Jul 23, 2016

Forest bathing or Shinrin-yoku

Forest Bathing in Newlands Forest - Photo credit: Keri Muller

In Japan a forest bathing trip is called shinrin-yoku.  This literally means to go to the forest and bathe in the trees... In Japan this is recognised and encouraged as a stress management technique.

There is a fascinating research paper about it that refers to 24 different forests and the studies done on the effects of this activity.  Read the full paper here 

This is a wonderful pursuit that I indulge in as much as possible,  I just hadn't realised it has an actual name. Another reason to go to Japan now.

Newlands Forest and specifically the top contour path area is one of my favourite spots for this.  

Forest Bathing in Newlands Forest - Photo credit: Keri Muller

Jul 20, 2016

Vanity mirrors

Mirror shapes:  Round, square or triangular 
(Average diameter 20cm)
Semi-precious stone bases available: Rose Quartz, Citrine, Malachite and others 

Vanity mirror (round) with Rose quartz base made by Keri Muller (simpleintrigue.com)

Vanity mirror (round) with Rose quartz base made by Keri Muller (simpleintrigue.com)

Vanity mirror (Square) with Rose quartz base made by Keri Muller (simpleintrigue.com)

Feb 1, 2016

Curio - 'a rare, unusual, or intriguing object'

What African Curio to buy
Keri Muller

(a version of this article was published on the African Budget Safaris Blog)

Curio - 'a rare, unusual, or intriguing object'

As we continue to travel and explore the globe, taking a little something home still sits high on the agenda. Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume of tourists and the consumers taste for cheap goods, it is rather difficult to find something truly unusual anymore.

The modern day curio economy

Africa has a huge informal economy based around the sale of curios and craft. Traditionally this includes wood carvings, wire makers, basket weaving, beading, ceramic work and even painting. Sadly, many of the finer craft methods have been lost due to the demands of the typical buyer that they are feeding. The average tourist taste is for cheap and cheerful with a clear 'African' aesthetic. Nothing is more stifling (and depressing) for a creative entreprenuer than having to fill this type of narrow and prescriptive demand in order to keep your business alive.

These entrepreneurs do it though with dedication and pride, as survival is dependent on sales and often the only income for a family. Crafts people are employed to make these items and then others sell them, often buying them wholesale, just like any retail outlet would normally work.

This doesn't mean though that these items have any less beauty or worth just because they are made in bulk. The intricacy and detail of a small wire keyring, tin car or wooden carving is incredible and I highly recommend you buy one.

The Chinese made African Curio

Like everywhere in the world, South Africa has had a deluge of goods made in the Far East. Most commonly found in the curio markets are the necklaces and other jewelry. Because these necklaces have that ambiguous 'tribal' look they tend to sell like hot cakes. They are also cheap. I have seen this 'jewellery' sold in road side stalls and markets from South Africa to Kenya to Indonesia.

Greenmarket Square (source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Greenmarket_Square,_Cape_Town_01.JPG)

Greenmarket Square in Cape Town – home to some amazing local craft but also a lot of cheap, chinese imports.

Adaption of Craft into Art

It's not all like this though, some Crafters have managed to continue making their own goods with artistic integrity whilst still running a successful business. This is where true artistry and originality emerge – to stay creative and commercially viable is an art in itself.

Look out for these gems and take something home that will still hold its appeal a few years down the line and out of it's 'African' context.

Craft across Africa

Malawi has always been known for its incredibly talented wood carvers. An entire Noah's Ark complete with all the animals, hollowed Globes that act as containers and charmingly naive giant fish, these are just a few of the items one can find in Malawi. Lilongwe's Central market has a good selection of Wood Carvings but Nkhata Bay on Lake Malawi has a more unique selection of work, this is probably due to it's proximity to some of Malawis last forests.

Malawi wood carvings (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lilongwe_(Malawi)_-_crafts_market.JPG)

Wood carvings in Malawi

The Masai tribe of Kenya and Tanzania has become world famous for it's intricate and brightly coloured jewelry. International Fashion brands have taken inspiration from them and there is many an iconic photo of a Masai Tribesman or women bedecked in jewelry. Most of the villages in the Masai Mara region will always have a few items of jewelry for sale, normally this is paired with a visit to find out more about Masai Life.

