Last year we introduced a new blog series, Creative SA. In this series we will regularly feature South African makers.
by Rose McClement
In the spirit of moving forward with this series, I would like to introduce you to another South African artist, Miche Watkins. Miche and I met online – how that came about I just simply can’t remember. But you know the story, if you knock around a few online portals long and often enough, you find one another.
Since that first time a few years ago we have kept pace with each other via Facebook largely, until Miche visited Cape Town last year, when we had the opportunity of catching up eyeball to eyeball. Although Miche relocated to the UK a few years ago to be close to her family, she lived in Cape Town for a long time. That I think was the glue that formed the bond early in our friendship, the fact that I used to post images of beautiful Mother City and she would respond with great yearning.
I’m not much of an art “knower” or a “knower of art”, but this I do know about myself… I know what art appeals to me. Over the past few years I have exposed myself to more and more artists and in doing so I have come to understand that which appeals to me and that which just goes over my head.
The question then is what is it that appeals to me about the body of work that Miche brings to the world? It is her particular style of Pop Art-ish line drawings – she only introduces a hint of red or colour that I am simply taken with. They are funky, contemporary, youthful and more often than not, faceless images.
As a decorator finding something that is appealing yet not specific in terms of its image, is a very big draw. Her art can be installed into offices, hotels and residences alike – any space that can indulge a bit of contemporary funk. I see Miche’s art hanging on the walls of some trendy millennial’s apartment or in the room of an edgy teen.
She has recently introduced another element into these clean lined paintings – that of Street Art. It’s the combination of the street art and line drawings that work for me. Take a look for yourself and you decide if this art appeals to you or not.
In closing let me add that I have great admiration for artists who put out their work for the public to scrutinise – possibly appreciate, or possibly criticise. They are such a brave crowd of creatives. Plus having to market their work in an already overcrowded arena and run it like a business – that takes extra commitment to the cause.
Futher, I know that Miche puts her heart and soul into her paintings as well as her business. Hats off to her!
Her work can be seen and purchased on the online art portal, State of the Art, as well as the bricks and mortar State of The Art Gallery in Bree Street, Cape Town – the heart of our buzzing city.
Earlier in the month we introduced our new blog series, Creative SA. In this series we will regularly feature South African makers.
For our third installment of the Creative SA series, we will be sharing the beautiful artworks of Leila Fanner with you.
Leila is a painter, illustrator and surface pattern designer who works from her studio in the small town of Riebeek West.
Similar to Nicole & The Striped Flamingo, the SA creative we shared with you in our previous post, Leila has had her own part in Design Monarchy’s brand evolution. In fact, it is Leila who designed our beautiful company logo in 2012.
Since we first interviewed her four years ago, Leila has placed greater focus on her fine art works – spending much time with paint brush in hand.
The elements that Rose and I most adore about Leila’s paintings are her bold use of vivid colours in combination with intricate pattern and detail. Her artworks often have a whimsical yet edgy feminine quality with a slight mystical feel.
Leila’s works, while rich in South African flavour, are completely unique. Her striking paintings feature a fresh interpretation on the local imagery and frequently feature South African fauna and flora. Leila also has the rare and remarkable ability to incorporate African elements into her paintings and designs without the usual “Greenmarket Square cheese”.
Leila will be taking part in the “Summertide” group exhibition this Sunday the 4th of December at The Gallery in Riebeek Kasteel. Also be sure to check out Leila’s Facebook page as she is currently having a studio sale.
We are also very excited to announce that Leila has gifted us with some of her goreous printed product to dole out as give-away prizes to some of our lucky blog readers. We will be posting all the give-away competition details tomorrow, so keep your eyes peeled.
The next South Africa creative that we will be sharing as part of our Creative SA series, hits quite close to home as she has had a personal hand in the creation of our brand and the look and feel of our website.
Nicole Bruigom is a graphic designer and illustrator hailing from sunny Durban. Have you ever walked the aisles of a Mr. Price Clothing or Home store and wondered who designed the trendy graphics and quirky doodles you see on the product? Well, the chances are good that it might be Nicole, as creating lovelies for Mr. P is her day job.
