Handmade By Me…

We would like to introduce you to yet another South African surface designer! We recently chatted to Sera Holland, the talented graphic and textile designer behind Cape Town-based design label “Handmade By Me“. Sera’s bespoke fabric designs has evolved into a full range of awesome products which includes cushion covers, tea towels, napkins and a wallpaper range which launched earlier this year. The most recent addition to the Handmade By Me range is a funky collection of chef and vintage-style aprons – too cute!

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself… any likes / dislikes?  (We understand you’ve been in Ireland for the past 6 years?)

A: Yes I have just moved back home to cape Town after living in Dublin for over 6 years. I like to think I am a pretty easygoing person and I love to spend time with my friends (specially as I have been living away for so long). I love to be outdoors and in the sunshine, or cooking and entertaining at my house. And I am obsessed with anything pretty AND functional! There are a few things I dislike…like olives, raisins, the leafblower guy from outside my old office but it is safe to say that I HATE the Irish weather!

Q: How did you get into the textile design industry? Do you have an art or design background?

A: I have a diploma in design and have been working as a graphic designer for the last 10 years.  I have always wanted to make something functional as well as pretty, instead of working so hard on things I never really got to enjoy after they were done. I found a sweet little course which was all about printing onto fabric by hand using different techniques which I really enjoyed. One of the designs I came up with then was my origami birds but back then I was cutting out each bird individually with a scalpel out of acetate (which is really not easy nor fun) and it looked pretty handprinted and messy too. Being the perfectionist that I am, I wanted to do it right and so began my quest and discovery of digital printing onto fabric. Having the background and expertise in graphics and knowing how to set up artwork it made transition into the textile design side of things very smooth. I have also since then done a course in Textile Design and Print at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin where I learned a lot more about manual printing methods and the fabric side of things.

Q: Tell us a little more about Handmade by Me, where did it all start?

A: When my sister’s wedding came along shortly after my new digital printing discovery, I designed her and her husband a very special fabric design inspired by their obsession with their 3 dogs (see my Barking Mad design). And I learnt to sew so I could give them cushion covers, napkins and 3 doggy bandanas as their actual gift. It really was something handmade by me and so the name stuck. I really want to highlight the bespoke side of what I can do.

Q: And what about your product range… I see you have also recently ventured into wallpaper?

A: Yes at the moment I make cushion covers, napkins and tea towels. And my wallpaper range has just been launched which is really exciting. There are a few other things in the pipeline but what I would really like to point out is that I can really make just about anything. The bespoke side of my business is probably the part that people don’t really know much about. I can custom make other products or different sizes using my current fabrics and I can also custom design something as well.

Q: Where do you draw inspiration from when designing? I’ve noticed several of African-inspired designs…

A: I pretty much get my inspiration from just about anywhere. Yes you may have noticed my South African nostalgia coming through with the proteas and strelitzias. Sometimes its a shape I like, or a colour, sometimes I know exactly what I want to do, and sometimes I just want to play around with different elements and see what happens. I would imagine that people probably think I’m pretty bird and flower crazy, but sometimes my designs have more (not so) hidden meanings like the “another rainy day” design which was inspired by the consistently rainy weather and lack of summers I experienced while I was in Dublin.

Q: Is there a certain style you admire or aspire to?

A: I just try to be different from everything else out there. I like all kinds of different styles so I like to explore and experiment! I guess it also just really depends on how I am feeling or the kind of environment I have been before working on an idea. Sometimes I go looking for inspiration and sometimes I just sit and think about things.

Q: Could you share your Secret Indulgence with us?

A: Sadly it’s brie cheese! I. just. can’t. STOP.

Q: Tell us five things on your Bucket List…

Visit Rome!!!! And south America! And just travel more really!

Buy a Mary Katrantzou dress

Learn how to hot-wire a car (always wanted to know how to do that)

Design and build a big piece of furniture from scratch

Drive a formula 1 car

Q: Any awesome future plans in the Handmade by Me pipeline?

