtshoorn, broadening understandings of who is active in the classical musical world, and for whom this music is significant,” says Brett. “Some programmes have notably extended the conventional understanding of the classical repertoire as well. As always, this work continues to be extended and remains a work in progress.”
The festival guides are printed in Afrikaans and English, and productions are introduced in both languages to allow for the festival’s diverse following.
The Klein Karoo Klassique takes place from 12 to 14 August this year (2016). Programme and booking information at klassique.co.za. Early booking of performances, accommodation and meals are highly recommended.
Decades after Sheila Cooper Collins became famous for making paper with wild animal dung, the renowned multimedia artist continues to turn natural subjects into attention-grabbing art. Most recently, her watercolour rendering of jellyfish decorates stamps commissioned by the South African Post Office.
WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS Lisa Leslie
The area was in the grip of a relentless heat wave when South visited artist Sheila Cooper Collins’ Sedgefield Island home, but sitting in her cool, leafy garden, it soon became clear this ‘natural woman’ had found a slice of paradise that suits her perfectly.
Sheila moved to the property in 1992 after relocating from KwaZulu-Natal. In keeping with her deep love for nature, which is evident in her work, her garden plays home to a family of spotted eagle owls, various bird species and many angulate tortoises.
This oneness with nature, and more specifically her ability to accurately portray its detail, has made her one of South Africa’s most respected nature and wildlife artists. It also resulted in her second commission for a stamp sheet and first day covers for the South African Post Office. The assignment last year included a stamp sheet depicting several of the jellyfish species found along the South African coastline as well as two first day covers of the bluebottle and the ‘By-the-wind-sailor’.
“Designing the sheet set, rather than individual stamps, was particularly challenging as the layout and design had to be scientifically accurate in terms of sizes and the placement of each species according to the depth at which they occur in nature. At the same time it had to be aesthetically pleasing to appeal to the buying public.”
Assisted by Professor Mark Gibbons from the University of the Western Cape’s Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, it took Sheila four months to research, design and paint the detailed and colourful illustrations of ten of these species.
This was Sheila’s second commission from the South African Post Office, the first being a series of stamps produced to commemorate National Marine Day in 2001, for which she used silk dyes and watercolours to depict the vibrant colours of South Africa’s marine life. The result was an award-winning set of stamps.
Her artistic path was set in the 70s when, while studying Fine Arts at the University of Witwatersrand, she did illustrations for world-renowned palaeontologists and archaeologists Professor Raymond Dart and Phillip Tobias. “This experience proved invaluable as I learnt to depict subjects with incredible attention to detail.” Specialising in fauna and flora, she has exhibited widely at one-man and group exhibitions in South Africa and abroad since 1979 and continues to do so.
In the 1980s Sheila started recycling her ‘reject’ paintings on expensive watercolour paper into handmade papers and added chopped grasses to the pulp for interest and texture. A visit to the Umfolozi Game Reserve inspired the now famous dung papers – the undigested fibre in rhino dung was perfect for this purpose.
Her well-publicised idea of adding dung fibres to handmade paper were met with a range of interesting responses but she, along with her sons Mark and John Collins, continued to experiment with sanitised dung of various other species, including elephant, kudu and even zebra, each of which produced a very different look and feel.
Once the paper-making was perfected, Mark suggested she print some of her wildlife paintings on it, leading to another journey of trial and error. They eventually developed a unique process of printing onto handmade paper and Sheila’s printed editions and cards went on to receive wide acclaim. The family developed Scarab Paper, a successful business for many years before selling it in 2003.
These days, when she is not teaching others to paint, Sheila spends her time immersed in a wide range of artistic endeavours. She has made a series of three-dimensional busts representing indigenous African people using handmade paper pulp and continues to paint with colour dyes onto silk.
Using sheets from one of her old printing presses, Sheila is once again on the experimental path, painting and etching onto aluminium. “It’s tricky because there is no control over the manner in which the varnish covers the aluminium, but the different effects that can be achieved with diverse techniques are fascinating. Life is too short for all the exciting, fun and creative journeys waiting to be explored.”