When Nicole is not designing for the Mr. Price shelves, she sells her freelance design services under the moniker “Nicole & The Striped Flamingo”. Upon spotting her quirky whimsy illustrations back in 2013 we immediately fell in love with them and interviewed her for the “Interviews & Features” section of The Design Tabloid.
Not too long for thereafter, while working on the design of our new Design Monarchy website, we were searching for an illustrator to create some custom graphics for certain pages of our website. We immediately thought of Nicole as both Rose and I enjoyed her style of illustration and use of colour and pattern. We thought it would perfectly complement our logo, branding and identity, which we perceived as feminine and elegant, yet quirky with a slight vintage flair.
We explained to Nicole exactly what we had in mind and she created the most beautiful illustrations for us. The illustrations consisted of a quirky megaphone for our Home page, a pretty typewriter for our Press page, an old school phone for our Contact Us page, a hipster camera for our Portfolio page, and a toolbox and desk illustration to accompany our Company page. She also redesigned our Design Monarchy “Stamp of Approval” to match and compliment our new branding and graphics.
We were absolutely thrilled with the results and feel that Nicole’s illustrations really “made” our website. Since the launch of the website we have had tons of complements and we have found that visitors to our site find the illustrations had to forget! Feel free to pop over to our website to take a look at the illustrations “in situ”, so to speak.
As mentioned in our previous interview, Nicole is also an author. She published “Little Chef”, a quirky illustrated children’s recipe book, in 2010 and it has proved so popular that she released a second edition.
You can also adorn the walls of your home with some Striped Flamingo loveliness, as Nicole designed a range of whimsy wallpapers for Robin Sprong that would be perfect for a children’s bedroom or nursery.
Want to see some of Nicole’s designs in the flesh? If you reside in Joburg, you might want to visit Cafe Hemingways in Kyalami as Nicole has done extensive work for them – everything from the gorgeous murals on the wall to the menus and cake toppers – she even designed a range of postcards for them.
Be sure to check out more of Nicole’s gorgeous illustrations on her website.
You can also follow Nicole & The Striped Flamingo on Facebook.
“Last week we introduced our new blog series, Creative SA. In this series we will regularly feature South African makers. To kick off our very first Creative SA post we chatted with Capetonian illustrator, crafter, and design entrepreneur Liesl van der Hoven. Liesl is the owner of Fairy Caravan and makes stunning handcrafted toys and décor.
Since we first interviewed her in 2014, Liesl has truly found her passion and niche which is evident in her growing range of delightfully whimsical handmade dolls. These are no toss-them-later Barbie dolls – they are future keepsakes – each unique in their own way and beautifully made…“
Q: Tell us a little more about your pillow friends. I believe that each animal friend has his or her own story?
A: The sleepy pillow friends initially started with the idea of creating an animal character to depict each of the four temperaments from ancient Greek theory. I wanted to create characters with distinctly different personalities, because I have found that knowing the personality of each character makes it easier to write stories about them. They almost become “real” in my mind when I’m thinking about them, and I know how they will react in different situations.
I chose the four temperaments simply because four felt like a manageable number of different personalities to start with. I have since expanded on the idea when making the four different dolls and fairy dolls. For instance when I was doing research for creating the fairy dolls, I also discovered that each of the four temperaments correspond to the four elements Air, Fire, Water and Earth. I brought the colours of these elements into the illustrations I did for each fairy’s fabric banner.
Q: You have recently added a few more friends to the fold; can you introduce us to the new additions?
A: With pleasure! 2016 has been a BIG year in terms of new characters. I started the year by adding three more sleepy animals to the collection. 2015 saw the addition of Kiki the Klipspringer, and this year I also added Fantine Fox, Dana the Dassie and Cara the Caracal. So now there are a total of 8 sleepy animal friends.
In July I introduced three sleeping fairy babies. These are simple little baby dolls available in two different sizes – they look like little babies swaddled in leaves and flower petals. I have been wanting to make a simpler doll since making the larger dolls in 2015 – so very little girls could play with them. They also look lovely as hanging decorations – each fairy baby has a ribbon loop at the tip of their hat from which they can hang.
I then developed the idea of my dolls a little further, turning them into fairies complete with wings. They are still called Daisy, Poppy, Violet and Lily, just like the bigger dolls, but now they are a little smaller and they are dressed in leaves and petals – and of course they have wings! (I have a story all planned out about how the dolls got turned into fairies which I will share at a later stage.)