A: Ha ha hopefully loads of awesome plans!!! I have so many ideas its ridiculous! Right now I am just establishing myself so its all about getting my brand out there and figuring out my little place in the market. And then hopefully onto some really awesome new projects! I would also like to do some really cool collaborations with other local creative types.

Q: Lastly, are your products available at local retail outlets, online stores or via people in the trade such as our company?

A: At the moment my products are available mostly online – Etsy, Hello Pretty, Meekel, Utique and We Heart This and in Durban I will be stocking Shoppe. I have only just arrived so I am currently in the process of supplying some interior decorator/designers and hopefully you will start seeing my items in more homeware style shops around the country.

And I would love my products to be available through your company : )

{Sera is also offering a Christmas present gift wrap and delivery service this year! Just send her your Handmade By Me shopping list and, when ready, your order will be delivered to you door – gift wrapped and all! You have till this Sunday to place your order! For more details see: here. Also be sure to check out the Handmade By Me website & Facebook page: here & here}

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Just Unwrapped…

We sat down with Mandi Garbman of Cape Town-based textile and surface design consultancy, Unwrapped. Mandi has been a busy busy bee this past year – broadening her range to include smashing geo patterns, awesome wallpaper designs, and even some terrific stationery! Even more exciting developments – Mandi has just launched a new lighting range. The light boxes, which feature a laser cut version of the Unwrapped ‘Mystic Forest’ design, are on display at The Fringe on Kloof…

Q: How did you get into the surface design industry? Do you have an art / design background?

A: My love and appreciation for art and design specifically the practical side of art has forever been a large part of my life from play school, all the way through my schooling and ending with AAA, where I studied Graphic Design. My pencil crayons, pencil, pen, paintbrush, glitter, whatever the medium/tool may have been, has been an extension of Mandi Garbman hand growing up.  I first learnt about surface design as early on as play school where I would play around with different textures, mediums quite freely.

Q: Tell us a little more about Unwrapped

A: Unwrapped  is a surface design and consultancy studio, producing soft furnishings for the home, designing and printing vibrant textiles and wallpapers, design and project managing  commercial and private spaces. Unwrapped was born just over a year ago out of a dying need to get back to my roots whereby I began drawing and painting.  Not knowing entirely what to do with all the illustrations, I applied them to different surfaces.

Q: And what about your product range… I see you have recently ventured into wallpaper?

A: Unwrapped’s range is expanding. Prototyping whenever I have the opportunity between jobs. I have used some existing designs in my new wallpaper range alongside new designs which I have brought out recently, floral motifs and angular designs, there is something for everyone, which can be used across a spectrum of mediums, wallpaper, upholstery,  tiles, textiles etc. And I am currently also working on a lighting range which I will be exhibiting in the window of the Fringe Art on Kloof Street in the month of November 2012. Just in time for Christmas.

Q: What inspires you and where do you draw your inspiration from when designing?

A: Mandi Garbman is forever conjuring up new stories to illustrate, new materials to print onto, prototyping new ideas for projects, my brain is forever unfolding and tick tick ticking away. It is no secret that I am a lover of all things organic, be it in a smile, the way a feather falls slowly to the ground, the sound of the ocean in the distance, this is what inspires my work. Striking a balance in my life and in my work is of the utmost importance. I think I poses quite a naïve childlike personality, I try show this vulnerable softer side through my illustrations, which are all based on warm hearted, beautiful childhood memories, and some which are present and some of which are still anticipating the future.

Q:  How would you define the Unwrapped style?

A: Unwrapped is at the end of the day an extension of the designer which governs the brand. Anyone who has known me longer than a few hours will say that there are many facets to Mandi, I live day to day with an open mind. Unwrapped is a controlled whirlwind of ideas and inspirations, pulling and grabbing from passed and present memories and those things around me. All of which mould the creative process to the finished result. My first range there is a huge sense of rustic farm land, the country side, flowers, animals, warmth, sun.

Q: Do you have a colour that you favour most and why?

A: My favourite colour would have to be the colour of the ocean on an overcast day. The light emerald /jade moving into a darker shade of blue.

Q: We love bucket lists.  Please tell us about yours!

