Living The Dream

LIVING THE DREAM

WORDS Athane Scholtz PHOTOGRAPH Melanie Maré

MULTI-AWARD-WINNING musician, songwriter and singer Elvis Blue continues to live the dream, making a living from music and calling the Garden Route home’.

Jan Hoogendyk, aka Elvis Blue, makes time for South during his holiday at home in George. He is sweet to my kids and makes me coffee. At the kitchen table he tells me he is still living the dream.
“We returned to Johannesburg for a short while after I won Idols South Africa because we thought I needed to be there to make the most of the opportunities the competition afforded me. It soon became clear that it did not matter 
from where I operated, because I was travelling most of the time anyway, but it did matter where my family was based. With my wife and kids in George, I can travel the country and know that they are safe and happy.”
Realistic about the fickleness of the music industry, Jan hoped but could not foresee that his career would still be soaring six years after his win in 2010. It was, after all, not his first time in the game – he had recorded four 
previous albums before Idols, one of which won an ATKV Lier award and another received a South African Music Awards nomination. It did not, however, earn him a living, which is why he entered Idols in 2010.
Considered one of the most successful South African Idols winners ever, he released the album, Elvis Blue, only 29 days after his win. The album went gold in two weeks and platinum not long after.
Since then, Jan has released four more albums, with another coming out in May. He has been nominated in 25 categories, and won 12 national music awards for these, including best Adult Contemporary Album for Elvis Blue and Journey during the 2012 and 2013 South African Music Awards (SAMA), and six Ghoema Awards (2016) for Êrens in die middel van nêrens.
Optics, released in June last year, is also expected to do well during awards season, with songs Shine, and particularly The Tide, attracting wide appeal and attention. The Tide introduced a fresh sound but with the same essence. “Sometimes, your sound must change so as not to become boring, but the heart of it remains the same. Music, for me, is about what you say and how it makes you feel. I want my listeners to make an emotional connection when they hear my songs.”
He considers himself lucky to be one of only a few artists who have successfully straddled the English, Afrikaans, and Christian contemporary music markets. “There is so much diversity in the modern Afrikaans market, which offers so many opportunities. Fortunately, Afrikaans speaking people also enjoy English music.”
Jan is a prolific songwriter, for whom the music comes easy. “I write music every day. It’s not always equally good, of course, but it is always there. It is my dream to leave a legacy, a body of music for others to enjoy and explore.”
As one of the hardest working musicians in the country, with more than 130 shows a year, Jan spends a lot of time with his band in a car. “We drive the country flat, taking turns behind the wheel. It remains my goal to have as many people as possible hear my music, so we must take it to them.”
His Garden Route home is a true sanctuary, where his routine revolves around his family – wife Chireze and daughters Lila, aged seven, and Jua, three. “I start my day with a surf at Victoria Bay before dropping off my girls at school and play school. I spend the mornings working on my music, but take the afternoons off to spend time with my family. Break-away time is a round of golf, which is another thing the Garden Route is unsurpassed for.”
This year sees the release of Die Brug (The Bridge) in May. He will be travelling to The Netherlands later this year to explore his Dutch roots – and entertaining crowds in their home language.
“I sometimes look back and can’t believe how much my life has changed in some ways and yet remained the same in others. I still enjoy meeting new people and love sharing my stories and songs with them. I still come home to George and a lovely family. I am still living the dream.”

CONTACT
elvisblue.co.za
Bookings: 
[email protected]
083 456 3341

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World class

Gone are the days that the Garden Route was considered too remote and obscure for locals to make it big. South is proud to profile some of the increasing number of internationally outstanding individuals who call the region ‘home’.

PHOTOGRAPHS Vanessa van Vreden, Melanie Maré and supplied

Bianca Buitendag
Professional surfer Bianca Buitendag, aged 23, hails from Victoria Bay and is among the top women surfers in the world. She reached the number four spot in 2015 and continues to lure international sponsors with her talents and charm.

As a professional surfer, Bianca travels the world and finds herself in a different time zone at least every two weeks. At the time of interviewing, Bianca was on the southwest coast of France preparing for a World Tour event.

Although she has surfed professionally since the age of 17, her surfing-related travelling started at 14. Growing up in this unorthodox way encouraged her to become open-minded towards other cultures and opinions, and she regards it a privilege that few others get to experience.

She sees the ocean as her escape. “My heart thrives when I find myself under water, lost in the freedom of the ocean and its movements.”

Becoming one of the world’s top surfers required hard work and dedication. Bianca spends long hours in the water practicing and follows a physical exercise regime focusing on core strength, cardio and stretching. 
To qualify for the World Championships Tour, which sees the 17 best surfers in the world competing for the crown, she has to surf heats during various events in the Qualifying Series. Her favourite surfing spot in the world remains Victoria Bay, where she grew up next to the ocean. She matriculated from Outeniqua High.