CONTACT Sheila Cooper Collins 044 343 1828 and 082 411 0948
At 82 years old, retired international dancer, choreographer, costume and set designer, and artist Peter Cazalet looks back on an extraordinary life of creative achievements, including designs so beautiful they’re still being used by ballet companies around the world and are sold as art at the Knysna Fine Art gallery.
WORDS Jacques Marais PHOTOGRAPHS Drieka Bester
“I don’t really sit much,” says Peter Cazalet when he finally settles for our interview at Village Antiques and Village Gallery in Sedgefield.
While his gallery is relatively new, Peter has been helping with the day-to-day running of the very popular Village Antiques with his partner, Peter Schnetler, for many years. He opened the adjacent Village Gallery in 2014, where his paintings and sketches hang alongside the works of various local artists.
“I always joked that I’d like a gallery and studio space one day. When Peter (Schnetler) decided to expand the antiques shop it presented an opportunity to do just that.” Peter’s vibrant and colourful artworks share space with the emotive photography of Leanette Botha and an eclectic collection of water colours, acrylics, oils and mixed media by local artists such as Alan Barnard, Lindsay Page and Jeanette Titterton.
Peter’s costume designs for international and local productions that are on display at the Knysna Fine Art gallery have a longer backstory. “I’ve never thrown anything away,” he says as he shuffles through set sketches for Western Theatre Ballet’s 1965 production of Home. This proclivity for holding onto his design sketches means that fans of ballet, opera, design and art have access to a very intimate record of an aspect of the theatre rarely visible to the audience.
Born in a northern Rhodesian (now Zimbabwe) mining town in 1934, he completed his schooling in Johannesburg. Peter went on to study architecture at the University of Cape Town, where he also learned to dance at the then University Ballet Club.
After completing his studies, Peter joined the Sadler’s Wells Opera Ballet in London at the age of 24. “In those days you had to go to London if you wanted to make it as a dancer,” he laughs. He also danced with the Edinburgh International Ballet as well as the Festival Ballet before finding his niche at Western Theatre Ballet in 1960.
His much-lauded acting talents worked well with his dancing ability and Peter became one of the company’s principal dancers. But it was during a tour of Scandinavia that he was asked to make a few set- and costume sketches for a production. “It didn’t receive rave reviews, but it did make people – including myself – sit up and realise that I could do this.”
Peter’s next venture into design was the costumes and sets for Peter Darrell’s new ballet, Home. An unusual theme for ballet, Home tells the story of a young, mentally unstable girl who, after having been abandoned by her family, finds the home she lacked in a lunatic asylum. “I was very inspired by the strong lines, colours and energy of the abstract expressionism movement. It was a style of design that had not really been seen in ballet before.”
This style worked well with the production’s theme and this time his work received well deserved, excellent reviews. Ballet critic, journalist and founding editor of Dance and Dancers ballet magazine Peter Williams wrote: “It is visually beautiful yet dramatically and atmospherically right and, to my way of thinking though possibly not everybody’s, amounts to extremely important ballet designing, which immediately puts Cazalet up into the first division of British designers.”
Peter continued designing sets and costumes for ballets across Europe while dancing with Western Theatre Ballet. He also became choreographer and illustrator, creating a satirical comic of a life in ballet called No Offence for Dance and Dancers. An injury closed the curtain on his dancing career in 1970 and Peter returned to South Africa in 1971.
“I designed sets and costumes for ballets on a freelance basis for a few years before joining the Cape Performing Arts Board (CAPAB), where I also began working on operas and a variety of productions. I was then offered the position of Head of Design in the late 1970s, a post that came with a full studio and staff.” Troves of these designs were rediscovered during office moves, his eventual retirement and the selling of his Camps Bay home. “CAPAB has, of course, become Artscape, but I still receive sporadic phone calls from them to tell me that they’ve found another stash of my designs.” These designs, created in watercolours for the ease and speed the medium allows, remain Peter’s property. Today the Knysna Fine Art gallery displays a selection of his designs and has compiled a portfolio that may be viewed at the gallery.
