Monday, December 21, 2009

JJ Schoeman

I produced this custom-dyed twill for JJ Schoeman for SA Fashion Week 2005. This particular garment went with him all the way to New York Fashion Week in the same year.

JJ supplied me with plain white twill and a brief for "something African." I began by planning the layout in dressmakers chalk on the fabric to make sure that the shapes were evenly spaced and proportionately sized. It was a tedious job stitching in each shield shape by hand. Each one had to be individually stitched and shaped.

First, I crush dyed the fabric in golden yellow. Then, I added another layer of brown dye. After rinsing all the excess away thoroughly with lots of clean water (I would hate to dye the model too!) the stitching was unpicked to reveal the pattern.

JJ turned it into this stunning catwalk creation!

See how he has cleverly added beadwork to compliment the dyed shapes. The natural wooden beads were a good choice to add authentic detailing in keeping with the natural look and feel of the cloth. Central Africa has a rich culture of tie dye and I often look to the textiles from Kenya and Ghana for inspiration.

This beautiful picture was taken by Ivan Naude for SA Fashion Week. Ivan has tracked my work through his lens for some time now and most recently he took the pictures for my book, Contemporary Dyecraft (Metz Press). Find out more about this amazing photographer at

Have a great day in full colour!

Kind regards


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Marion & Lindie

There has been renewed interest in the work I produced for the catwalk since my book is about to launch. I dyed this flowing chiffon silk dress for Lindie Grenfell for her 2005 SA Fashion Week collection. She supplied me with a white "shell", some colour swatches and instructions where she wanted the colours placed.
It is quite a challenge to produce exactly what the designer requires, especially under tight time restraints. I had 24 hours to turn this around. There was no time to play.
I created the white split between the two colours by binding the fabric very tightly with elastic bands along the line I wanted. Then I suspended the garment to hang into a bath of blue dye. I drained that off, turned it around, and hung it into the brown mixture. Lindie added delicate detailing with spattering of matching sequence to give it life.
Although I had produced hundreds of fabrics for the catwalk by this stage, I had always worked behind the scenes, and this was my first show that I actually saw the finished garments strut down the ramp.
Whenever I look at this picture I am filled with a surge of emotion as I remember how it felt. If the camera had panned to me in the audience at this moment, it would have captured me, sobbing uncontrollably at the sight.
I work on the messy end of textiles. I work far back in the production process and do not always get to see what I have helped to create. I can understand the lure for designers who produce shows year after year. It is a powerful emotional experience to see something that you have envisioned in your mind's eye, step onto the catwalk in lifesize glory.
Have a great day in full colour!
Kind regards
* Picture by Ivan Naude and used with his permission.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Wild Fig

Do you like the dress in this picture? The white shell was manufactured for me by Wild Fig clothing. Lara Hunt and Yoriko Alty joined forces in 2007 to create this feminine label that is fast becoming a staple of the local fashion scene.
They use quality fabrics and focus on interesting, yet simple design details and finishes. They have access to full pattern making facilities, sampling, grading and production, which makes it possible for them to reliably create fresh looks on a regular basis. Wild Fig clothing is always fresh and stylish. Although I added the distinctive rainbow colouring to this dress, part of its beauty lies in the simple lines of the cut and elegant drape of the lush fabric that Yoriko selected.
This dress is a real head-turner. Every time I go out in public in it, somebody stops me to compliment me on it.
You can buy Wild Fig clothing at The Space (The Zone, Rosebank, Johannesburg), Salvation (Menlyn Shopping Centre, Pretoria), Dice (East London), Harbour Bay (Plettenberg Bay), Wild Orchid (Paarl), The Velvet Purse (Johannesburg), Que (Bloemfontein), Juno (Willowbridge) and Occasions (Somerset Mall). Look out for this label if you like to feel feminine.
Look out for their collection at Audi Fashion Week between 20-23 January 2010.
If you would like to learn the secret of how I dyed in the rainbow, look out for this dress in my book, Contemporary Dyecraft (Metz Press). It will be available from 25 January 2010.
Have a great day in full colour!
Kind regards

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Crafts Bring Hope To Vulnerable Communities!