“All my memories of the Garden Route are fond; I had the joy and privilege to grow up in an untouched and uncorrupted environment. I would love to settle down in this area one day and pass these memories on.” For now she is focused on her sport but in future would like to become involved in business. “We will have to see where the opportunities might arise.”
biancabuitendag.com

Elroy Gelant
Born and raised in Pacaltsdorp in George, Elroy Gelant, 30, qualified for the 5000m Olympic Games finals in Rio de Janeiro and finished 11th despite an injury. A few months earlier he had spectacularly broken the South African record at an event in The Netherlands in a time of 13:04:88 – just a few milliseconds slower than the Olympic bronze time. “I worked for that record, but it still came as a bit of a surprise. During my preparation, the time trials showed I was capable of running the 5000m within 13:10.  My previous personal best was 13:15. I’m really humbled and honoured.”

Elroy says the Olympics were a tremendous experience from which he took away a lot of skill and self-confidence that he will use to his advantage in preparing for his next goal – a top-five position in the IAAF World Championships in London in August 2017. He also has his eye on top positions in the 2018 Common Wealth Games in Australia and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

But, just participating and doing well is not where his dream ends. “The holy grail of running the 5000m is a time of under 13 minutes. I’m going to try my best to achieve this over the next two years,” says Elroy.

He wants to take his athletics career as far as possible and intends running professionally for at least the next 15 years. “When I’m over my peak for the track events, I want to switch to road races and marathons. Running is what I love to do and it is a God-given talent.”

Schooled at Pacaltsdorp Primary and Outeniqua High School, Elroy’s outstanding talent surfaced when he won the bronze medal as an eight-year-old at the South African schools championship that year. “I remember it well. I stepped in at least two thorns while running, and cried and cried, but pushed through. In some aspects that 
is still my motivation – despite thorns and other setbacks, one has to keep going.”

He loves the Garden Route deeply and returns from his training grounds in Potchefstroom at least twice a year. “Nothing beats running in the Outeniqua Mountains. The whole landscape unfolding beneath, the fog, the sea, 
the vegetation … it’s awe-inspiring.”
Social media: @elroygelant and Facebook

Meyer von Wielligh
The unique furniture of Norman Meyer and Abrie von Wielligh has been attracting international attention for some time, but it was the $30 820 (± R400 000) sale of one of their pieces at world-renowned auctioneering company Christie’s that led to real recognition.

“It was the best moment of our 12 years in business. We could follow the auction live on the Internet. Works of some of the best designers in the world were sold just before and after our piece. It is very encouraging and we take it as a sign that we are on the right track with our business,” says Abrie.

The story behind the top-selling piece, the Battleship Table, is just as intriguing. It was made from the wood of a giant oak tree, which used to tower in York Street in George, and made headlines in the local paper when it crushed a car when it fell. The slab of wood they fashioned the table from resembled the shape of a battleship, hence the name.

The Southern Guild Design Foundation, an independent organisation that acts as a platform for local designers to showcase once-off creations, approached Meyer von Wielligh to create an item for an exhibition in Cape Town. They submitted the Battleship Table, which was eventually included in the foundation’s select exhibition in London.

Abrie and Norman first met as students at Furntech training academy in George before going into business together. They are enchanted by the Garden Route lifestyle and draw inspiration for their exceptional designs from the region’s breath-taking nature.

They have several international clients who have bought properties in the Garden Route and export some of their products to the Czech Republic and the United States. In addition, they have won several business awards, attracted attention at Design Indaba 2012 and took part in numerous international exhibitions in association with Southern Guild.

They are currently involved in a five-year export marketing programme in collaboration with the Dutch government agency CBI, a centre for the promotion of imports from developing countries. “We are definitely looking at the global market for future growth,” says Abrie.
meyervonwielligh.co.za

Mark and John Collins
International adventure racing legends Mark and John Collins, aged 48 and 43 respectively, were on the team that beat 50 others from 18 countries in this year’s Expedition Africa race. Their three-hour win secured them a spot in the Adventure World Championships and the respect of significantly younger competitors.

The Knysna-based brothers, who are also behind the highly successful sports events company Magnetic South, will be part of the Sanlam Team Painted Wolf, derived from the Latin name of the endangered African Wild Dog – Lycaon pictus – which literally means painted wolf. “Wild dogs hunt in packs, which involves efficient team work, so we fully 
identify with that characteristic. In adventure racing success depends on working together as a team. It’s also our way of raising awareness of the plight of the African Wild Dog,” says Mark. The brothers made headlines almost immediately after starting to compete in the endurance sphere and have participated as competitors or organising teams in nearly 50 international events worldwide.

In 1998, at the age of 24 and 29, they represented South Africa at the legendary Camel Trophy competition in South America, surprising veterans by coming second. Four years later they became the first rookies in the top five, taking fourth place in the 2002 Eco Challenge in Fiji, a race in which only 10 out of 89 teams managed to finish.

They wouldn’t trade their Garden Route lifestyle for anywhere else in the world. “We have a good life in Knysna and everything we want and need is right here.”

