Paarl artist weaves his magic

Jonathan Hoffman

Crafter Jonathan Hoffman might look as if he belongs to a reggae band, but his hands create magic of a different kind, with intricate weaving and wirework.

After suffering a debilitating back injury and being unable to continue his formal employment, Jonathan turned to arts and crafts to earn a living.

He was taught how to weave wicker baskets from the Rastafarian community in Paarl, and collects his own produce in the mountains.

In addition, he also makes products from wire and beads ranging from indigenous proteas to key rings, table décor and wire cars (draadkarretjies).

Jonathan is expanding his range of products to be more tourist-friendly after recently attending a workshop hosted by the Craft and Design Institute of South Africa.

Several talented artists from the community were identified by the Drakenstein Local Tourism Association to take part in the workshop as part of an artist development programme, which is supported financially by the Drakenstein municipality.

The “Product of Place” aspect of the course particularly inspired Jonathan.

“We had a great opportunity to come up with some new ideas that will make our products easier to sell. For example, I’ve already added small replicas of the Language Monument, which is an iconic landmark in Paarl, to my key ring range.

“I’m confident that visitors to the monument would love to buy them as souvenirs, so I could potentially increase my product offering.

“People love to buy locally-inspired products, so I have a few more plans up my sleeve – you just have to keep an eye on the market and be ready to adapt to emerging trends,” says Jonathan.

He sells his products at an informal market in Plein Street, but has also secured commissions for décor items from several florists in town.

“I have a passion for working with wire and would love to teach some unemployed youngsters the art of wirework.

“They need to learn how to look after themselves and earn a living. If you’re willing to work hard at your craft, you can actually survive by selling such products.

“But you need some business skills for example stock control, adapting your product range to suit the customer and finding set-off points for your products,” says Jonathan.

According to Annelize Stroebel, general manager of the Drakenstein Local Tourism Association, this is the backbone of the artist development programme.

“We are nurturing the talent of our local artists and supporting them in building sustainable small businesses. Obviously, this is a long-term process, but we are constantly investigating opportunities that would create new platforms for these artists to showcase their work,” says Ms Stroebel.

For more information on the artist development programme, visit www.paarlonline.com