Tag Archives: cape town

Made in the Cape

Made in the Cape is an artisan craft market that happens over four days every month in the middle of Cavendish Square, a high-end and bustling shopping mall in Claremont. It is a much sought-after trading venue, so I was delighted when Dale, who initiated the concept five years ago and continues to organise the market, found a spot for me at the June market. And July. And August. That one is coming up on the 3rd…and yes, I’m sewing up a storm…..

This was my first set-up, around the escalator circle in the centre ground floor:

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And last month’s, in the same escalator circle but on a different side.

July 2017

I already knew quite a few of the existing traders, and have since got to know more. They’re a friendly and innovative and hard-working bunch! (Special shout-outs to Theresa, Marie, Dale, Aviv, Francesca, Tina, Geoff, Wanda and Zee). They all make absolutely exquisite items, from jewellery to ceramics to foodie stuffs to textile work and upcycled products, which are all delicious and inspiring. I can’t think of anywhere else in Cape Town where you would find that kind of handmade quality all together under one roof any more – not to mention close to the Seattle coffee bar and plentiful parking :)

I’ve been experimenting with a new product and, after three weeks, a lot of glue and mess, and pins and sewing and cursing and muttering, I finally have a workable prototype. Watch this space.

PS. The first half of 2017 has been rather challenging and debilitating in a number of different ways so far, but I do feel now that I’m slowly getting back to being more creative and focused and calm and, basically, more human. Let’s toast to that, and hope not too many people even noticed (heh)!

Dear foreign tourists

Welcome to South Africa. Welkom. Wamkelekile. I’m getting to meet so many of you at the craft markets lately, and some of you have travelled really far to visit us – from Portugal, Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, the UK, the US, Belgium, Sweden, Japan…  Thank you very much for coming, for liking what you see, and of course for spending your money here (not all of it goes towards firepools for the president’s personal estate or new Porsche Cayennes for all the top government officials)!

And, let’s be honest, you’re getting great value for your money, aren’t you? Our rand is a poor little sausage compared to your meaty euros and your hearty dollars – so then why why WHY would some of you treat some of us with disrespect?

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Why would a tourist from Portugal try to buy something from me at less than the marked price? He wanted a pair of rhino-printed pillow cases, which cost R195 (don’t bother trying to convert that into your currency – believe me, it’s a very reasonable price for a top-quality, handmade, original item). He said, I only have R130 on me – here you go. As it happened, I’d gone to the loo and Rob was holding the fort at the time. He said, It’s R195. If you haven’t got the money, you can’t have it. “But it’s for my wife, she really wants it.” Then your wife must come and buy it. “Okay, okay, what’s your best price?” For you – R250.  Now please leave.  [He did, but came back sheepishly 30 minutes later with the right amount].

Why would an Asian tourist at the Kirstenbosch market pick up a hat that was already on sale and scream Cheaper??? Cheaper??? in my face?  Any cheaper and I’d have to pay him to buy it.

A German couple recently wanted me to make them a huge bedspread with screenprinted designs and very specific colours, in just three days (they were going home for Christmas), and also to deliver it to them at their (second) house in the countryside. I worked out that I could manage it, at a real push, and quoted R1,700 (that’s 115 euros). Apparently it was much too much, and they huffed off. Rob suggested I should maybe have considered doing it for less – since, you know, income is useful for buying food and petrol – so he got this answer: No f**king way. If people don’t want to pay a fair price for something special, then they can’t have it. Or not from me, anyway. I would have resented every second I spent making that bedspread – so totally not worth it!

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Is this common behaviour? Do some people think that haggling is the way things are done at craft markets in Africa? Or that, because they’re not in a fancy shop in a fancy mall, they can get something very special very cheaply? Because it’s not, and they can’t. I know many traders (who also make their stock by hand), and they have similar stories to tell – but the bottom line is that it’s insulting.