Their efforts for the World Championships were well supported by the whole community.  “Many businesses joined in with sponsorships, which we truly appreciate.”

The adventurous duo wants to participate in the adrenaline-filled world of adventure racing for at least another three years, defending their Expedition Africa title amongst others, before they start thinking about slowing down.
magneticsouth.net

Duran de Villiers
Selected in 2015 as one of the 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa by internationally renowned Forbes magazine, Knysna’s ‘drone man’, Duran de Villiers, has a can-do attitude and passion for everything he undertakes.

Duran attracted tremendous international attention after launching his revolutionary unmanned aerial camera support system in 2012, which he designed and built himself.  At the time he was a sports photographer and saw the need for filming race participants in inaccessible areas.

The SteadiDrone transformed especially the filmmaking world and has subsequently found many other applications, and earned revenue of more than US$1.2 million in 2014, according to Forbes.

“For me it’s all or nothing. I believe in hard work, finding passion and joy in everything I do and being progressive, moving forward all the time. And then of course the support and hard work of my wife and team – they are 
all a massive part of our success,” says Duran.

Born in Johannesburg, but in Knysna since the age of 10, Duran matriculated at Knysna High and after school, when his parents emigrated to New Zealand, joined them there for a while.

“My romantic interest was here, however, and I decided to come back. Alexa and I got married and started up a media production company, which sowed the seed for the creation of SteadiDrone.”

Duran and his team are currently taking the company to the next level by building a new brand identity where their latest invention, the Alti Transition UAS, is the star of the show.

“The Alti is a world first in many aspects. It is a next-generation, fixed-wing unmanned aerial aircraft, which we’ve developed from the ground up. It has the ability to take off and land vertically, anywhere.”

Future plans involve going bigger and improving their products.
altiuas.com/steadidrone.com

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The Zandile Effect

As organiser of two of the country’s most popular mountain bike events, one of which she co-owns with a cycling industry legend, Zandile Meneses is the proverbial dynamite in a small package.

WORDS Grethe Mattheus PHOTOGRAPHS Vanessa van Vreden

Super-efficient busy body Zandile Meneses, 44, has been impressing cyclists with her event organising skills since taking up the reins at the Rotary Knysna Cycle Tour in 1999. Nearly two decades on she co-owns the increasingly popular Dr Evil stage event and manages the iconic Lions Karoo to Coast (K2C), which both take place in September each year.

Her love of sport, nature and healthy living originates from her childhood growing up on a farm near Lauries Bay outside Port Elizabeth with a sporty father and creative mother. “I remember getting up with my dad at 3am to watch boxing and then going to milk cows with him afterwards.”

Sport was a constant in her formative years and she earned provincial colours in surfing and show jumping. While her journey led her across the globe, the Garden Route has been her base since she was 16 and she now lives in Harkerville. After matriculating at Union High in Graaff Reinet, Zandile traveled and worked her way through Europe, Africa and Israel for five years. One of her most interesting experiences was living on a kibbutz teaching English to Russian Jews. “I spoke no Russian and they spoke no English. It was amusing, but not the most productive job,” she laughs.

Back home, Zandile was waitressing and working on a psychology degree through the University of South Africa (Unisa) when she successfully interviewed at Rotary Club of Knysna to help organise the annual cycle tour during the Knysna Oyster Festival in 1999.

Under her guidance, the event grew from 1300 riders in one road race to 6500 riders in six different events by the time she left in 2012. Recognising the success of a dedicated event organiser, the Lions of Knysna and Uniondale approached Zandile to develop the Karoo to Coast (K2C) in 2002. This event also grew from 1000 riders and now closes entries at 4500 to maximise race enjoyment. “This year we sold out in four weeks, which is fantastic considering the present economic climate and number of events on the racing calendar.

“I think the K2C’s secret to success is the beauty of the ride, which starts with majestic Karoo pass landscape and transforms into spectacular forest areas and a lagoon-side finish in Knysna. The hospitality in Uniondale, where local farmers and Lions cook a great meal for every rider, is something special. It is an unpretentious, quality event.”

In 2012, Zandile and longtime friend and colleague Leon Evans, a legendary cycling route cutter, decided to combine their skills and efforts into a three-day mountain bike stage event. They dubbed it Dr Evil after the nickname Leon earned for cutting challenging routes such as the now internationally famous Cape Epic stage race.

“When we started thinking about dates for Dr Evil, we realised the cycling calendar was extremely full and many riders come from far to experience K2C and would possibly want to make a long weekend of it by doing another race. The Lions Clubs of Knysna and Uniondale graciously let me manage their event and launch Dr Evil on the three days before K2C.”

So, why are these two races so special that thousands of people from all over beg for a ticket every year? “I believe we saw a gap in the market at a time when there were not yet any similar events. The safety of cyclists is top priority and we work to improve this every year. Leon is also an expert route cutter, the scenery is incredible and we aim to understand our customers, so we are always working at developing the events to better address their needs,” she explains.

