FoodWineDesign Fair: Exhibiting SA's best


Frances White studied fine art and trained as a painter before deciding to pursue her dream of designing textiles.

"I'm in love with pattern. Although I love painting and mixing colours I fell in love with printing because I could reproduce a pattern over and over again."

White launched her first range of printed products two years ago, focusing on South African wildflowers and floral regions.

"I was trying to make textiles that were different to what was being made in South Africa – rich patterns with dark backgrounds, modern, contemporary floral designs," she says.

Digital printing meant White could do small print runs, and use "hundreds of colours at the same time.

With screen printing you have to print one colour at a time, and you obviously pay per colour.

The new technology means you can print whatever you want."

White starts by drawing or painting her designs by hand.

"It’s easy to get sucked into your computer, and it’s actually faster for me to work by hand," she says.

"Also, vector and digital patterns tend to be quite flat – and with the nature of digital printing you can retain all the grades and colours and textures and details of the original. It’s a nice balance between handmade and digital." 

Completed images are then scanned, cleaned-up and collaged on her computer – the eventual [repeat] pattern, White explains, depends on what works for illustration.

"I tend to repeat a pattern three times within the [145cm] width. In standard screenprinting days the repeat width was always 64cm wide because that’s how big screens were, but with digital the wonderful thing is you can do whatever you want, repeat once, or ten times, or not repeat at all." 

The finished pattern is then printed – with water-based pigment ink – onto a heavyweight soft cotton that can be used for curtains, cushions, and upholstering furniture.

White is launching two new designs at FoodWineDesign – again drawing on nature, but including a new phylum: insects.

"I started researching insect mating rituals and pollination. It’s quite fascinating," White says, explaining a dotted and dashed organic Morse Code based on firefly mating dances.

"The male fireflies are the ones you see lighting up in the air.

They’re signalling to the females – telling them what species they are [there are over 2 000 firefly species, White says], so that the females know they can send a light signal back and the male can fly down to them and they can mate."

White says she likes her patterns to "mean something, to have a story behind them. I loved that the mating pattern was not only pretty, it was connected to these incredible little insects that fly around and light up the night in all these different light frequencies. Nature is very entertaining."

Digitally printer 100% cotton upholstery fabric @ R520 a metre from


"We’re inspired by nature," says Abrie von Wielligh, of George-based furniture company Meyer von Wielligh (together with partner Norman Meyer). "The wood itself is so beautiful. We want to get the focus back on the material we are using."

Their Umthi Bookshelf – a 1.9m high stem, with clever joins creating petioles leading on to leaf-shaped shelves – is "almost a direct copy from nature," von Wielligh says. "It’s like a little sapling that is growing."

To make the bookshelf, Von Wielligh first draws out his designs at full scale, on a flat piece of board, "to check if the balance is right. We work out cutting lists according to the sketch." Using that as a template, they then "put the two-dimensional board onto solid wood, draw it out, and cut the solid wood out into that shape". The joins are drawn and cut out in the same way. Lines and edges are rounded, first using a router cutter and then "by hand, with a grinder and a hand planer. It’s very time-consuming. We use a lot of hand labour. But our focus is more to create jobs than just manufacture items," Von Wielligh says.

Meyer von Wielligh currently employs about 30 people. "In the beginning, everyone starts from the bottom," von Wielligh says. "It depends on the skills they have; you’ve got to have some kind of skill, and want to develop it. Some grow quickly, others stay where they are."   

The Umthi bookshelf is made out of light American Ash or darker Iroko, sourced from central Africa. "The iroko is very stable and easy to carve, and doesn’t have a lot of cross-grain," von Wielligh explains, "so it’s a very good wood to use for the shapes we are doing."

Von Wielligh says that the way they work is "the hard way. But it’s nice to see clients are willing to pay for handmade stuff. You kind of have to narrow [designs] down, to get into practical production. At the end of the day it’s not just for good looks. You have a functional piece of art."

The Umthi Bookshelf sells for R8500 from


Lorna Scott of Inverroche Distillery says that the idea behind their just-launched Botanique fynbos brandy liqueur was to "create something more traditionally styled – not like so many of the one-dimensional modern liqueurs [which Scott compares to 'milkshakes, even the ones without cream']. We went back and revisited the original liqueurs, the ones crafted by monks and monasteries."

The approach, then, Scott says, was to create a medicine, taking base alcohol and infusing it with "spices and herbs and fruits, to extract and concentrate those extraordinary medicinal properties." The liqueur would sit and steep for many years before being sweetened, to make it more palatable (although, in many cases, the infusion was left as is). 

Inverroche already produces a range of gin, rum and liqueurs – all made in small batches, all "incorporating a range of rare indigenous flora". For the Botanique, Scott says, they wanted to "intensely capture the essence of the fynbos."

To do this, they made a "base brandy with our own grapes, then infused it with a rich blend of coastal and mountain fynbos" which brought floral and woody notes. Local fruits were added (Inverroche is near Still Bay in the Western Cape), before leaving the preparation to sit for three years in a wooden barrel. At the very end of the process, the elixir is sweetened with agave nectar that is now produced in the Karoo.  

The finished product is "very simple but traditional, and intensely flavoured," Scott says. "It’s not a liqueur you drink over ice. I serve the smallest drop in a tall crystal glass, together with a sharp cheddar or a strong stilton, a ripe brie, and maybe a fresh fig. It has rich complexity."

A colleague of Scott’s compared the liqueur to the smell of the African veld after a rain shower on a hot summer’s day. The full quote now appears on the back of the bottle – which, Scott says, she encourages people to keep: "It’s beautiful glass, imported from France. They look like perfume bottles." 

Botanique Liqueur R250 for 375ml (cellar and fair price only)


Skinny laMinx’s Heather Moore will be showing off new items from her 2013/14 catalogue – and is offering free shipping (for catalogue orders) to all her Jo'burg customers at the FoodWineDesign fair. While you’re there, snap up a set of Moore’s new laser-cut "domestic animal" cards (and remember, a dog/cat/bunny card doesn’t just have to be for Christmas).

Domestic animal cards sell for R45 each from  


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