As Head of Design, Peter worked more on international productions. His designs have been used as far afield as the United States, London, Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo and New Zealand – and are still used today. The Singapore Dance Theatre performed a selection of scenes from Romeo and Juliet during their 2014 season, using Peter’s original designs, and the West Australian Ballet based their sets and costumes for their 2014 performance of Giselle on Peter’s original designs. “I just recently received a phone call from Milwaukee Ballet,” Peter smiles. “They are performing La Sylphide during their next season and will be using the sets and costumes I designed for the Boston Ballet’s production of this ballet in 2005.
“Of course it’s nice to receive a small royalty payment every now and then,” he says modestly. “But I absolutely love the fact that my sketches and designs – some dating from the 1970’s! – are still being used around the world so many years later. It’s very humbling.”
Peter moved to Sedgefield in 2009. “I started coming here in the early 1990s and developed quite a relationship with Sedgefield. Everything one might need is within walking distance or maybe a short drive away, it is a place that truly allows one to relax. Not that it seems that Peter does much relaxing between running the Village Gallery, helping out at Village Antiques and creating new art. “I mainly do figure drawings and paint seascapes. And while I still prefer working in watercolours, I now find the time to experiment with and learn new and different techniques.
“I’ve recently begun looking back at my life and I’ve realised that I’ve been fortunate to have seen and done a lot – so far. In retrospect, I believe that I’ve been very lucky. You know, sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time.” It’s a sentiment that belies the humility of a very talented man. And while he may have had Lady Luck on his side, it is this humility, undeniable talent and inextinguishable energy that has allowed a successful career spanning disciplines, continents and decades.
CONTACT Village Gallery/Village Antiques 044 343 2229
Roberto Vaccaro’s final year art project at Glenwood House School in George was so extraordinarily creative he received an unheard of 100%. This vote of confidence marked the beginning of an inspiring sculpting career with a strong environmental message.
WORDS Clare van Rensburg photographs Desmond Scholtz
In a neat and orderly workshop in George, Roberto Vaccaro, 23, is bent to attention over his latest incarnation. A barrel of rusting wire, fragments of a barn roof, and several chains line a wall as they wait their turn to be fashioned into art.
He is working on Whale, a twisted metal version of the prehistoric mammal Cetotherium, an ancestor of the modern Southern Right Whale. Components of a typewriter make up its curved spine and ribs, a golf club lines its underside, and its tail is fashioned from the remains of a twisted roof rack. The burnished and bumpy effect of barnacles lining the whale’s jaw was created using a MIG welder. This is the first of a trio of whales the ambitious young sculptor plans to create to show the evolution of this threatened species.
Roberto is intense, articulate, and tall. He has the dark, brooding nature of an artist, tempered by the unfettered enthusiasm of youth. Surrounded by the tools of his trade, the only indication that the garage at his mother’s house is an art studio rather than a car workshop is the photographs and diagrams lining a small mood board. Several drawings of whales in different positions show annotations and measurements. While the detailed planning is typical of Roberto’s approach, he is not fastidious about dimensions: “I use the ratios to guide me, but I’m not precious about my work. If it looks and feels right, I go with it.”
The young artist fell headlong into his passion for metalwork when his Italian grandfather, Vincenzo, taught him to weld. “Unlike many of the more delicate art forms, I discovered I loved working with metal because it is robust and strong. You can really whack it! While durable, it is also disobedient. Metal insists on assembling itself. It’s an interesting medium to dialogue with; sculpting it can become war.”
During his final year, the Landmark Foundation, a leopard and predator conservation NGO, visited the school. The presentation featured a metal sculpture of a leopard. “At the time I had no idea what I was going to do for my final art project, my art teacher, James Stead, showed me the piece and said: ‘You can weld, why don’t you make something like this?’”