Another unique element, which also reflects Zandile’s personal approach to living a life engaged with the world around her, is the participation of beneficiary charities. Volunteers from organisations such as the Cancer Association of SA (Cansa), Plettenberg Bay Rotary, Lions Clubs, Wittedrift School and Kwano Cycling Academy help at water points and ultimately create a community invested in the same vision.

“I believe in working hard and doing what you love, while maintaining a balanced lifestyle.” This strong work ethic and pursuit of quality living show in Zandile’s professional and personal lives. Having entered her first triathlon at age 34, Zandile has finished the Half-Ironman twice. These days a balanced lifestyle includes a regular run on the beach and taking a slower pace during the early summer months.

Future dreams include new adventures. “I would love to do something completely different. An event that helps facilitate women to lead holistic, healthy lives. I want to work with smaller groups and incorporate different lifestyle elements, like gardening for example. Ultimately, I enjoy looking after people and helping them to be connected. The dream is still taking shape, but I am excited about the possibilities.”

CONTACT
karootocoast.com
drevilclassic.com

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Everyone’s business

Since opening doors in George in 2007, Oakhurst Insurance has turned from a ten-man operation into the largest employer in town. CEO Brad Hogan shares his passion for business and community development, family and his new home town.

WORDS Louise F Venter PHOTOGRAPH Melanie Maré

“Nothing is inevitable.” A wall art quote framed by authentic World War II memorabilia and family photographs is the first thing I notice in Oakhurst Insurance Company Limited CEO Brad Hogan’s office.

Settling in with a cappuccino, his ease is belied by an inherent vibrance and energy, and lively blue eyes that reflect a keen and busy mind.

Brad says the quote has personal significance for him. “I think people can be very fatalistic. We often say ‘if it’s meant to be, it will be’ but I disagree. Doing that means giving away our power to control our lives and our destinies. For me nothing is inevitable. We can decide where we want to go in life and where we want to be, we make the changes. The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

At 44 Brad is considered a relatively young CEO, and one of the most innovative and successful business people in South Africa. His natural business acumen goes back to age ten when he started selling handbags, personalised stationary and, at age 14, burglar proofing and home improvement products – the latter would evolve into Johannesburg-based Badger Holdings, which he establised in 1993. The group now incorporates insurance and related businesses operating in South Africa and Australia.

At 21, Brad’s affinity and aptitude for financial services led to studies in investments and insurance at the former Rand Afrikaans University (RAU) and the Insurance Institute of South Africa.

Licensed since 2009 but operating under the brand name since November 2007, Brad chose Oakhurst Insurance’s head office to be in George despite having offices in Johannesburg and Australia – mostly because he wanted to realise his dream of living in the Garden Route.

His fascination with the region was born while reading the Afrikaans subject prescribed works of Dalene Matthee at Springs High School for Boys, where he matriculated in 1989. A Garden Route holiday in the 1990s sealed his love and he immediately started working towards his goal of one day living and working here.

“My wife Lindsay and I decided early on we wanted to bring our kids up in this kind of environment. So, when we had the opportunity to set up Oakhurst Insurance here, we jumped at the chance.”

Starting from scratch with a few clients and ten staff members, Oakhurst Insurance has grown into a highly competitive general and life insurance company with more than 400 employees and a growing client base exceeding 100 000. Outside government, Oakhurst is the largest employer in George – most staff are local and only a few transferred from Gauteng.

The reasoning behind opening another insurance company in an already competitive market was the reluctance of most insurance companies at the time to offer standalone motor-focused insurance as it was a difficult product line to manage. “Oakhurst filled a gap by offering reasonably priced, simple and innovative products to clients that, at the time, weren’t widely available in South Africa,” Brad says.

The company’s success was bolstered by Oakhurst’s willingness to be the first in the country to implement telematics, a vehicle management system that allows driver behaviour monitoring and vehicle tracking, which in turn enables Oakhurst to provide practical assistance to clients. The company has since widened its insurance product to include home, business and life insurance.

“Another success factor is the company’s inherent business philosophy and values, and that every employee takes ownership. We have a great culture and adhere to our company slogan ‘we really care, we deliver’. If you talk to any Oakhurst employee, you will find passion, which in turn leads to innovation, hard work and service excellence.”

He says choosing George as his hub was a good business decision and he hopes to leave a lasting legacy for his business and the greater George community. He predicts the town will continue to grow, particularly as telecommunications advance and technology improves, although he hopes it won’t become so big that it loses its character. “The world is becoming smaller and the Garden Route more easily accessible. The unique characteristics of a town like George are starting to be discovered and being away from big centres is becoming less of a hindrance and, in some cases, may become irrelevant to doing business.”

Brad believes Oakhurst’s presence in George has contributed significantly to reducing the number of people who would otherwise be forced to leave the Garden Route to find employment elsewhere, especially those wanting to work in a corporate environment.

“The nice thing about an insurance company is that there is a career for almost everyone. We’ve got accountants, sales people, marketing, legal, IT and call centre personnel, to name a few. If you’ve got the right attitude, the right drive and passion and share our values, then we may want you on board.”

