Saturday, February 28, 2015

Design Indaba Expo 2015 - Beads on a Necklace

So many beautiful things and eyes only big enough to hold a part of it!
Design Indaba Expo really needs to be visited several times to be able to take it all in. If you’re like me and prone to overwhelm after a couple of hours, there’s just no way of seeing and appreciating everything.

I went this morning with my sister-in-law, who has worked in the craft and design industry for many years and knows lots of people involved. Our morning turned out like a string of beads on a necklace, stories and beautiful objects interlaced to create a very personal impression of the whole. I'll share a few of the beads that grabbed my eye and ear and leave the birds-eye comprehensive picture to others with more experience of the scene.

So much depends on the random direction you take at the beginning of an exhibition, that first half hour when you are fresh and full of interest in everything reaps the most enthusiasm and excitement. After three hours when feet are tired and brain overloaded, you hardly notice things that would have delighted you earlier.

My first memory bead is made up of these gorgeous fabric designs by Design Team – lovely colours, modern African imagery.

 Then stunning mohair weaves and dyes from Hinterveld in the Eastern Cape – soft 75% mohair. My SIL fell in love with a rich blue blanket, tie dyed with a ripple pattern and one of a kind that was on sale having been made as a private label for a company that never took it up.

Touchee Feelee’s stunning hand-painted images digitally printed on to top quality fabric really stood out, even among a sea of other cushion and fabric creations.

Then I came across a project I’ve been reading about online recently– the EcoBrick Exchange, who are aiming to build a school in the Eastern Cape with their stunningly simple idea of combining recycling and sustainable building by using plastic soda bottles stuffed full of non-recyclable inorganic waste, as building materials. They are also making shelves, furniture and all sorts from these free building blocks and need more sustained funding and support to get their school completed.

And I was in awe of this floating ceiling of books at the Book Exchange, which is raising funds by selling and accepting donations of pre-loved books to provide a library for a local primary school.

 Perhaps my favourite single piece of the day, because its concept to me encompasses life the universe and everything, was this turned wood potjie pot sculpture. The potjie pot is such an iconic South African everyday item and here it is an exact replica made in wood, but if you look inside there’s an astronaut floating in space in the base and tiny cave paintings all the way around. It’s called FuturePast  by Mlonolozi Hempe and Atang Tshikare. The photos really don't do it justice or show the tactile nature of the wood grain - I just loved it. More about the collaboration and better photos of the piece here.

 A story all by itself is the Dreams for Africa Chair. A true icon, this is a chair that has travelled and been photographed with all sort of famous people and ordinary people all round the world. Created by beading project Woza Moya, it developed wings and an independent spirit of its own and now, after being an ambassador for South Africa for several years, it has been purchased by a collector who will give it an honourable place to rest its wings. We talked for ages to Paula Thomson, who was the project co-ordinator and the chair's guardian, and there is something of the mythical and other worldly about the whole story.

 The last bead that shines brightly came from Monkeybiz . Last year’s Design Indaba brought them to the attention of the Haas Brothers which has culminated in the dynamic collaboration at GUILD that I wrote about in my last post. We chatted to Joan Krupp, who was bubbling with energy after a visit to the stand from Rosita Missoni, who at 84 is still full of energy and had just given an inspiring talk at the DI Conference. The dynamic founder of Italian fashion and design company Missoni was comparing the intricate bead designs of Monkeybiz lions and animals to the knitwear patterns that made Missoni’s name and was really taken with the Monkeybiz menagerie.

So exciting to feel that Cape Town is attracting international figures of this stature – it really is a world design capital in fact as well as name!

Tomorrow, Sunday 1st March is the last day of Design Indaba Expo, so if you're in Cape Town get along to the CTICC. You'll make a thousand discoveries, probably all different from mine and come away dazzled with beauty and colour.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monkeybiz and Haas Brothers Collaboration in Cape Town

Cape Town is a happening place for design and craft. Not for nothing was it Design Capital of the Year last year, which for me culminated in the Make It New exhibition, where beading, recycled crafts, ceramics and sculpture rubbed shoulders with cutting edge furniture and fabric design. Now we’re all looking forward to seeing what’s in store for us at Design Indaba Expo and the GUILD international design fair both starting this week in Cape Town.

I was asked to write a preview article for a Cape Town Sunday supplement interviewing a few of the exhibitors, which came out yesterday. There wasn’t nearly enough space to include the full story that Kate Carlyle of Monkeybiz told me about their exciting work and I agonised all the while as I cut it to the essence. So I thought it would be great to share it with you whole and uncut here.

Monkeybiz have been working in collaboration with cutting edge LA designers The Haas Brothers on some fabulously funky creature creations for GUILD, which opens 25th Feb till 1st March. Over to Kate to hear more about it:

A Monkeybiz bead AFREAKS creation

Monkeybiz was born in 2000 with the goals of alleviating poverty and empowering women to become breadwinners within their communities, to revive the art of beadwork bringing back the traditional method and contemporising design and colour, and the third goal has been to provide a platform for beaders to become more than crafters and enter the realm of the individual ranked artist.

Tell us about your collaboration with the Haas brothers for GUILD 2015. What was the aim for this project?
We met Simon and Nikolai Haas at the Design Indaba Expo 2014 when they were exhibiting at Guild. Our first encounter was when they came to our stand and were excited and blown away by the Monkeybiz story, our colours, designs and unique pieces.  Simon and Niki are amazing artists who find inspiration in the smallest detail and managed to see great potential for a collaboration with Monkeybiz.