The CDP Trust is an NGO in Bertrams, Johannesburg. Charlotte and her tireless crew are helping abused women and refugees to change their lives and find hope of a better future.
The trainers at CDP use visual arts to stimulate victims to talk about their situations and face their realities. The creative experience promotes healing as they speak about what has happened to them.
The images that they create are used further as the basis for the Arts For Advocacy programme. The evocative images are far more powerful than any that any design agency could come up with to convey their message. From these artworks, CDP generates slogans for T-shirts and artwork for posters and brochures that are used by organisations such as POWA to plead their case to Government.
Do you know that many female refugees who flee their homes for fear of their lives, only reach South Africa to be raped by the very people to whom they have turned for help?
Sitting in meetings talking about the plight of these people does little to alleviate their suffering in the real world. Many of the women who come to the centre are financially dependent on their abusive spouses and are not able to extricate themselves from the financial trap they are in.
This is where handcrafts bring hope. A woman can go out, gather a few basic raw materials, make product with her handwork and sell it for money. She can go through the whole cycle in a matter of days. Imagine how empowering a few hundred Rand can be for somebody in such a situation?
I trained at CDP Trust in 2008. In 2009 they were short on budget and I was not called in again to teach. I felt it would be a pity to allow the thing I had begun to fizzle out just because somebody told me there is a recession. I invited one of their trainers to a refresher course, on me, to keep the momentum going.
Nirupa invited me to their year end function to see what she did with that knowledge and how she passed it on to forty more women. I started sobbing when I walked into the wall-to-wall display of dyed garments and fabric. I cannot even begin to describe how I felt when I met a lady called Grace, who in a few weeks had gone from being unemployed, to being self-employed! She arrived at the event with a sack full of dyed T-shirts and fabrics that she had made. She is selling them in the community and she is feeling a new sense of empowerment. She says her children are particularly proud of her.
I am grateful that my work has led me to such an amazing life experience. Thank you Nirupa and Charlotte for doing such an amazing job.
Have a great day in full colour!
Kind regards

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cultivating Visual Arts In South African Schools

I am very excited to finally be working on a product for South African schools! Minimax is an amazing company run by Sunet Wagner, a passionate social entrepreneur and performing artist, and Jackie Skeen, her "uber-efficient" right hand.

They run intensive workshops for school teachers to teach them about all the ins and outs of presenting a school stage production. They unpack the process step-by-step to help teachers to know where to start, through to final production. They talk about a wide range of topics like choreography, basic styles, staging and lighting, costume design and planning.

Are you a school teacher? Would you like to upskill yourself in the visual arts? Visit today and learn more.

In 2010, Minimax is including some of my techniques and offerings as part of their DAC Workshop offering. You might ask yourself what fabric dye and prints have to do with theatre productions? What about sets and costumes? My fabric dye and print techniques can be utilised to create stunning sets, props and costumes on a shoestring budget. Slipstream and Minimax are aware of the challenges facing teachers in today's world and we are customising products to suit those specific needs.

I have always loved the theatre and I still feel like a child when I sit down in a seat in the theatre and wait with baited breath for the production to begin. The culture is slowly disappearing from schools under financial and social pressures and I would hate to see it disappear completely from the school curriculum.

Ironically, I belive that the arts have huge potential to heal both our social and our economic ills, if we could cultivate a strong national culture.

Theatre productions help children to develop self-confidence as they are encouraged to project themselves to the world. They learn presentation skills that they can use as adults in business. They learn about their relationship with the world. They learn that sometimes it can be a good thing to be in the spotlight. They learn about relationships and people as they work together to make the production work. They enjoy positive feedback when the audience engages with them. Some will pursue it further and become part of the economy as actors. Others will have some fun.

It is a great privelege to be working with such an amazing company and I am looking forward to the work we are going to be doing next year!

Have a great day in full colour!

Kind regards