Entitled Scar Tissue, his exam piece was a post-apocalyptic figure of a man, fashioned with only basic tools at his disposal, using scavenged motorcycle frames, chains, golf clubs and bulldozer teeth. “One of the exam assessors let me know I had received a 100% for my end of year exam practical assessment and suggested my combined metal working skills and artistic talent had real potential.”
The idea of a leopard made entirely from confiscated gin traps was also pitched to the Landmark Foundation, which not only responded by commissioning and funding the project, but also supplied Roberto with bakkie-loads of traps. The impressive Apex of Evolution I now tours the country with the foundation as the sculpture has become an integral part of its awareness message. The exposure led to an extensive exhibition at the Hermanus Fynarts Festival at Creation Wines earlier this year in which 12 pieces, including several life-size animals, were on display.
Roberto’s apprenticeship in sculpting typifies the digital age. He describes the sharp learning curve as one guided by YouTube. Self-taught, the young artist progressed from using simple metalwork tools to more advanced plasma cutters and an acetylene welder by following online video tutorials. His later pieces show higher quality and more precision, portraying truer forms.
“I prefer sculpting animals to humans and man-made things. The layers of interaction of animals with each other, their environment and humans are still open to be explored. I love the fact that the assembly of scrap metal into an animal can have such an environmentally charged message – a perfect example of the medium becoming metaphor.”
Roberto’s work begins with hours spent at the scrapyard. “I have to patiently sift through the scrap in my mind until I have arguably the most compelling chunk of steal to suit the need of the creature it will become a part of.” He trucks home tons of debris and arranges it on the garage floor. “I stare at it for hours – that’s the frustrating part.”
He describes sleepless nights tortured by dreams of how the metal will be reborn. “It’s exhausting, but metal has this raw power, it eventually takes charge.” At some pivotal moment, when the analogical process is at an end, he launches himself into the sheer exhilaration of creating art. “The exciting part is working furiously to assemble a piece. I work frantically for hours and when I stand back, I don’t even recognise what I’ve created. It’s amazing, I love that moment.”
Typewriters and sewing machines, which are mostly sourced from second-hand shops, comprise some of his favourite sculpting material. “They give such interesting effects,” he says. “Their parts lend themselves to the idea of a mechanically organised creature.”
Roberto admits to a love-hate relationship with his chosen medium. “Scrap is dirty; it’s random; it rusts; it’s incredibly unyielding, and requires hours of fishing around in metal yards.” However, these are also the things that he clearly loves about the material. He is fervently adamant that valuable art can be created from the by-products of human existence, and that conservation issues should be addressed through art. “Our society is becoming more aware of the environment. People understand the value of recycling and up-cycling. Our consumerism is trashing the planet but here is yesterday’s discarded rubbish, something that society has deemed useless, and I can represent it as something of value.”
While Roberto is clearly proud of his finished pieces and spends time polishing and varnishing each one, he is philosophical about their eventual rusted fate. “That’s the nature of metal. It will eventually oxidise and return to nature. Rusting is just a part of the process.”
The symmetry of traditional Moroccan ceramics, the elegant patterns of Persian art and the deep blue florals of Portuguese azulejos provide irresistible inspiration for Garden Route artisans. South discovered two successful studios dedicated to producing authentic hand-painted tiles for the international and local market.
WORDS Clare van Rensburg PHOTOGRAPHS Melanie Maré
Free-spirited entrepreneur Kirsty Hayward pours over her colourful, hand-painted tiles as she works in her mother Verity Orford’s parlour at Nokwanda in Rheenendal. She is surrounded by an eclectic assortment of dried flowers, ceramic tools, pots of coloured glaze and heavy texts on Iranian art. An intricate Persian tile mural is laid out before her, featuring geometric patterns around an elaborate peacock. Kirsty paints the ornate designs with a fine brush and a steady hand.
The bohemian artist says she discovered her product by accident; “I wanted tiles for a splash-back behind my stove and I couldn’t find the exact mismatched assortment of tiles I needed, so I decided to paint my own. Later, I posted photographs on the website Etsy and the orders came flooding in.”
