Sunday, November 29, 2009

What Do Ten Year Old Boys And Quilters Have In Common?

What do ten year old boys and quilters have in common?
They both love lino block prints!
In my recent in-store activities to promote my book, I have been delighted by the response from the young boys. I was at Chamdor Faktry Sales in Northlands Deco park demonstrating how easy it is to print with lino blocks. These two lads could not get enough and wanted to try out every stamp in my box. The smiling faces tell the rest of the story.
It is such a magical moment, when a student realises that they have just laid down their first print on cloth...and it was easy! Even kids can do it!
Before the Industrial Revolution, all fabrics were made by hand. Prints were applied with hand carved wood blocks and hammered metal designs. In the Hippy era, linoleum floor tiles became the favoured method because they were soft to carve and easy to handle. Printmaking became more accessible to women as the medium changed to a softer material that they could handle.
Today, linoleum floor tiles are only really used by crafters and, since nobody is putting it on the floor anymore, manufacturers have made it thinner and thinner and the artist's lino that you buy today is only a sliver thick.
I have converted to the modern rubber version that is butter soft to carve and work with. It is not prone to "chunks" coming out with the blade in cold weather like the old version. Rather, it gives smooth crisp cuts and clean prints.
Have a great day in full colour!
Kind regards

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Stoned Cherrie 2005

2005 was by far the year where I took the most risks, creatively, and it paid off in a big way. I bought hundreds of meters of white habotai silk and set to work dyeing it up in a variety of season colours and themes. I took these silks to the local designers in Johannesburg to see if they would buy them.
Nkhensani (Stoned Cherrie) was delighted with what I had made and she bought up most of my stock. She turned the habotai silk into flowing kaftans, layered skirts and feminine blouses. Through the course of that year, my silks showcased at Fair Lady Lifetime Achievers Awards and SA Fashion Week, two of the most prestigeous events on the local fashion calendar.
This was the most intensive creative work of my career to date and I felt myself being stretched by the process. It became a challenge for me to create something so beautiful that the designer simply had to have it. It became exciting to try to make it in the colours that they were already using in their collections to make sure of the sale.
From this starting point I went on to produce stock items for the Stoned Cherrie store and fabrics for garments for celebrities, singers and even a Miss South Africa pageant.
Stoned Cherrie is such an iconic brand, it was a great and honor and priveledge to be part of the Stoned Cherrie story. As the pictures of the events emerged in the press, I waited in anticipation with the scissors to cut them out and add them to my growing scrapbook. I never got over the excitement of such a "find". Every time it happens, I still have a small heart attack. Is that something that I made?
And I think back to the day I made it... It was a risk. I was uncertain. I thought it was terrible the first time I looked at it. Would she like it? Would she like it enough to buy it? These are big questions for a creative person to face. I like to take rejection so personally.
Lucky for me, Nkhensani liked them and bought them. My risk paid off and I became a part of the South African fashion narrative.
Have a great day in full colour! (Go out and take some risks.)
Kind regards

Sunday, November 22, 2009

SA Fashion Week 2005

SA Fashion Week 2005 was by far my most exciting season in fashion. By this time I had enough confidence in my abilities as a custom dyer, to take on all the big names in the local industry. One by one, I walked into their studios and showed them my samples, and one by one they placed their orders.

Matters were complicated when my car was stolen outside a client two weeks before the event. If it was not for the intervention of two of my very dear friends, Sandra Bennie and Tanya Healey, I would not have been able to deliver on any of my promises to the designers. They patiently drove me all over Johannesburg for the next two weeks to deliver my orders, and they made sure I got to every show that I had to see.

Looking back, I am still not sure how we pulled it off.

In the end, the outcome was nothing short of miraculous to me. In spite of the odds, my custom hand-made fabrics were utilised by six different designers at the event that year. They were, Stoned Cherrie, Sun Goddess, Black Coffee, Marion & Lindie, JJ Schoeman and Vino Moodley. (The picture is a Stoned Cherrie creation. The photo was taken by Ivan Naude and is used with his permission.

I had finally proven to all my naysayers that tie dye does not belong only to the hippies. Dye techniques have been used on textiles throughout ancient history and they are as relevant in fashion today as they were thousands of years ago.

I challenge you to do a Google search. Type in "Shibori" and see what you find?

Have a great day in full colour!