Not one single South African customer has EVER asked me for a discount. I do give discounts to fellow crafters, and if I really like someone and they buy more than one item from me, I am happy to reduce the price, unasked. I once offered a discount to a young woman at a market in Tulbagh who bought a hat for herself and one for her friend, and she turned it down – she said she knew how long it takes to crochet, and she wanted to pay the full price. Now that’s classy.

Right. Let me get back to work. I have three markets on this weekend (tomorrow is a public holiday here), and a four-day gift fair next week to prepare for. I’m looking forward to selling to LOVELY new and returning customers, wherever in the world they are from :)

 

Franschhoek

Franschhoek is a small town in the winelands of the Western Cape and one of the oldest towns in South Africa (established 1688). 75 kilometres from Cape Town, it takes us just over an hour to drive there.

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and yes, it truly does look just like this !!

We met Elizabeth and Vince in Oudtshoorn who told us about the Franschhoek Village Market, and now we drive out there every Saturday morning to join a very mixed and friendly bunch of traders under the trees, organised by Elzahn and Elsanu, mother and daughter team. There’s lots of fabulous food and wine and craft beer, and some beautiful local handcrafted work.

Some pics, to give you an idea of the prettiness of the setting, and the lovely weather (yes, it’s officially winter here, but we still get a bit of sunshine).

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…me with Elizabeth (Rob in the background), Virginia with her leather bags, Kim with cotton jerseys and ponchos, Kelvin photobombing, and Judy (the curry lady) looking at my beanies.

Franschhoek gets tourists from all over South Africa, and quite a nice bunch from overseas – Americans, Swedes, Poms, Brazilians, French, Germans, and the Far East. With the South African Rand in the crapper, the foreigners are happy to support our economy, and how happy we are to encourage them :-)  I had a very rude Taiwanese woman on Saturday who seemed to think I should give her an 80% or 90% discount, but rudies like her are few and far between. (She didn’t get the discount, by the way, I would rather have stuck my crochet hook in my eye than sell anything I’ve made to her!)

The pillow cases are doing particularly well, and I’m waiting for Gareth to call to let me know I can collect my new screens (elephant and rhino). Pics soon. They’re going to be stunning :-)

In other news, I am busy packing up my flat and moving to a new house, next week – 3 June!  The date is looming and there is much to do. So much, in fact, that I am  unable to think about it. You may recall my expertise in procrastination. I have a PhD in it.

And a shout-out to some people in particular (if you are still reading this blog and haven’t given up on me) – Vardi and Fiona, sending you both multi-coloured hugs, and lovely Lisa who I met at the Somerset West Country Craft Market. xxx

Yew Street Market [currently on hold]

A few weeks ago I met a fantastic woman called Kim, who was starting up a new street market in Salt River.  She lives in the street herself, and also runs her soap-making business there (Naked Soap). Her vision was to have a community-based event, run by and for the locals.

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Sounds really good. I passed the news on to some fellow crafters and we all helped spread the word. Last week was the first market day but, sadly, the weather didn’t play along.

yew

It doesn’t look too bad in these pics, taken early in the morning, but you see those clouds over the mountain? – they soon closed up the sky and brought lots of rain.

Tomorrow would have been the market’s second day, but we’ve just heard from Kim that the city council has withdrawn the trading permit. The reasons are sort-of unclear, but here’s hoping that the city officials will review this soon and consider it viable.  A new, vibey, unpretentious and totally local market seems like such a great promise of possibilities: (a) a new trading opportunity, (b) a cross-cultural event in a cross-cultural area, (c) a celebration of our wonderful city, (d) a tourist attraction, (e) a damn nice place to eat good food and find original stuff!

I’m blown away by Kim’s commitment to this, and obviously have a vested interest myself. Everyone could benefit. I reminded Kim that most successful stories began with big fat fails – look at Steve Jobs, Vera Wang, J K Rowling, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Lucille Ball….  It ain’t over til it’s over.

Here’s to Yew, Kim, fingers crossed in good faith for a happy outcome xxx

dare I use the f word?