Kirsty’s fledgling business, Terethsheba, sums up her feelings about a hobby that grew into a thriving cottage industry. The word is loosely translated from the Hebrew, meaning “sanctuary of peace”.
She describes her tile painting as “therapeutic accomplishment” and loves the sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing a tile and sending it to some far flung destination – which is exactly what Etsy has done for her business. “It has opened up a worldwide market for my product. The Internet has given me an incredible income for something I love doing.” Etsy describes itself as “the world’s most vibrant handmade marketplace”.
Her intricately painted tiles are ordered for bar mitzvah and wedding table markers, coasters and party favours as well as traditional wall tiles and stair-risers. She marvels at the fact that her products, decorated in Rheenendal outside Knysna, are shipped to Israel, New York, Hollywood and Alaska. The bulk of Terethsheba’s orders originate in the United States, England and Australia.
Kirsty is a gregarious and unconventional businesswoman. Her background is based on studies in drama and experience in chicken farming, growing lavender and selling antiques. She worked as a paramedic before she discovered her talent for painting. “I wouldn’t describe myself as artistic, but creative,” she says. “I’ve always loved scrapbooking, making my own clothes and crafting.” About six years ago Kirsty decided she wanted to draw and discovered a hidden talent for reproducing intricate design. Having wandered into her current profession by chance, she says her success still takes her by surprise; “I’m shocked that people love my tiles. It still confuses me that people are prepared to pay for them.”
Not only are her customers prepared to pay up to US$8 per tile, they often request immediate airmail shipping across the globe. A recent order required over 700 tiles to be mailed to Portugal. It is one of several orders Terethsheba is currently processing. The business, founded in 2013, now employs three part-time artists and relies on her mother’s sharp eye for quality control. “Mom has no qualms about throwing faulty product out.”
Kirsty has realised a winning formula – she buys bisque 10cm by 10cm tiles from the Knysna Pottery House and paints on the intricate underglaze in one of her stock designs, often well into the night. The tiles are then glazed and fired in a kiln at the Pottery House before she ships them to-order, packaged in wads of polystyrene and bubble wrap. However, Kirsty remains humble about her accomplishments, admitting that founding a unique enterprise and contributing to her family’s coffers by doing something she loves pales in comparison to the pride she enjoys at being able to pay her son’s college tuition fees.
A taste of Portugal
Portuguese chef Mize and her South African husband Deon van Rooyen fell in love with Calitzdorp in 2006. The Klein Karoo town reminded the dynamic couple of Mize’s hometown of Alentejo in Portugal. “The picturesque village, the olive trees, the friendly people, the beauty of the mountains; all resemble a Portuguese village. We felt safe here and wanted to create a life for ourselves,” Mize says.
The couple quit their wanderings to lay a foundation in the town, initially founding self-catering accommodation, Casa Liefling, and later branching out into ceramics and opening the Porto Deli and Restaurant in 2013. “We wanted to bring authentic Portuguese culture to Calitzdorp, to sit alongside the local port and wine cultivars.”
“In the Karoo, you have to be a Jack of all trades to make a living,” says Deon of their unconventional life. The couple pour their creative energy into their Portuguese-inspired restaurant six days a week, they bake bread and paint tiles in their quiet moments.
The Porto Deli and Restaurant is a true taste of the Mediterranean, nestled in the heart of the Klein Karoo. Painted a striking sky blue, the restaurant transports you to the edge of the ocean. Indigo and white hand-painted tiles line the walls. Portuguese music plays softly as the aromas of bay leaf, garlic and peri-peri prawns waft from Mize’s kitchen. Platters of grilled sardines, quartered chickens and rump steak espetada are on the menu. Voted one of the top 500 restaurants in South Africa, the little eatery resembles an art museum, with Mize’s tiles and Deon’s etchings and photographs lining the walls.