People development is essential and staff members are encouraged to further their studies, be innovative and passionate about their work, and to make use of the company’s dedicated training arm.

While typical business principles such as focus on profits, targets, competitiveness and branding are important for sustainable business, Brad also values people – not only employees and clients, but also the people from the community in which he does business.

“We are not islands in this world. It is critical that we are interconnected and interlinked, and that we are purposeful and meaningful in helping each other and developing our communities. When we give to and help other people we are actually helping ourselves.”

This philosophy is mirrored in Brad and Lindsay’s personal as well as Oakhurst’s involvement in the community, such as working with the local Child and Family Welfare Organisation to provide food parcels to children in need, and regular involvement in local school and church projects. Oakhurst is also the official sponsor of the annual George Old Car Show, which contributes to local tourism income. An office filled with historic artefacts and antiques confirms Brad’s deep love of all things old. He enjoys sharing George’s rich history and heritage, which he strongly believes in preserving and protecting.

Oakhurst’s involvement with the George Arts Theatre is part of that thinking. The idea to renovate and upgrade the local theatre started forming in Brad’s mind when people told him they were travelling to Prince Albert to see productions there despite having a theatre in town. “It was an opportunity to keep the cultural heart of the town alive. It’s a theatre steeped in history and just needed to have some life blown into it again.”

In 2014, with Lindsay’s help and vision, Brad and Oakhurst Insurance entered into a partnership with the George Arts Theatre, in effect becoming the theatre’s patron. Lindsay worked closely with the George Society of Arts to plan a full renovation of the historic building, which was financed by Oakhurst Insurance.

The theatre is now known as the Oakhurst George Arts Theatre and renovations are ongoing.

When it came to finding office premises for Oakhurst Insurance, there was no question for Brad but to buy and renovate a few historical buildings in the George CBD, including the Hurteria building, the old Commando and the Van Kervel buildings.

Oakhurst is also starting to work with various local bodies to protect and enhance George, especially the town centre. “Decentralisation of businesses and neighbourhood shopping centres is a worldwide threat to central business areas. We all have a responsibility to keep this great historical town alive and the city centre should be a tourist attraction in its own right.”

While his business diary is filled to the brim, Brad always finds time for his family. He counts time with Lindsay, to whom he has been married for 24 years, and sons Joshua, 19, and Gabriel, 16, at their home at Leentjiesklip beach in Wilderness as especially precious.

“I have never put pressure on my boys to follow in my footsteps and prefer to leave a legacy that will make them feel they can achieve anything and that life should be faced with excitement. I am proud that we have given our sons a good, solid Christian grounding, which we believe will help them know who they are, what they are looking for and what life is really all about.”

After our interview Brad’s parting words sum up what he is all about. “Life spins by, but in the meantime you are touching people’s lives every day in so many different ways and that has got to be a positive experience. You’ve got to be leaving the world better than what you found it.”

CONTACT
Oakhurst Insurance Company Limited
086 100 1041
oakhurstins.co.za

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Natural woman

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

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Golden oldies

Age is relative – just ask three local 70-somethings whose continued accolades in sports AND DANCE are inspiring young and old.

WORDS Corrie Erasmus PHOTOGRAPHS Melanie Maré

 On the bike
“Sport keeps you young,” says 72-year-old cycling legend Willie Marx, who continues to compete and win medals in mountain bike and road races.

During the 2014 South African Track Championships he secured three medals in his age division – two gold and one silver. At the time of going to print, he was on his way to participate in the South African National Road Championships in February.

Better known these days for his bustling bike shop in York Street, Willie once was South African national track champion no less than seven times and was headhunted for the Dutch Amstel Beer team to compete in the Tour de France at the age of 18.

“I competed in the world championships in Holland that year and came third. After five days of racing, my teammates returned to South Africa, but I was approached to stay behind and ride for Holland,” he says.

Eventually, Willie stayed for three years and cycled the world on fire.

He broke British cycling hero Sir Reg Harris’ quarter mile record and was honoured for this achievement by being invited to Buckingham Palace for tea and scones. “I didn’t meet the Queen though,” he smiles.

Willie returned to South Africa to pursue studies and a career in electronics, but after a bad cycling accident 35 years ago he sold his electronics business and opened a cycling shop in George, which is still flourishing today.

His dream is to go back to the world championships and become number one again. “If I can get a sponsor, I will practise very hard. I’m healthy and still have the drive and enthusiasm to do what it takes,” Willie says.

He cycles three times a week, doing 50 to 60km at a time, and takes a special remedy to 
prevent cramps, reduce stiffness and keep his blood clean. A local specialist who won a world award for his work developed this remedy.

What do people say when they hear he still cycles? Willie says: “It is always very positive and everyone encourages me to keep on doing this.”

Ballet bliss
Meet Marianne van der Merwe-van der Lecq, a veteran ballet dancer from Little Brak River.