Masai women (Photo Keri Muller)

Masai Women in the Masai Mara wearing traditonal jewellery and Cotton Kanga Clothes

South Africa has probably blurred the lines the most successfully between craft, art and design. Cape Town has a thriving design industry that is African inspired but very contemporary in it's presentation. The Watershed in Cape Town's V&A Waterfront, is home to a selection of craft, contemporary design and fashion. 

Rogers Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/roger.bongolomba

Roger Bongolomba at work on his stand at The Watershed

Johannesburg's Maboneng Precinct is also definitely worth a visit to get a feel for what South African designers and artists are doing. Look out for the IwasshotinJoburg Studio in Arts on Main in Maboneng. They give street kids camera's and then mentor them on photography and turning these photo into other products

Source:  IwasshotinJoburg

A photograph taken by one of the students taking part in the IwasshotinJoburg project

Uganda and Rwanda (as well as most of West Africa) are the best places to buy African Wax Print Fabrics. These brightly coloured fabrics are worn by women across the continent. The central markets usually have an area dedicated to fabric, and tailors on site can make up whatever you need.

Source:  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c1/Waxprints_in_a_West_African_Shop.jpg

Wax Prints Stand in West Africa 

Dec 17, 2015

The Yellowtail are running

Kalk Bay Harbour  - Photo Credit Keri Muller

They come every evening. The yellow tail are running. The word spreads quickly. An erratic row begins to form along the harbour wall in the early evening – some clumped together, other solitary figures. As more and more people appear, a certain uniformity starts to develop. The consistency of human shapes is forced by an outward gaze to the horizon and a line trailing in the water.

Family groups, friends and solitary individuals. Everyone finds a space. 

Many know each other from years gone by, generation after generation come to fish on the Kalk Bay Harbour wall.

Some used to go out in fishing boats as young men but, as times changed and fish stocks shrunk, so the boat numbers dwindled. Now they congregate along the harbour wall with small styrofoam cooler boxes for their bait and a thick jacket for the sea mist that rises just after sundown.

Fishing on the harbour wall is a minimalists affair. The odd camping chair appears for an older family member or wife but generally speaking people prefer to sit on the ledge or stand. A more common sighting is a faded and salt stained pink patio cushion to soften the sometimes damp concrete. Sandwiches, samoosas and flasks of coffee appear. Sometimes, late in the evening, the very serious enthusiast quickly gulps a can of redbull and laughs and says, 'Ek kannie soo laat wakker bly'. (translation: I can't stay awake this late anymore)

A quiet murmuring works its way up and down the wall, endless ebbs and flows. A combination of embellished fishing stories and the waves, slapping and running through the crevices. Teenagers tapping on their phones, bored, not understanding the rarity and magic of evenings like these, yet. Fathers and uncles and cousins and grandfathers talk of big fish caught yesterday, last week, last year, 'when I was your age'.

When the yellowtail run, men will come every night for weeks. As a line goes taught and the tip of the rod bends, it sends a ripple along the wall. Everyone turns to look, peering through the evening light, waiting to see what comes in. A swift blow to the head kills the fish, wrapped in damp cloth it is taken off to be cleaned and gutted, after the obligatory photos.

Fishing is not for the faint-hearted, the easily bored or for those that need to be entertained by external factors. Fishing is the ultimate temporary occupation for those that understand and feed their need to do nothing. 

Nothingness is not something that everyone is comfortable with. 

Nothingness is a space in ones soul that doesn't need to be filled but rather given space to expand and breathe. 

Nothingness is not a meditation or contemplation, it is just a bit of quiet time.

Fact Box:

Cape Yellowtail is a well know South African Game fish.  It is on the SAPPI Green list.  To find out more about Fish stocks in South African Waters please visit www.wwfsassi.co.za 

You require a permit to fish.  This can be obtained at any Postoffice in South Africa.

Kalk Bay Harbour is one of the few remaining small harbours in South Africa.  Kalk Bay started as an anchorage for the Dutch East India Company in the the 1700's, had a brief spell as a whaling station from 1820 to 1855 and continued to be home to a small fishing community who's numbers were swelled by emancipated slaves in the mid 1800's.  Kalk Bay survived the revolting Apartheid Group areas act and some of the original families still live in Kalk Bay today.  Unfortunately the fishing fleets have dwindled steadily since the 1950's due to depleted fish stocks but a few boats still remain. The allocation of fishing quotas is an extremely hot topic.