The couple is a creative tag team; talking over one another, finishing each other’s sentences with a smile or wink. “We are a collaboration of talent, we work together.” Their passion for good food is equal to their passion for art. Over a plate of delicious Pasteis de Nata, Mize’s famous Mediterranean custard tartlets, the duo describe how their tile business began. Wanting to design and paint a tile mural for the home they fondly call Liefling (darling), the couple was inspired by the distinctive blue and white tiles, or azulejos, for which the Mediterranean is famous. They set about buying a kiln and putting it to work. The tiles are handmade from clay on the couple’s dining room table. They are rolled, measured, biscuit fired, painted and glazed according to the interlocking geometric and floral motifs of Mediterranean ceramics. “No two tiles are exactly identical. They are rustic, imperfect and original,” says Mize.
She refers to the 15cm by 15cm square tiles as her “therapy”. They bear the delicate impression of her fingerprints on the edges, where the tiles were dragged through the glaze. There is honesty in their craftsmanship. Deon applies his artistic skill to painting a range of beautiful murals on the tiles. “Each panel tells a story,” he explains, pointing to a mural of the fishermen of the Cape Verde Islands and another depicting the life of Christ, from the manger to the cross.
Clearly the couple has found a formula for success; despite trying to adorn every wall of the Porto Deli with their unique hand painted tiles, they are snapped up by locals and tourists alike, as fast as they are crafted. Meanwhile, they dream of their idyllic retirement, making tiles full-time, taking long walks in the veld and focusing on their artistic endeavours.
CONTACT The Porto Deli and Restaurant
7 Calitz Street, Route 62, Calitzdorp Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Monday to Saturday in low season.
044 213 3007 www.casaliefling.co.za
From the small town of Sedgefield, 3D graphics creator Steve Corder designs characters that have taken the international stage. Working with, among others, American multinational technology giant Intel, this family man’s inbox will have you gaping.
WORDS Ingrid Erlank photograph Desmond Scholtz Animation Steve Corder
The Intel contract is, however, just the latest achievement for this self-taught 3D designer whose company, 3D Graphics, was possibly one of the first in South Africa to sell online 3D characters, backgrounds and other items to a worldwide market of hobbyists, film studios, mobile and computer game developers.
Steve, a qualified electrical engineer with a longstanding fascination with animated characters, says: “I took art at school and messed around with trying to draw my own characters at one stage, but it was only when companies like Pixar started to bring out full-length 3D animations that I really became excited. I was inspired to create my own characters.”
Steve experimented with creative and animation programmes, and soon found a gap in the market. He and Hannelie, his computer programmer wife, spent every spare moment in front of their computer screens. “It was time-consuming and a huge learning curve, but we were determined and persisted.”
Initially Steve sold his work on the United States-based digital animation site Renderosity though he now sells mainly through DAZ 3D. The couple made their efforts viable by selling more for less. Getting paid in US dollars helped and soon they were able to leave their day jobs in Johannesburg.
“We had a very specific dream – we wanted quality of life at the coast, working shoulder-to-shoulder, and with a lot of time to explore nature and have fun. Sedgefield’s slow life was the perfect fit.”
Steve and Hannelie built up a portfolio of products that have been used in applications such as television advertising, children’s TV, storybook illustrations, as well as mobile and computer games.
3D Graphics did well, but a request for a Skype voice call from Los Angeles was the start of something much greater. “Although I prefer typed chat for record purposes, I agreed to take a call between 4pm and 5pm, but when a call came in at ten minutes to 5pm, I hung up the call and sent a text saying it was too late to start a chat. Our family time is important to me and I’m strict on keeping my work to working hours only,” says Steve.
The next day at exactly 4pm, Steve took the call – it was Intel Labs venturing director Thomas Sachson, who had come across Steve’s work while searching for animators online – and so began his long-term contract with Intel.
With the company’s technical team in Beijing and main team in Los Angeles, working hours are complex. “They have come to respect my working hours and will often make joking comments if they want my feedback and realise it’s out of my 8am-5pm work day!”
Intel initially planned on more than 20 3D characters per month. “We investigated sub-contracting several animation artists but soon realised the uniqueness of our characters is our winning game. Now, we do what we do with the time that we have.”