Lastly I added a magical unicorn. Ever since making the first dolls I have become fascinated with the possibilities of making two-dimensional illustrations come to life as “real” three-dimensional characters. So I challenged myself with this one. I learned an enormous amount in the process of designing and creating this character.
It’s strange that it didn’t feel like I was being overly ambitious with how many new characters I was creating this year, but looking back on it all now… It feels like I need to go lie down and take a nap!
Q: Tell us a bit more about your gorgeous and whimsical handmade dolls. A lot of work must have gone into their creation…
A: Yes, designing and creating the dolls was a huge amount of work, and it still takes a whole day to create a single doll, as each one is made by hand. But it is SO worth it! I love making them and I am blessed to slowly be building a team of ladies who are helping me to bring these characters to life.
I think that it is important that we teach our children the value of quality handmade goods even when they are very young. We are living in a world that is completely flooded with mass-produced things, and this is definitely true for the toy market as well. Some plastic toys can even be harmful for children, as they release chemicals and gasses over time.
I do an enormous amount of research before I start making anything – from the details of which expression would be best for the dolls to have (neutral is best to stimulate creative play) to the safety of the fabric printing process and inks I make use of. I do this because I believe that there are plenty of people who share my philosophy of putting more thought into what we give our children to play with and what the impact of the making of these products have on society and the environment.
Q: I believe you have even designed a pretty range of clothes for the dolls?
A: To be honest, I did not enjoy designing the doll clothes very much! I realised in the process of designing the clothing patterns that I am first and foremost an illustrator, and that I LOVE sewing and making my characters come alive. There is magic in turning and stuffing a little doll or creature that you have made and watching it come to life.
But teeny tiny little clothes – not so much. I think there is probably scope here to someday collaborate with a fashion designer – someone who loves clothes and designing them a lot more than I do!
Q: Your fairy babies are ABSOLUTELY adorable. How did they come to be?
A: Thank you very much – I’m so glad you find them adorable! As I mentioned earlier, I basically got the idea of creating a simple baby doll almost as soon as I had made the first, larger Fairy Caravan dolls in 2015. I then put the idea on the backburner while I developed more story ideas. I knew that I wanted the stories to go into a more magical, fairytale-like direction, and I wanted to bring fairies into the story.
So while all of the story ideas were rattling around in my head, I one day realised that the simple baby doll should be a fairy baby! And even though the dolls are fairly simple so that they would be completely safe for a toddler to play with, they had to be beautiful and interesting enough so that even adults would fall in love with them!
I put a lot of detail into the illustrations of these babies and I added interest and dimension with the loose leaf swaddling on the front and by adding a leaf hat.
Q: I see that you have penned a cute collection of bedtime stories on your website…
A: The stories are a very important part of what I do. They are my way of adding value to the characters that I create, and also a way to give something back to everyone – whether you have bought something from me or not. I want everyone – and especially as many children as possible, to share in the joy of having a bedtime story read to them, and getting lost in a magical, innocent world.
I have made a promise that I will always continue to share free stories on my website. The story writing has been a bit slow this year because I was creating so many new characters, but I feel that next year my focus will shift to telling more stories.
Q: Stories AND beautifully illustrated characters – have you thought about publishing your own children’s book?
A: I have, and it is definitely part of my big plan for 2017. My husband actually made me promise to start focusing on the stories more next year after I completed the unicorn! I agree with him that the time for more stories are perfect now that I have such a large collection of characters about which I can tell stories.
I also want to make more time for illustration next year – bedtime stories need to have beautiful pictures that go with them!
Q: What is next for Fairy Caravan?
A: I am working on a big plan for 2017 to make my dolls and toys more accessible and affordable to more people – and I am not thinking about having anything mass-produced!
The plan is still in the early stages of being hatched, but it involves lots of new stories, there are going to be story videos (little movies featuring my characters) and all kinds of exciting things happening!
At the same time I am working on expanding my team of seamstresses so that we can continue to make each product by hand, but also supply in a growing demand for the toys and dolls.
There is definitely going to be fewer new characters in 2017, but I know myself – I won’t be able to resist coming up with at least one or two…