Kind regards


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Marianne Fassler

Marianne Fassler has enjoyed a career in fashion for more than 35 years. She started out as a fine artist, and very soon decided that her passion for clothing should be her commercial creative outlet. Her eclectic style and attention to detail have kept her at the forefront of the industry for all these years. No mean feat in an industry that sees labels rise and fall overnight.
Marianne does business into Europe with her Leopard Frock label and her children's range, named after her granddaughter, Sibella, is a staple in children's boutiques nationwide. She showcases at fashion shows locally and abroad. She is as active in the industry now as she has ever been.
She is probably best known for her leopard spot prints to which she has always been partial.
Marianne has a passion for hand embellished detail on her garments and will go to great lengths to set them apart with custom dyeing and hand made beadwork.
I produced commercial finishes for Marianne for some years. I produced my famous Floating Hearts five seasons running. They were still selling well when I declined to do any more. These finicky little dyejobs are very tricky and my nerves simply could not take them any more. I also produced the signature ribbing used as trim on many of the garments. We started with a pink rib knit or viscose lycra wich I bound up tightly with elastics. The fabric was then painstakingly dyed in three colours. Because the pattern worked out too sparse on the fabric, it was necessary to untie the fabric and repeat the whole process from scratch to fill in the visual spaces. Marianne's work was always a labour of love for me, and more about aesthetics than the money.
Marianne has been kind enough to write the Foreword for my book, Contemporary Dyecraft (Metz Press). Look out for it in stores next year and see what she has to say about hand dyed finishes in fashion.
See her collection at
(This picture supplied with kind permission for use in the book.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Crafts have the potential to change lives. Throughout the centuries, textile crafts have provided the basis for cottage industries around the world. They provide a means for start-ups to differentiate their products from the masses, to create competitive products that they can sell.

I teach into this space at NGO's and skills development centres like Out Of The Box in Germiston.

I recently received very powerful feedback from the CDP Trust where I trained in 2008. This centre works with refugees, abused women, homeless people and social workers to improve the plight of the most vulnerable people in our society. Although they did not have it in their budget to bring me in again this year, the colour bug has bitten at the centre and Nirupa Singh keeps the dye culture going. Two of the ladies that I trained in 2008 have just ordered dye to make products for Christmas, and one of the ladies that Nirupa trained is doing the same.

It is very rewarding to see small seeds take root and grow to provide hope for other people.

If you want to learn more about the activities of some of the Social Entrepreneurs that I deal with, you can go to

I have stumbled on an authentic online social entrepreneur who supports local hand made goods. Follow her compelling blog at

Have a great day in full colour!

Kind regards



Sunday, November 8, 2009

Anna Castleman

Anna Castleman is a talented fiber artist and my personal muse. She "sees" colour and texture in the most astonishing way. This "painting" is created from mixed media. You are looking at dyed threads, sculpting medium and other fiber sources. Anna even used the lint from the bag in the washing machine to build up the illusion of rocks in the foreground of the picture.

Anna Castleman has put her busy hands to work on a myriad of projects over the years. She has a deep love of the theatre industry and has produced hundreds of costumes for various productions over the years.

Before she retired, she was an entrepreneur with her own costume hire business.

Since her retirement she keeps herself busy with quilts, sculpture, and anything else she can find to get up to with fabrics.

This giving lady volunteers in skills development centres where she goes in on her own time to train ladies and share her knowledge. During an in-store promotion at Chamdor Faktry Sales a few weeks back, I met two ladies that she trained in 2008. They were there buying some fabric to turn into products that they can sell. She generously shares her knowledge to give others a shot at a brighter future.

It has been a great honor to get to know such a talented fibre artist and she will continue to inspire me in my work always.

Have a great day in full colour!

Kind regards


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Contemporary Dyecraft

The journey of this book began on 2001, when I began writing the first draft. It took me five months to lay down the first copy. I did my research in the stores. I walked into the craft section of every bookstore I went into and picked up all the books by local publishers. The Metz Press books all had a certain look and feel in my hands and I decided that this was the publisher for me.

I then spent some years trying to get hold of the publisher. I sent volleys of e-mails and heard nothing back from Metz.

On a level I gave up and moved on to other focusses. After all, you cannot kill all of your time on one thing.

Then, in 2007 I went to Cape Town to teach at Keen On Crafts with Craftwise Magazine. I had a free session where I could choose to do any craft that I wanted to and I decided to do embroidery. The teacher was a wonderful lady called Fransie Snyman. She asked me if I was not interested in writing a book, since I knew so much about my medium. I told her about my dream to publish. She told me that she had written a book and could put me in touch with her publisher, Metz Press.

I sent a volley of e-mails to the address she gave me, and heard nothing.

Six months later I went to the Keen On Crafts with Craftwise Magazine event in Pretoria. A friendly blonde lady walked up to me, and introduced herself as Wilsia Metz. Her sister Fransie, had told her all about me. She had signed up for my class.

From there things have flowed and Contemporary Dyecraft is almost a reality. It will be available in stores from January 2010!

My advice to aspiring writers : Never give up.