A: Bucket list, I am already crossing off. Very exciting…

  1. To visit Japan, dress in traditional geisha garments and walk around Kyoto.
  2. Partake in a summer art course in Paris.
  3. To become a household brand locally and internationally.
  4. To have the most beautiful studio with every machine and tool at my disposal with which I could work with every day for the rest of my life.

Q: Can you share your future plans with us?

I do plan on expanding /growing my little company.  Taking on bigger interior jobs, expanding overseas.  There are a couple things I would like to achieve by this time next year.  In the mean time I am happy to create and roll out beautiful designs for myself, my customers and clients.

Check out the Unwrapped website: here.

The Dynamic Design Team

I can’t remember exactly when it was that the fabrics of the Design Team first came to my attention, but it was many years ago. I just remember being very impressed by the fact that it was very different to any other local designers I had seen before. Their style and patterns had a strong local influence and flavour. I remember seeing Proteas, head and shoulder medalions of African ladies, birds on branches – all  illustrated so differently to the general run of the mill fabric patterns that we were being exposed to. To me anyway, it was the introduction of a completely new genre of fabrics. (I have no doubt that my good friend James Russell, could correct me on this score, since he has this amazing historical knowledge of fabric… coupled with the fact that he is their agent here in Cape Town.

Through the past years, I have managed to attend most of their new range launches here in Cape Town. Each new range delights more than the previous. Each new range just adds further depth to their collection and each new range has them running ahead of the competition.

And speaking of competition… these are my thoughts and opinions on what the two fabulous ladies from the Design Team, Lise Butler and Amanda Haupt have done for the local fabric industry: The Upside – they were among the very first textile designers (surface designers as they are known as well) that illustrated pattern differently. But like a most trail blazers, they have craved a path for others to follow in. By them braving the frontier and penetrating the fabric market as they have, other talented surface designers could take courage and endeavour to follow suite. The Design Team has shown other creatives that Local is indeed Lekker. That it is possible to get out there, not only to make your talented products visible, but that it could turn into a good business venture as well.

The Downside – in doing this, the field became more competitive. But true to form, they have an awesome philosoply towards competition. To quote them: “We have a ‘no negativity policy’ and we rather wear the copycats out by staying one step ahead with new designs.”

So, competition only has them taking their design to the next level. What I hear is this: competition aids our business maturity, bring it on. And their newest range of fabrics attests to this fact. It was first launched and released at Decorex 2012, together with a very special feature – a video showing their historical background and business growth. The new range, called Barcelona-Paris-Istanbul, is strongly influenced by the duo’s recent visits to these cities. The designs are a beautiful visual representation of the “feel” and ambiance of the cities – more figurative than literal… don’t expect Eiffel Tower sketches or tiny bullfighters…

But I wanted to scratch a bit deeper down, below the skin and try to catch more of their heart beat. I wanted to get to know what made them tick as a Design Duo originally, as well as today. Lisa opened up to The Design Tabloid. I invite you to catch it below and enjoy their story…

Q: I am interested to know, and feel readers should as well, what it is that inspired you to take the bull by the horns and do textile design that was just so different at the time you started? 

A: We really had and still do have a passion for creating beautiful things and we were blessed with very supportive parents and lecturers at the time. Ignorance is truly bliss when you are so young! We had nothing to loose and one thing we have never been is scared! Both Amanda and I had produced work during our studies that were recognized in industry related competitions or projects and I think that this gave us the confidence to believe in ourselves. We are both work horses and still put in 10 hour working days even though they are now split up at times fitting in our children’s schedules! We just have this attitude of not being scared to tackle anything, if you have put everything into it and you have planned well it has a very good chance of succeeding and if not, you will have learnt something from it!

Q: What inspired you both? 

A: To set up a business from scratch and build it into a recognized brand means that you have to “live” it, and I think it is just something that some people have in them and others don’t. Many designers have incredible creativity but lack organizational and entrepreneurial skills – we have an unbelievable partnership that balances each other and offers a support system that has seen us through the many tough times.

Q: What motivated you to be so authentic? 

