Nature provides a real treat

The taxonomy of gifting is a bit like a game of Twenty Questions. South Africa has eight magical biomes (habitats or ecological zones with distinct environmental conditions and plant and animal life) so the natural kingdom is a logical place to start. There are savannah, grasslands, wetlands, marine and coastal ecosystems, forests, succulent Karoo, Nama Karoo and fynbos, all of which have proved fertile ground for endemic craft and design.

From a few hundred rands upward, you can pick up one of Nic Bladen’s delicate botanical castings — a silver pod from Osyris compressa, a delicate olive leaf or a gasteria flower make perfect pendants or charms on a bracelet. Bladen also makes larger pieces — bold bronze leaves for a necklace, shiny silver leaves of Rhus species for earrings — (See nicbladen.com for stockists).

His work inspired his partner, artist Jane Eppel (janeeppel.com), to produce an A to Z of Fynbos — a limited edition of 250 prints, retailing for R750 each. Eppel says her incentive was the “In Bloom II” group exhibition showing at Casa Labia in Muizenberg — work inspired by local flora that runs until the end of -­ February 2012 — but that the idea had been “simmering in her head long before that” and was “maybe inspired” by her childhood love for Cicely M Barker’s Flower Fairy Alphabet, drawn in the 1930s, which “documents typical British flowers”. Eppel’s detailed black-and-white interpretations of disas, lilies, oxalia, watsonia — informed by her hikes with Bladen and John Manning’s Field Guide to Fynbos (Struik, R230) — are, truly, love letters.

Hiking is not required to secure Eduard Claassen’s luminous Flower Power lamp (tfdvisualdesigner.co.za), available from Entropy at the Bamboo Centre on Rustenberg Road in Johannesburg’s Melville, and modelled on the most distinctive fynbos, the protea, although you will need a slightly roomier wallet — the light goes for slightly less than R15 000.

The larger-than-life fitting has different configurations, mimicking different protea species. For example, at “sleep” the flower “condenses into the more bud-shaped Protea neriifolia,” Claassen says. If you choose the “blooming state”, you get a King protea (Protea cynaroides). The plug, bright red, is in the shape of a Cape sugarbird.

“In nature you’ll find the protea and the sugarbird in an equally symbiotic relationship,” says Claassen. The bird visits up to 300 proteas a day during the flowering season to collect nectar. Birds make lovely gifts, too — not the real ones, of course, as everyone knows those are for life and not just for Christmas, right?

Durban-based jeweller Genevieve Motley (visit genevievemotley.com to shop or for stockists) makes charming tiny bird-and-cage pendants — a fitting metaphor for freedom and captivity, therefore the ultimate lover’s gift — working with laser-cut wood and perspex as well as in cast metal. They retail from as little as R150. Motley also does engraved wooden cufflinks if you are looking for more guy-like embellishments — a bicycle for your double-cuffed hipsters perhaps?

Birds and cats make a frequent appearance at Green Grass Design in Parkhurst (greengrassdesign.co.za). The company piqued local interest a few years ago when it launched a set of bright Perspex birds designed to decorate Johannesburg’s ubiquitous electric fences.

More recently, it expanded this to an entire shop full of gorgeous, quirky and surprisingly well-priced designs, ranging from fridge magnets and coasters to mirrors, serviette holders and even tables. Particularly endearing is the flat-pack, fold-out Lovebirds cage (R270), which allows you to perch your little birds wherever you like. Green Grass Design also does custom commissions. But these will not be ready by December 25, although you could, possibly, get one done in time for Coptic Christmas in January.

If silhouettes and cages of follies seem a little Victorian, Parkhurst offers another little treasure-hunt spot in the form of Loom (loom.za.com), which is where grown-up hip boys, or those who like such boys, should go if they feel like spending rather a lot of money on a very nice T-shirt. For less than, well, anything by Comme des Garçons, you can pick up this season’s ultimate geek gift — a limited-edition Star Wars Moleskine notebook (R135) — or Pantone covers and sleeves for an iPhone (R360) or iPad2 (R790). In case you are wondering which colour to choose, Pantone just announced its Pantone 17-1463 Tangerine Tango as the colour of the year for 2012. Orange you glad you read this article?

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Nechama Brodie
Dr Nechama Brodie has worked as a multi-media journalist, editor, producer and publisher for nearly twenty-five years. During this time she has dodged the secret police in Burma, explored tunnels underneath Johannesburg, gotten dusty at rock festivals, and reported on the myth of ‘white genocide’ in South Africa.

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