Kalky's is the best Fish and Chips takeaway in the harbour and has been around for 20 years.  Kalkys operates their own fishing boat that goes out daily so you are literally eating the freshest caught seafood. Order inside and sit outside watching the world go by or take your food down to the harbour wall.

There is plenty of accommodation in Kalk Bay and a good place to start is Airbnb.  

Nov 21, 2015

On the road

The road from Ladismith to Laingsburg in the Western Cape  - Anysberg Nature Reserve (Photo Keri Muller)

The road from Ladismith to Laingsburg in the Western Cape  - Anysberg Nature Reserve

Sutherland to Calvinia - just past middelpos in the Northern Cape - the Great Karoo.  (Photo Keri Muller)

Sutherland to Calvinia - just past Middelpos in the Northern Cape - the Great Karoo

Nov 16, 2015

Geometric panel - Progress....

The final stages - all the pieces have been attached and now I will fill in the gaps over the screws with more rolled book segments.

Commissioned by kalisher.com for a commercial project in the USA

Size:  1880 x 1295mm

Geometric Book Sculpture by Keri Muller (simpleintrigue.com) - size: 1880 x 1295mm / Created from old paperback books, folded and cut into segments

Aug 21, 2015

Commissioned Work: 7 pieces

I made these for a new private Lodge opening up in the Sabi Sands.  One for each Suite and then one for the main area.

Created using a collection of found imagery from old books and guides, maps, stamps and free to use vintage images.  I also purchased the rights to use 3 of Daleen Roodts wonderful botanical drawings to get the leaf details - specifically the Knobthorn, Russet Bushwillow and Jackalberry.

Book Artwork by Keri Muller (www.simpleintrigue.com)
Golden Shower (Cassia)

Book Artwork by Keri Muller (www.simpleintrigue.com)

Book Artwork by Keri Muller (www.simpleintrigue.com)

Book Artwork by Keri Muller (www.simpleintrigue.com)

Book Artwork by Keri Muller (www.simpleintrigue.com)
Magic Guarrie

Book Artwork by Keri Muller (www.simpleintrigue.com)
Russet Bushwillow

Book Artwork by Keri Muller (www.simpleintrigue.com)
Tree Wisteria

Aug 20, 2015

Jo'burg - I'll see you in October

The Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair (formerly Food | Wine | Design) is coming up fro the 9th to 12th October.  It's always a highlight and my favourite fair to do in the year - great people, good vibes and exceptional organisation.

Some awesome styling by Mia Widlake for their advertising this year - we made the paper geometric shapes and the Origami crane branches for them.  So nice to have clients who want to push the boat out a bit and use paper in a fun way.

Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair (9-11 October 2015 in Jo'burg) - Paper Props made by simpleintrigue.com

Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair (9-11 October 2015 in Jo'burg) - Paper Props made by simpleintrigue.com

Aug 6, 2015

These wonderful shapes

Rolled Book Shapes  - extremely satisfying to hold and contemplate. Serving absolutely no practical function except to make you sit and contemplate for a second or two

Folded Book Art shapes - Keri Muller (simpleintrigue.com)

Folded Book Art shapes - Keri Muller (simpleintrigue.com)

Folded Book Art shapes - Keri Muller (simpleintrigue.com)

Folded Book Art shapes - Keri Muller (simpleintrigue.com)

Jun 1, 2015

A Poem

The Journey
By Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

May 26, 2015

Rumi & this blue sky sea tonight

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing 
and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.” 

― Rumi

May 10, 2015

Day 8 - Vonnegut says it

Some further words from Mr Vonnegut...
Nobody will stop you from creating. Do it tonight. Do it tomorrow. That is the way to make your soul grow - whether there is a market for it or not! The kick of creation is the act of creating, not anything that happens afterward. I would tell all of you watching this screen: Before you go to bed, write a four line poem. Make it as good as you can. Don't show it to anybody. Put it where nobody will find it. And you will discover that you have your reward.

The create for the sake of creating.  Something I keep reminding myself to do.  Not for me or for anyone. Just to keep making. To keep on.