I was a trader at a big event in Cape Town in February. In advance of the event, I read through the list of stallholders. Two other people would be selling hats, one as a reseller of mass-produced straw hats and fedoras, and one as a crafter selling her own makes.

During setting-up time, I introduced myself to the crafter and said I’d looked for her website or facebook page to view her stuff, but couldn’t find anything. She said she doesn’t advertise at all because she’s already so swamped with orders that she wouldn’t be able to cope if more people saw her products. Knowing the kinds of difficulties that a small hand-made production business faces, as I do, I was amazed and impressed by this. I couldn’t wait to see her hats, and thought perhaps I could even learn something from her.

The event opened, and I beetled off to ‘network’ as soon as I could. As I approached the row of stalls on the other side of the park, I saw a display of animal novelty hats and hoodies that I recognised from a school event last year, which stood out for their uniformity and unmistakable mass-produced nature and low prices. They are also readily available at various pavement stalls around Cape Town and in the Chinese shops.  So, no problem – you can buy and sell what you like. Good for you (and you’ll see below, I do it myself sometimes). — but it turns out that this was my fellow crafter! I greeted her and said something along the lines of wow, you’ve got quite a range here – are these the ones you make yourself? And she said Yes. And looked away.

I’m so mad that someone does this. Claiming cheap imports as your own work is – what? fraud? or just a big fat stupid insulting lie? And I don’t understand why someone would do this. There’s nothing illegal in being a reseller of hats, after all.  For a big event, working on my own, I’m not able to produce enough stock by my own hand.  I buy in about 30% of my stock, and either modify it by adding handmade flowers or a band or a crochet trim, or resell it as it is. If I haven’t made an entire item myself, I don’t put my label on it and pretend to have made it. I don’t not put a label on an item and pretend it’s my own work.  I point out which my own handmade items are, and which are not – and, frankly, the difference is very evident !!

I wrote this post a good few weeks ago, and was going through draft posts when I came across it and got all riled up again and decided to publish it. I’m trying to work out why I actually care about this – presumably Imported-Animal-Hat Woman wants people to think she is a creative genius, and what do I care if she is or isn’t?  People are still buying my hats and asking for special orders. There’s enough work to go around. Am I so morally above reproach that someone else’s lie rocks and jolts the foundations of my innately faultless nature? Um….no, hardly!!  hahaha    Is it because she’s just stupid and thinks everyone else is as well? Aha, could be that.

Okay, rant over. F is for fraud, by the way, not the four-letter word beginning with F and ending with K. But that too.

introduction to silkscreen printing

I’ve always wanted to try my hand at this, and when I heard through the Cape Craft & Design Institute that Yda Walt ((her website here)) was going to be taking a couple of workshops in Cape Town I signed up immediately. Today was the day.

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Here are my first efforts. We started off learning how to make a design with ordinary paper and a blank screen, using standard fabric inks, and then using a photographic image on a prepared screen, and getting used to the difference between normal and opaque inks. I was far too busy to take any photos, but I will next week at the second workshop. Everyone came up with completely different interpretations of a single brief, which always fascinates me. People are generally more creative than they realise!

Yda also showed us how to combine different colours, either in a single layer or in mixed layers – so if you’ll excuse me, I need to go clear my dining table right this second so I can continue experimenting….

biting off…?

…more than I can chew? Eee by gum I hope not. I’ll be setting up at the Community Carnival this afternoon, which starts tomorrow and runs over 4 days. Incredible Rob has taken time off from work to help me. Don’t know how I’d manage without him. I’m still waiting for the printing people to let me know that my signage is ready (hurry UP dammit) and this morning I finished another hat order for the preschool. Almost on my way to Stellenbosch just now to deliver them, I remembered to pause and take some pics…

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I cam away with orders for the fleece beanies and aprons for the staff. That makes Gemsy and me very happy. But for now – it’s Carnival time!