Through Intel’s smart phone chat app, voice and text are used to vividly animate some of Steve’s characters. Steve says creating them is immeasurable fun, and the Intel contract is affirmation of his 3D design style.
“The fact that Intel could have contacted anyone in the world but chose me was a huge boost. Although I’ve worked with some big worldwide brands before, this contract is by far the biggest. Through the Intel contract, I’ve also gained a ton of experience working with companies like Sony Animation, LEGO, Coca-Cola, Mars, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Football League (NFL), as well as various pop stars, actors and Hollywood personalities.
“I don’t see the Intel contract as an achieved goal but rather a step to greater things.”
Steve would like to visit Pixar and Sony Animation to experience a movie production. “These days I receive files of some of these movie characters in my inbox, which still, to this day, gives me goose bumps.”
He says his favourite character is whichever one he is working on at the time. “My characters tend to gain a life and personality of their own, and I enjoy exploring their quirks.”
He advises would-be animators to be themselves and to have fun. “Find a style you are passionate about and focus on breathing your own creativity and flair into it. Be inspired by others but don’t try to copy them.
“Animation is a big field full of wonderfully creative jobs. Keep the creative spark alive by pushing yourself and constantly experiment with new ideas.”
As creative souls continue to flock to the Southern Cape to escape the rush of city life, several remote galleries and studios have popped up to display the fruits of their new-found peace. South discovered four such havens in the Klein Karoo.
WORDS Tisha Steyn PHOTOGRAPHS Hans van der Veen
When Allana Willox Fourie and husband Pierre are not painting and building television and movie sets for the likes of Sean Penn and Kokkedoor, they can be found on their family farm in the Kykoe Valley in the Bo-Langkloof, about 30km from Uniondale.
Here Allana also has Kannabos, a spacious studio/gallery, which she shares with artist friends. Pierre and his dad, also Pierre, built the space from straw bales packed in chicken wire, and plastered it with a mixture of straw, lime and clay from the nearby river, creating natural red ochre hues.
“The film industry is addictive,” says Allana, her magenta eyes lively. “I love the collaboration with other artists while creating something together. I become alienated when I work here alone.” Hence the friends who come to work with her in silent harmony, drinking tea and eating milk tart, and displaying their art alongside hers.
“I use a medium to express something I am experiencing. I love to paint loosely, with very thick paint – it’s called impasto – it is very free.” But she also uses pastels and coloured pencils for more detailed work, and is starting to experiment with etching. “Your art is you, and you are your art,” she believes.
The succulent nursery outside lends inspiration, not only to her pottery. “The fine detail of the succulents is ideal for etching, so I want to explore this.”
Kannabos Gallery is on the R62 about 30km outside Uniondale on the Oudtshoorn side. Open daily from 8am to 5pm. Allana Fourie 083 444 5237
Roger Young fell in love with the Kruisrivier Valley while working on a film in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until 2006 that he and partner Phyllis Midlane realised their dream of living and working there.
Roger, a woodwork artist and photographer, and Phyllis, a costumier and puppet-maker, moved here from Simon’s Town and immediately set out to restore the buildings on both sides of the Kruisrivier Road, which winds through the green valley: “My studio used to be a schoolroom with 70 kids and one teacher,” Roger says.
Here he creates tables, cabinets, beautifully carved mirror frames and – just for fun – pretty wooden bowls. “I make things to order, but even if not, the pieces usually sell quickly – especially those I had planned to keep!”
The finished products are displayed in the gallery, along with Roger’s black and white photographs, of which he sells prints. These photographs perfectly capture moments in the everyday lives of the people of the valley. “I love these people,” he says passionately. The gallery also showcases some of Phyllis’ work, including papier-mâché sculptures and fabric handbags.
Phyllis, with the elegant poise and grace of a ballerina, learnt her skills with needle and thread at her mother’s knee. After her dancing days were over, she focused on designing and making intricate costumes for local and international ballet, opera and theatre companies, as well as breathtakingly beautiful wedding dresses. She also dresses puppets for the well-known Handspring Puppet Company, and did the material engineering for the internationally acclaimed War Horse theatre production. She will also be re-costuming puppets for the international opera Il Ritorno d’Ulise, which goes on the planks next year. “Commissions from Handspring add a welcome additional income,” she says.
