Cherry Nichols – in memory of…

Last week I attended the funeral of Cherry Nichols, the first artist I ever interviewed, and a lady who challenged my idealistic notions of the arts from within them. It is with sadness and respect that I here record her last exhibition of watercolours.


I loved seeing the breadth of subject matter in the work she was preparing for her last exhibition. It showed hints of her relationships with her young grandchildren. The teddy bears, the fairies, even the sheet music amongst the flowers imply something of her human relationships, while she lived with her daughter and son in-law. This is comforting because I knew her primarily because of her family, and there was a time when she implied that her place in the South African art world did not afford her much room for the personal because she had mouths to feed. I remember crying over that, and I am glad she found more space to be herself later on.

I had my children with me at the exhibition, so here are each of our favourites:

Ruth (5 1/2 yrs) loved the painting of the delicate sweat-peas contrasted against the cold, hard metal tea pot, and the intricately embroidered white cloth. For me, the ability to paint this contrast with water colour in a way that is clearly recognisable and appreciated by one so young, is a clear indication of her skill. Her choice surprised me, because it used neither Ruth’s favorite colours, nor her favourite subjects (which were present elsewhere in the exhibit), so it was the actual painting itself that spoke to her.

Cherry Nichols Sweetpeas in Teapot

Amy (nearly 4) chose a beautiful little painting of a rose. This also surprised me because she is more of a tom-boy than a roses girl. But upon closer inspection, I realised what Amy liked about it. The rose stands alone with no apparent back ground, except that it breaks out of the confines of its mounting, sprouting leaves beyond the borders of convention. Like my little ‘rose’, it is an individual that refuses to be boxed in, and in that, its beauty is transformed and enhanced.

Cherry Nichols Individual Rose

For me, the most touching piece was the unfinished work displayed upon its board, the way I remember her always working. She once gave me one of those ‘incomplete’ works for a school project I was doing for Art theory, the first time I interviewed an Artist… Back when I was learning to think about the world behind what I saw, a world I have been unable to forget.

Cherry Nichols Daisies Incomplete

Looking at those unfinished daisies, I am saddened that it is so long since I last watched her paint, but at least she did not give up! I’m sure she made the best choice in the end. And all those of us who enjoy her work get to benefit from her struggles.

Creating beauty is an act of love, because it soothes the soul of those who enjoy it. Thank you Cherry! And thank you to her family for understanding.



You can visit the following sites for more info on Cherry Nichols & her art:




Nada Spencer: Cape Town Ceramicist

Nada Spencer is a Cape Town ceramicist who works in a variety of clays. She creates a lot of porcelain slab work, stone ware, loves the beautiful warm tones of earthenware, and also does some slip casting which gets hand etched.

Setting up for the potters market

Setting up for the potters market

Each piece is subtly unique, but fitting within a family of design, acknowledging both her design training, and her personality. Bowls, platters, beads, pendants, sculptures; the forms are more varied than the clays and techniques she uses. Etching, carving, drawing, painting, dipping etc; the decorating techniques as varied again.

The reason for all this variety is simple. Nada gets bored with repetition and needs to have variety to continue being creative. She said this potential for variety and the ability to “form my own canvas” were what attracted her to ceramics in the first place.

Continue reading

eLabs: WATT Scooter

Interview with Louw Roets & Mik Wertheim Aymes
Other Share holders: Daryn Molenaar & Johann van Niekerk
(Watt Scooter from Design Indaba)

Louw & Mik are 3rd year students @ Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), Daryn Molenaar & Johann van Niekerk are both staff there. The electric push scooter has flowed out of an alternative transport project in their 2nd year, into a collaborative project and now into a small start-up called eLabs that is focused on city transport.

Mik describes the scooter as “a piece of Africa”, emphasising the importance of community involvement and sourcing local materials. Louw pointed out how thrilling it is to show off the high technological standards achieved when South Africa was forced to be self-sufficient, but applied to a sustainable project with benefits for the communities who suffered back then. Unfortunately some of the components do currently need to be sourced overseas, but will probably be replaced with local ones if equivalents become available. They stressed the importance of considering the long-term socio-economic benefits of choosing local wherever possible.


Continue reading

Simone Bigs: EDU Chair

(from Design Indaba 2014)

Simone Biggs, a 23 year old Interior Designer was chosen for the Emerging Creatives program as part of the Design Indaba this year, where she introduced her educational children’s chair.


Continue reading

Design Indaba Expo 2014 Highlights

It was great to see old friends, colleagues & past students; and good to see what was on offer this year. Here are my super quick thoughts on the 2014 Design Indaba Expo.

Bumping into Mugendi (no stranger to design circles).


My favorite of from the Africa Design exhibit.

Edu chair with great potential by interior designer Simone Biggs.

e labs charging ahead scooter design

And finally the DID stand by Absa



Particularly the soccer ball, or rather socket ball… and the slow cooker that was a modern upgrade on what my granny used on the farm when I was a little girl.

Lots of the usual stuff too, some nicely improved upon over the years.

More detail to follow! The exhibit is open for 1 more day Sunday 2nd March 2014, till 8pm at the CTICC so go have a look if you are in Cape Town.
You can also see their website.

Intuitive & tacit versus cognitive design

I have to admit being a bit of an idiot when it came to understanding intuition & the tacit in design for not only all my student years, but even my early years in industry & lecturing.

It can be a little hard to get your teeth into & it doesn’t help when people talk about the x-factor and vague terms like that. But the eventually I had to admit that it not only exists, but is the difference between adequate and great design, and in some fields (like those for people considered ‘disadvantaged’) it can be the difference between success and faliure. So its worth understanding & getting a grip on, whether  you are in a highly competitive market where every drop of greatness counts, or just trying to make the world a better place (an extremely common motivation for studying design). So here is a little informal discussion. Please feel free to add or ask questions at the end.

Continue reading

Crosses at Christmas

My children immediately asked me why we don’t have crosses as decorations at Christmas  when I was explaining the wonder & meaning of Christmas; Christ’s birth!

We have many iconic images at Christmas, many with both pagan & Christian meaning, but whose meaning is greatly forgotten by the masses.
Stars, angels (& fairies), presents, trees, sanitized nativity scenes (& some made from pork products…), tinsel, lights, bells, wreaths, bows, red & green, silver & gold…

They have a point too. If Christ had been born without dying to pay for our sins, then there would be no grace & forgiveness for us before a just God, & his birth would be pointless.

I challenge you to design some Christmas crosses. Feel free to send me pics to share (I’ll acknowledge you unless you specify not to).

Lets remember the greatest gift this. Christmas!


Found this on Face book on Christmas day. Love it, but couldn’t trace its origin.