A: We believe that you need to be honest and unpretentious, so it was easy, we had to do something that was close to us and that we could find some sort of connection with. Only after ten years of having the business did we start traveling overseas, up until then we used magazines to keep in touch with global trends and we always aspire towards designing fabrics that can compete anywhere in the world but is still authentic to our own frame of reference.

Q: How did you manage to finance your venture initially? 

A: Many think that we had a secret source of set up capital! Not at all, we both had waitressing jobs while we studied and this financed our initial raw materials. We lived with our parents for many years to keep our own expenses to a minimum and didn’t take salaries for a very long time. The technikon helped us to pay for the first stand we did at Decorex as it was such good marketing for the textile department and the training they offered. Our moms helped us sew the finished items and we mostly printed and cut everything ourselves for the first few years. Once we had built up enough cash flow, we moved away from the technikon facility we shared with the students and rented a small factory space. Growth was significant and so were the costs! We each took a R50 000 personal loan to finance the next move to a larger factory and 12 years later this has still been the only capital injection we have had! We have built up incredible relationships with some of our clients and many have been willing to help us with advance payments if really needed!

Q: What did you see happening in the South Africa interiors / textile industry that lead you to swim upstream?

A: Everyone was trying so hard to keep up and mimic what was happening globally that they missed the hunger for local inspired textiles that had an international appeal and was not ethnic but more contemporary.

Q: How was your product received initially? What did it take from the two of you in terms of sticking with your plans? 

A: We had an overwhelming response but the trick was figuring out which products would really be viable and then to set up the production line to support it. We are still fine tuning! One of our biggest “assets” has been the ability to analyze what we do and to make changes where we had to, as wells an openness to learn.

I am pretty sure that you will agree with me when I say that Lise and Amanda as the Design Team inspire us to authentic design; to persevere through tough times; to be clever, resourceful entrepreneurs and to be Proudly South African creatives.

Check out Design Team’s website: here for more of their GORGEOUS  fabrics or find them on Facebook: here and on Twitter: here.

James Russell on Wallpaper

“After my Décor Diva post on the expiration date of wallpaper, James Russell of James Russell Agencies wrote me an e-mail expressing his views on the matter. His comments were so enlightening that we just had to share his thoughts with you. I have worked with James for many years on a great deal of projects   during which I was constantly reminded of his wealth of knowledge. Let it be said then, that when this man speaks, sit up and listen! So, ladies and gents, please welcome our first guest blogger, Mr James Russell.”     
– Love Rose

By James Russell

From the early days of the Middle Ages the very wealthy hung tapestries on their walls for decoration as well as for insulation and warmth. Tapestries were very expensive and therefore could only be afforded by the wealthiest. Not so ‘well off’ members of the elite, prevented from buying tapestries due to price or wars, turned to wallpapers as a form of décor. Early wallpapers were printed or painted in panels and one of the earliest know wallpapers was English and dates back to 1509. Some used fabrics to clad their walls for décor and insulation, but this too was expensive. Early tints and paints were not very colourfast and had to be re-coloured making hand painted murals and tromp l’oeil expensive compared to printed wallpapers which could be replicated a number of times. Some of the earliest fabrics used were woven silks, Toile de Jouy and ‘Print Room’ designs. These, along with early tapestry designs, formed the basic wallpaper designs. As printing techniques and paper manufacture developed and evolved, wallpapers became more affordable to the middle classes, and eventually in the 1900’s to the working classes where it was a major décor item until the 1980’s loosing favour to Faux painting.

On a visit to the Louvre in Paris you will find many examples of beautiful tapestries.

The re-birth of the ‘wallpaper trend’ initially focussed on something called the “feature wall” in a room. Traditionally most rooms used to have a “focal point” which was, more often than not, a fireplace around which people would gather to keep warm. This “focal point” was generally enhanced with decorative features such as a fire surround, a mantle piece topped with decorative items, and above the mantle a piece an important artwork, family portrait or decorative mirror.

A recent launch of Design Team's new fabric & wallpaper range - James Russell Agencies is the Cape Town agent for Design Team.