At the seasoned age of 70, this remarkable former professional ballerina of the erstwhile PACT (Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal) is still dancing and enjoys every minute of it.

“I’m most grateful towards my Creator and feel very blessed to be able to still do what I love at my age,” Marianne says. “Also, it’s very special that my beloved mother, who recently turned 100, is still able to share my joy. She has always been my greatest supporter.”

After years of not dancing, Marianne took up classes again a few years ago. In 2014 she successfully completed the Royal Academy of Dance Grade 7 ballet examination. She performed the best in her group – comprising mostly teenagers – and received both a distinction and a gold medal.

Marianne explains her reasons for taking up dance again: “I went to a ladies tea one morning and met ballet teacher Mariki Viviers from Great Brak River. We started talking and the desire to do plié’s and pirouettes once more was suddenly there.”

Ever since she can remember Marianne says she was always dancing around the house. 
At the age of nine a family friend took her to the Johannesburg City Hall to see a ballet performance by an international star.

“I was totally enchanted and, having grown up in a home where we were exposed to music, literature and the arts, everything about that performance made an enormous impression 
on me.”

The cherry on top was when she met the prima ballerina, Tamara Toumanova, backstage 
and got her programme signed. The die was cast and soon afterwards she started ballet 
lessons. After school PACT asked her to join their ballet corps and Marianne soon became one of their solo dancers.

“My four years with PACT were some of the happiest and most fulfilling of my life. We were very privileged in the 1960s to work with some of the greatest international artists in the ballet world. Apart from performances in all the major cities in South Africa, we also had the privilege from time to time of touring the country to expose and educate those in remote areas about the arts.”

Marianne gave up her dancing career after getting married. Although she didn’t dance professionally any more she joined a dance group in Cape Town and took part in classes and performances. She called it quits in the 1990s but remained supple with Pilates, which stood her in good stead when she returned to ballet.

“I thought I wouldn’t be able to complete my first lesson with Mariki, but to my surprise I completed the lesson and was even able to do the jumps,” she laughs.

“Ballet is beneficial to the whole body, mind and spirit. I will keep on doing this for as long as 
I am able to. I feel revitalised after each class.”

According to Marianne, people’s reaction on hearing that she is still dancing at 70 is 
overwhelmingly positive. “To me, one of the joys that comes with ballet is to inspire people. Be 
grateful for your health, enjoy it and stay active.”

Running strong
Not only is Oudtshoorn-based Toy Ungerer the South African women’s champion in her previous age division (65 – 69) in the 100m, 200m, 400m and long jump, she also won the gold medal in the 400m two years ago at the World Masters Athletics Championships in Brazil. Having recently turned 70, Toy is currently training hard to break at least the 400m in her new age category at the World Masters Championships in Australia later this year.

Toy says she excelled in athletics, netball and gymnastics as a child. She believes she inherited her talent from her father, Ernst du Plooy, a fine athlete in his own right. After school she went to the Oudtshoorn Teaching College, but didn’t continue with her running.

Her spectacular comeback to the world of athletics – 42 years after she had stopped running – started with a small advertisement in a local publication. “When I was 59 years old, I responded to an advertisement looking for volunteers to act as field marshals during the district masters championships, which were held in Oudtshoorn that year,” Toy says. “The organiser, Frans Kalp, convinced me to participate as well. I took the plunge, competed in the 100m and came second.”

This achievement marked the beginning of great things as Toy continued to participate in numerous big athletics events, including three world championships, harvesting medals and breaking records along the way. Besides being a dynamic athlete who practises for an hour and a half three times a week, she is also very involved with the administrative side of the sport.

Toy has been the chairperson of Athletics South Western Districts (ASWD), an affiliate of Athletics South Africa, for the past eight years. She also serves on ASWD’s track and field committee and is the vice-president of South Africa Masters Athletics (SAMA).

“My life has become so enriched in terms of experiences. Besides meeting and befriending people from all walks of life and from all over the world, I even became computer literate, being involved with the administration.”

Every athlete suffers injuries from time to time and Toy is no exception. She tries to eat 
according to her blood group in order to prevent the build-up of lactic acids and does ongoing research to help her perform better.

She says she has become very strong, physically and mentally. “It’s hard work, but the word ‘lekker’ (fun) is connected to every aspect.”

Her future goals include coaching other athletes. “I want to stay involved in athletics. It’s important that people know about masters athletics. Life doesn’t stop just because you are growing older. I want to motivate others to become active and enjoy their life. Set yourself goals and don’t wait, just do it!”

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Designing art

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

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A coming of age

Twenty-one years after the Plattner family rescued Fancourt from liquidation, Sabine Plattner reflects on the luxury golf and lifestyle estate’s steady progress to maturity and the dawn of a new era as the reins are passed on to her daughter Tina and a fresh management team.

WORDS Athane Scholtz PHOTOGRAPH Melanie Maré

True to form, the town of George was cold, wet and misty the first time prospective buyers Hasso and Sabine Plattner visited the flailing Fancourt estate with their young daughters in 1994.