The aim, certainly for Monkeybiz, in working with The Haas Bothers has been to stretch and extend our capabilities and potentials, to use techniques and methods learnt in workshops from visiting artists, and to move from the craft -only world into the Art realm. Monkeybiz is honoured to work with such phenomenal, generous and stimulating mentors as Simon and Niki, who have been incredible with their openness and extensive knowledge.  This is the first major collaboration with such prestigious artists where Monkeybiz has been given the opportunity to launch their talented beaders.

The birth of the Haas SISTAS became a reality!!

How long have you been working on it? What was the process?
We first made contact with Nikolai and Simon Haas in February 2014, when the conversation started on the collaboration. In July we were sent drawings and had our first major conversation on really getting down and dirty.  There was no particular format we could follow as the works are weird , crazy, fantastical, amusing pieces created with humour and imagination…they are called AFREAKS…Starting with a drawing we had to make frames and just start! ….the process was completely collaborative…with almost daily phone calls and photographs of our progress, so that the Brothers could give us their commentary and feedback.  Amazingly, they have been so generous to allow the Haas Sistas to use their own imaginations and interpretations to blossom through the work.

Did your beaders develop new styles or techniques for this collaboration? How much creative input did they have?
Serendipitously 2014 was the year of Monkeybiz workshops for the 450 beaders we have on our register! And two of these workshops given by two world renowned beaders were about 3D beading.  Monkeybiz has revived the art of beadwork in South Africa, where we have taken the traditional form of beading which is a flat beading technique and given it 3D form.  BUT with the workshops we learnt to bead making shapes and forms with no armatures, only with the strength of the bead and thread.

This new collaboration has extended this process to a new level ….Together with the patterns and mathematical brain of Nikolai Haas, shapes have exploded forth, and confidence for many “mistakes” have given the pieces movement and texture. The Haas Brothers have joined hands with the Haas Sistas and allowed an enormous amount of creative input from each artist with very few limitations.

How did your two very different design sensibilities work together?
Because of the mindfulness of Simon and Nikolai of the personal lives of each Sista and the particular specialities and techniques of every person, a great understanding was born for all of us. As the Haas Sistas we were excited to stretch our imaginations and try the New, the Odd, the wonderful…it has been very liberating

Is this a one-off project or are there plans for the future?
No we all have BIG PLANS for the future

You are also exhibiting at the Design Indaba Expo. What can visitors look forward to seeing there?
At the Design Indaba we will be introducing our new range of animals and creatures, Poodles, Dachshunds, Baboons and Porcupines….in stunning new colours and designs………..
The Haas Brother collaboration will be exhibited at the same time through Guild ….incredible and exciting times.

What are you waiting for?! If you're in Cape Town go and see for yourself!

GUILD International Design Fair
The Lookout, cnr Granger Bay Boulevard and Dock Rd, V&A Waterfront.
Wed 25th Feb-Sunday 1st March

Design Indaba Expo
27th Feb-1st March
And here's an interview with the Haas Brothers about the project.

Free Art and Design Week Shuttle
Travel easily between CTICC and the GUILD Design Fair via the VandA Waterfront on a free shuttle, every 30 minutes from 10h30 till 19h30. 26th Feb-1st March.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Ginger Nuts Recipe

There’s something about ginger nuts. Nowhere near as glamorous as a chocolate biscuit, lacking the festive credentials of shortbread or the kid-appeal of Zoo biscuits, the ginger nut has nevertheless held its own in the biscuit barrel for more than 100 years, sneaking into the shopping basket even when times are tough and choccy biccies beyond the budget.

It’s plain enough to be an everyday, morning cup of tea dunking biscuit, perhaps that’s its secret, and its humble unassuming demeanour conceals a spicy punch to the palate.

Recently I was feeling restless, wanting to bake something different, but nothing too fancy. Ginger was the flavour on my mind, and riffling through my recipe books I came across Delia Smith’s recipe for Ginger Nuts. Instant decision. No weird ingredients, all pantry staples and easy to throw together.

I did wonder how close they’d be to the classic packet ginger nut, but they came out winners all round. Same crackle creviced top, good crunchy bite, dunk well and taste every bit as gingery.

The best thing is that being home-made they don’t have any hidden ‘bad’ ingredients – no e-numbers or questionable fats And the other best thing is that they are far more substantial and satisfying than a packet biscuit, so you don’t end up scoffing half the packet in one sitting.

I took one look at the recipe and doubled up the ingredients,  so if you don’t have a hungry flock of starlings to feed and are restrained in your ginger nut consumption feel free to halve the quantities back again.

Ginger Nuts recipe
220g / 8oz plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
2 rounded teaspoons ground ginger
80g / 3oz brown or white sugar
100g / 4oz butter
4 tablespoons golden syrup

Oven 190C / 375F
2 greased baking trays

Makes about 32 biscuits

Sift together all the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, bicarb, ginger, sugar).

Rub in the butter (doesn’t matter if it is soft or hard really, we’re not talking pastry here!)

Mix in the golden syrup and keep mixing until it comes together in a sticky dough.

Form the dough into small balls (the usual walnut size is about right – around 32 in all from this quantity)

Place the balls well spaced on the greased tray. Flatten slightly with a wooden spoon.

Bake for  10-15 minutes until they are a dark gold and firm at the edges. They will firm up more as they cool.

Leave to cool on tray for about 10 minutes then move to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Don’t eat them all at once, as they keep nicely in an airtight tin!

P.S. I'm just about to bake yet another batch this afternoon. Yesterday after school a daughter dipped her hand into the biscuit barrel and her face fell as it came out empty. So we need a constant supply in the house from now on to avoid those after school blues.