With the advent of televisions and later home entertainment systems, radiators for central heating and later under-floor heating, and the architectural development of “open plan”, the traditional “focal point” in a room became obsolete. Modern architecture would try where possible to take advantage of such things as “great views” by putting in large windows, great in the daytime but at night often enclosed by curtains, thus lessening the effect.

Using decorative wallpapers to create a “feature wall” can be a great décor solution to an otherwise “featureless” room. Using vertical stripes can enhance the apparent visual height of a room, horizontal stripes give a room energy, and “pictorial” wallpapers can create ‘vistas or views’ in rooms lacking well appointed windows. “Feature walls” become works of art in and of themselves. But why stop at a feature wall? By using the modern wallpapers, featureless passages, uninteresting 3rd bedrooms or pokey guest loos can all be transformed.

The minimalist trend decors of the last decade or so are now crying out to be “updated”. The many new advances in wallpaper technology, such as real or faux raffia finishes, can add great textures to rooms, whilst developments in metallic or glass beaded finishes can enhance the lighting effects within a space.

Not everyone is able to create an “outdoor lounge” on patios or terraces leading onto gardens, but by using floral or nature/botanical wallpapers, one can bring the garden indoors. So whether your desire is to live in a forest, a desert, an urban city-scape, or even in outer space, there’s a wallpaper to suite your needs. From wallpapers with a “hand painted” look to photo-real papers on a huge scale, wallpapers allow one to create features out of what were “just walls”.

So when you ask are wallpapers a “fad trend” or a trend that’s here to stay for a while, my intuition tells me that not only are they here to stay, but with the developments in the various technologies being applied to the manufacture of wallpapers, we are going to see even greater “works of art” to adorn the walls of our living and working spaces.

James Russell Agencies is the agent for Design Team Fabrics & Wallpapers in Cape Town, check out James’ website: here.

Design Indaba 2011: Design Kist

By Marica

I think it is fair that I inform you from the get go that I am totally in love…

…with Design Kist.

http://www.designkist.com

How did this love affair start you may ask? Well, dearest Internet, I was one of the unlucky few who could regrettably not attend Design Indaba this year (shock and horror, I know) but fortunately Rose did. To my greatest joy she brought back with her a GIANT stack of business cards, brochures and pamphlets over which I faffed for a whole afternoon.  Now I’ve heard of Design Kist before, but I must not have been paying attention because when I took a quick squiz through their online gallery yesterday I fell head of heels and I’ve been drooling over their designs ever since… it’s a compulsion really.

http://www.designkist.com

For those of you still in the dark – Design Kist is an online surface design studio and the brainchild of South African textile designer, Kristen Morkel. She noticed how local retailers and manufacturers often sourced digital surface designs from European design studios to print onto fabric and manufacture into products. There were no South African counterpart to these studios and a gap existed between retailers and talented surface designers in South Africa.

http://www.designkist.com

Launched in 2010, Design Kist features a collection of freelancing South African surface designers who submit their work to be sold online. They sell fabric designs for bedding and clothing, and prints for gift wrap and stationery, but the patterns can also be used on homeware, accessories, packaging, upholstery and wallpaper.

http://www.designkist.com

As designers submit designs, they’re added to an online gallery, ready to be purchased, downloaded and printed. Clients need to register and obtain a password before they’re given access to the gallery, which protects the exclusivity of their designs. The cool thing is – once you paid for and downloaded your high res Design Kist image, you attain full and exclusive copyright on that specific design / pattern.

http://www.designkist.com

When clients are looking to develop something specific; Design Kist creates customised designs & collections. They also tweak colours and sizes of existing designs to give clients exactly what they’re looking for.

Design Kist also just launched a funky (growing) wallpaper range that can be purchased online for home delivery. Wouldn’t you just love to have their pattern-y beauteousness all over your walls? I would!

Local is most certainly lekker! I’ll leave you now to continue my drooling… I suggest you do the same.

{  So what exactly is Surface Design? Well, it encompasses a wide range of surface applications that gives structure, pattern, or colour to fibre & fabric such as gift-wrap, wallpaper, fashion textiles, home textiles, carpet design as well as surface design on ceramics, glass, wood, plastics, steel and automotive fabrics.  }