“We knew nothing about golf, and were initially not interested in buying, but the price was good and we did not want to miss out on an obvious investment opportunity – but mostly, there was an energy and beauty to the place we found irresistible,” says Sabine.

Originally from Germany where Hasso co-founded computer software company SAP, the couple had been visiting South Africa since Hasso’s mother moved here in the 1970s. “We owned property in Cape Town and very much wanted to be constructively part of the transformation of a new South Africa. Fancourt was an opportunity to help a community on several levels – from stabilising the homeowners on the estate’s property value to providing financial and social security for existing and future staff and their families.”

While Hasso was involved in business across the globe, Fancourt became Sabine’s project, but from the start she encountered complications. “The court proceedings surrounding the liquidation, fighting to keep the Fancourt coat of arms, dealings with the homeowners and a riotous staff were just the beginning.

“The men-only golf legacy and its associated pompous approach were unacceptable to me. At our very first visit, when we were considering buying the estate, the girls were not allowed inside the clubhouse and I was only permitted because I was inspecting the facilities for purposes of buying – I was determined that Fancourt would be for families with accommodation and facilities to suit.”

Sabine had big plans for the estate, including building a five-star hotel, a spa, restaurants, shops and more golf courses. “At the time there were only the old Manor House, Montagu golf course and clubhouse, and some private homes. We considered Fancourt a long-term investment – it was not about making quick money, but rather working towards a solid business that could sustain a community well into the future.”

The Plattners poured millions of rands into developing the estate and bought additional adjacent land to fulfil their dreams. Sabine, an avid gardener, found great pleasure in planning the lush gardens and outdoor features. A personal favourite is the tree-lined entrance for which she trucked in mature oak trees from around the country. “Trees are inherent to a place’s atmosphere. To this day, Fancourt continues to plant trees everywhere we can.”

The Plattners’ philanthropic work is world-renowned, especially in education, health care and rain forest conservation. In 2001 Sabine started looking outside Fancourt for ways to help the broader community. “I am a trained school teacher and children’s needs pull at my heart strings.” A trip into Thembalethu culminated in the opening of Nikiwe Educare Centre, and her on-going relationship with the George Child and Family Welfare Society continues to advance the lives of families across the region. Outside South Africa, Sabine remains especially involved in the Republic of Congo and Germany.

Looking back over 21 years, Sabine finds it difficult to pinpoint her Fancourt highlights. “There are obvious things like turning an old air strip into the world class The Links golf course and hosting the President’s Cup, the 46664 concert and the Women’s World Cup of Golf. But for me, the entire Fancourt journey also reflects my personal development from a relative wild child into contented maturity. It was a hard walk in which I had been emotionally involved, but ultimately it has come full circle.”

With maturity comes new focus and while Fancourt may have been ticking over financially, Sabine believes it is time for a stronger business approach. “We have been fortunate to have the financial resources to grow and weather the storms, but it is time to stabilise and be a strong, profiting business that can forerun prosperity for the town and region. Over the past five years we have restructured and streamlined our processes and last year appointed new CEO Georgie Davidson to take us into a new era,” says Sabine.

Another development is the increased involvement of Tina, the Plattners’ oldest daughter, at Fancourt. “Hasso and I had been consolidating our interests to ensure that our children were not left with financial burdens when we are gone, and the girls could decide where they wanted to be involved. Tina chose Fancourt and Steffi got involved in Germany. It is very rewarding to have one of my daughters take over the reins of a project that has been such a big part of my life for so long.

“While so much has happened at Fancourt, and to me, in the past 21 years, a visit here still holds for me the magic of that first time in 1994. When I drive through that tree-lined entrance, it still feels like home.”

CONTACT
Fancourt
044 804 0000
www.fancourt.com

Click here for a pdf version of this article as it appeared in South Summer 2015-16.

A grand dame’s legacy

Few people today can claim to have lived a life as intricately intertwined with Knysna as Margaret Parkes. The 90-year-old matriarch is not only part of two of the town’s first families, she has also written and co-written 17 books on its history and helped establish the local library and museum.

WORDS Heidi Sonnekus PHOTOGRAPH Melanie Maré

“Knysna has inevitably changed a lot over the years, but it’s still a kind place with a good heart. To me, it remains ‘home,’” says Margaret Parkes of the lagoon town, where she’s lived her whole life.

Margaret’s parents were Scots who met on a boat while her mother, Ellen Porteous, was on her way to vacation in South Africa and her father, Donald Fraser, was returning to Port Elizabeth after a visit to Britain. They were married a year later and moved to Knysna after buying the Royal Hotel.

Margaret Elizabeth Fraser was born in 1925. The little blonde girl was often dressed in a kilt and remembers “a lovely unspoilt childhood” in a town filled with “friendly and caring people”. Her excursions as a Brownie with Girl Guides leader Miss Daisy Eberhard is a particularly fond memory. “She instilled in us a deep love for nature. Together we took the Coffee Pot timber train to pick maidenhair ferns in the forest, or bluebells at Belvedere Siding,” Margaret recalls.