Roger, who was fired as a teacher for being “too creative” many years ago, also presents photography courses.
Once visitors have experienced the tranquility of the gallery, thriving kitchen garden and nursery, they tend to return. “People often visit the gallery and end up having supper or staying over in the cottage we hire out on the premises,” says Phyllis. “We are living our dream. This is where we have found our roots and one is always conscious of the beauty of nature,” they conclude.
Kruisrivier Gallery is about 34km along the Kruisrivier turnoff from the R62 between Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp. Open daily from 8am to 5pm. 044 213 3296
Another to have swapped the demands of commercial arts for a studio in the bundu is Marcia Vermaak, who left Johannesburg and her very successful set building business in Bezuidenhout Valley to settle along the Groenfontein Road last year.
She designed the house/studio, which also doubles as gallery. “It is more a studio where people can watch me work than a gallery,” she says, pointing to shelves stuffed with goods usually found in hardware stores.
Here she works magic with materials such as resin, polyurethane and gypsum, which she has used for 25 years to create movie sets for more than 40 films including District Nine, The Avengers, Adam Sandler’s Blended and most recently Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie.
“I was tired and needed a break,” she says, sitting at a table on the wide veranda, sipping ginger beer, overlooking a field where a neighbour’s calves graze. “The movie industry owns you, and you don’t have time for anything else.
“I searched the internet for two years for suitable property. One day I decided to stop dreaming and do something, or give up my dream.” So six years ago she bought the property 11.5km outside Calitzdorp. “I wanted a house with its own water and solar power, and with a mountain and river on it.”
Her art is extraordinary: her thorough knowledge of materials mainly used for set building, allows her to create amazing works of art, mostly sculpture – haunting creations with a message: ‘Melting’ ice men made from resin that sharply reminds of climate change and global warming; and faces of Africa in different finishes mostly created by stain, portraying the rich variety of the people of the continent.
Moviemakers still call her, but her answer is always a courteous “No thanks”. “For now I want to concentrate on my own art: there are so many different materials and new concepts that I want to try out. I am surviving on my savings, but hope to interest people enough in what I create so that they would want to buy it.”
For an extra income and much to the delight of Calitzdorp residents, Marcia offers outdoor movies twice a month. “They bring their picnic baskets, folding tables and chairs, and watch a movie under the stars…”
Marcia’s Studio is 11.5km down the Groenfontein Road outside Calitzdorp. Open 8am to 5pm on most days. 082 338 8782
Once an old post office serving areas as remote as Gamkaskloof (Die Hel), the Oude Poskantoor gallery outside Calitzdorp is a weekend-only affair of art, food and stoep talk.
Mike Muuren and Peter Giani, an interior decorator and horticulturist respectively, work from Glentana in the week and bought the property in 2008 as a weekend getaway.
The Oude Poskantoor housed a post office during the late 1800s, and in later years also a general dealer and petrol station.
Mike and Peter turned the building into a gallery where mainly local and regional artists display their art. Some of the artists are Helen Pfeil, Anny Maddock, Irma Welman, Dennis Kalil, Amri Pretorius, Leonie Brown, Doris Brand, Benjamin van Wyk and Esbé Grabie.
“The gallery is informal, and anybody who believes their art is beautiful may display it here,” says Mike.
Eventually a coffee shop was set up on the stoep, where visitors like to linger over a menu of light snacks and cold and hot drinks. “We are completely off the grid: no municipal water or electricity, only solar energy and water pumped from the river. It has been going surprisingly well. If we were to open the gallery four days a week, we might afford to do this full time, but we are not ready to retire yet!”
Oude Poskantoor is situated on the Groenfontein Road, 14.5 km outside Calitzdorp. Open Saturday and Sunday from 8am to 5pm but locals are known to visit until late. Mike Muuren 083 285 4751