Little did Ronel Jordaan know when she started researching the making and application of felt that it would lead her away from her 26-year career in textile design into the world of homeware and product design and creation, producing in the most eco-friendly way possible, with only natural fibres. Her eponymous brand is revered for its innovative use of felt – on everything from stools and animal sculptures to cushions, decorative bowls, baskets and shawls, all inspired by nature. By endlessly rubbing pure wool to turn it into felt, Ronel has created such a demand for her product that she has trained tens of women to do the work too, including Cecelia, who moved with her from Johannesburg to Cape Town when she relocated her studio in 2016. “With felt, the sky is the limit,” says Cecelia of the shapes and forms that can be explored with the material.
Projekt was started by Peta Becker in 2006, with a group of women working from home in Imizamo Yethu to produce quirky, intricate crochet-covered products for the fair-trade initiative. Pre-Covid, the team was made up of 35 artisans, who would meet every Sunday in a community hall in Hout Bay.
“We would sit around a long table and view the work brought in for payment, checking quality and discussing pieces artisans wanted to learn to create,” says Peta. “Since lockdown we are reduced to almost half our number as some project members have returned to Zimbabwe and Malawi.”
Projekt provides ongoing skills training to maintain the contemporary aesthetic that has led to its products being sold in top design stores around the world, from Japan to Amsterdam.
MEET THE MAKERS
Both Ronel Jordaan and Peta Becker are passionate about social upliftment and skills development, and their two design companies are testament to this. “Projekt was designed for women to be able to create income while working at home,” says Peta. “Everyone works remotely but Monica Madimutsa, my sample maker and colleague, works alongside me in the studio, as we’re always creating new pieces.” Peta draws the designs and then she and Monica turn them into three-dimensional pieces. Then the artisans crochet the different components needed and deliver their work to Monica in Hout Bay. At the studio, Miryam Whiski hand-sews the elements together to create the final wow-factor pieces.
“I learned to crochet at school in Zimbabwe,” says Monica, who has been with Projekt since the start. “Now I teach others. Sometimes they only know how to work with thick hooks, but I show them how to crochet with the thinnest hook and yarn.”
Ronel has been instrumental in transferring her skill for working with wool, dye and pattern-cutting to many artisans during the trajectory of her business, watching them develop their craft and leadership abilities in the process. “When I started, I was cutting the wool,” says Cecelia, who has been working for Ronel Jordaan for more than 10 years. “After that I entered production, and then Ronel trained me to be a supervisor. Now I am the floor manager, but I still do a lot of other things.”
For Cecelia, working with her hands is a highlight of her job. “It shows how talented you are,” she says. “When I make something with my own hands and my own creativity, it makes me very proud. This work gives you the opportunity to do things you’ve never done before. It shows you that your creativity is not limited.”
This totem was proudly made by:
|Ronel Jordaan team||Projekt team, new crochet pieces by:||Colonies of coral made from existing crochet by:|
|Alinafe Mathala||Delia Marange||Christina Jaji|
|Cecelia Nyoka||Miryam Whiski||Evelyn Bakili|
|Emma Matshoga||Monica Madimutsa||Nancy Mphungo|
|Maria Mwakhawa||Naomi Chihoko||Tariro Kutiwa|
|Nosiviwe Ludwele||Sabina Muzanenhamo||Theresa Mukumura|
|Precious Nengare||Tambu Chihoko|