After matriculating at age 16, she spent two years at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape before completing a teaching qualification in Cape Town. “I had just returned from a holiday abroad in 1947 and my ever practical father greeted me with the question ‘do you have a job yet?’ Well, I did not. Politics in South Africa at the time dictated that everything had to be tweetalig (bilingual) and I did not have my Afrikaans Certificate, which complicated matters.” True to character, Margaret found a way around the problem and took up a position at the School for the Deaf in Cape Town for a year before moving on to teach at the teacher’s training college in Healdtown near Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape.

She met her husband, Bernard, heir to the Parkes timber dynasty, at the Royal Hotel while home on vacation. “He invited me to sail on his boat Dolphin that Sunday. Since there was a 10-year age difference, I was the youngest guest by far and a bit in awe.” The couple married in 1952.

“Bernard’s grandfather, George Parkes, chairman of edge toolmakers AF Parkes & Co. Ltd of Birmingham, arrived in South Africa from England in October 1891 and bought a sawmill and forest in Knysna,” Margaret recalls. In the 124 years since, the business adapted as needed to survive the time and tides of prosperity and war, natural disasters and global financial crises. The over 5000ha swathe of Knysna Forest in the care of GEO Parkes and Sons remains the only privately owned commercially harvested indigenous forest in the country.

George was an early specialist in turned wooden furniture legs, wagon parts and tool handles, and pioneered the local timber export industry. His sons, George Junior, Stephen and then Howard, who eventually became Margaret’s father-in-law, later took over the Knysna branch.

“I did not involve myself in the business much, but when abroad I kept my eyes open for ideas for novelties.” She fetches a wooden spoon from her kitchen: “We must have churned out thousands of these to sell at the Parkes Showroom. I love mine. I’ve just cooked marmalade with it. It has no hollow, so nothing sticks to it.”

Margaret’s clear blue eyes sparkle at another memory. “It was all the rage in Europe at one time to arrange little wooden mice on your cheeseboard. The mice had pins for eyes and leather tails.

“Despite Bernard’s take on the fad – ‘What damn fool things!’ – thousands of Parkes mice found their way to toy boxes, display cabinets and dining room tables around the world.”

The couple’s sons, George and Jim, were raised beside the Knysna and Swartvlei lagoons, and learnt to drive on Parkes forest roads. Pioneering heart surgeon Dr Chris Barnard owned the adjoining property near Swartvlei. One day in 1982 he popped by for permission to cross Parkes boundaries, and found Bernard feeling poorly. “Heart problems,” he concluded after a quick look, “but not to worry, I will get the best specialist in South Africa to look at you.”

Bernard’s heart, at age 58, could only sustain him for about another six months and the couple had to rethink everything they had ever valued. “Bernard wanted to see two beloved English cousins one last time. Jim – in Standard 8 (Grade 10) – and I went along. George was doing his national service at the time,” Margaret recalls.

During their stay, Bernard died in his sleep. “We brought him back and buried him in the old Knysna cemetery on the edge of town. It is sad that one cannot visit there alone these days,” she says.

By this time Margaret had started the Knysna Museum with Ros Thesen, Dorothy Burger, Allan Telford and Jean Gould. This project and her historical research helped her cope with her husband’s death. The intrepid team bagged amazing finds, like a run of the long defunct Knysna Advertiser.

Margaret is respected for her thorough research of Knysna’s history and her involvement both in the local museum (she was on the founding committee) and the town library (she spearheaded collecting historical material and all books with reference to the town). She has written and co-written 17 books on and about hidden and forgotten facets of Knysna. Her lineage and personal experience of much of the town’s history make her perfect for telling these stories, and her passion makes her an excellent public speaker.

I suggest we visit the cemetery together and her eyes light up. It is gorgeous – a peaceful and quiet place despite showing signs of neglect. “This is the Thesen-plot. Templeman… Horn… oh, here is Colonel Callcott Stevens, he used to be a magistrate,” she says as she negotiates her way briskly and purposefully through swampy grass and litter.

The Parkes-plot is neat and clear, even if surrounding headstones are overgrown. Margaret expresses sadness that such a historical site full of tourist potential seems to be of no value to the powers that be.

Despite only having five graves in the plot, the Parkes’ reach was global, with a thread of community service woven thoroughly into the fabric of their being: They were town councillors, mayors, fundraisers and development workers. Team Parkes spearheaded industry, but also manufactured wooden mice, served tea, cooked and sold marmalade and personally dusted and polished hundreds of antique books when the need arose. Margaret’s true value will only be appreciated in time, when future historians delight over the layers of her legacy – little things, many of which went unnoticed in the greater tide of the town’s history.

As for what the future holds, Margaret will be cooking marmalade, doing research and working in her gardens until she draws her last breath – that is simply how she is put together.

 

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Life in 3D

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.”

Steve Corder
www.3dgraphics.co.za