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They walk among us. Selfless souls from our community who work tirelessly, week after week, for no financial reward. Why? Because each one of them has an unyielding passion for our treasured natural environment - a passion which has ultimately cemented their commitment to helping protect it.

The many hundreds of Honorary Rangers throughout South Africa (the official volunteer organisation of SANParks), are definitely some of the true unsung conservation heroes of our beautiful country. Only a handful of our National Parks actually run at a profit, which places SANparks under immense pressure to maintain the environmental integrity of our parks with the resources available to them. The time and skills that our Honorary Rangers offer on a voluntary basis go a long way to alleviate some of these pressures faced by SANparks.

Our Knysna SANparks Honorary Rangers are involved in numerous local conservation efforts and their contribution is manifested in countless ways, such as raising valuable funds, creating vital public awareness, getting involved in river and estuary clean-ups, as well as alien vegetation removal projects. Essentially, they supply much needed manpower to assist in the various conservation, tourism and environmental education needs within SANParks.

One of the current Knysna SANparks Honorary Rangers' fundraising initiatives is the “Living Jewels” project run by Sabine Woodward. Focusing on making wall art pieces that depict several of our vulnerable and endangered wildlife species, Sabine combines – and essentially up-cycles - an eclectic assortment of second-hand materials; from wood, to metal, glass, semi-precious stones, shells and other interesting items. They are currently appealing to the public to please donate materials in order to sustain this project. They are looking for any tiles, mosaic materials, old costume jewellery, beads, shells, pebble stones and gemstones. Any and all donations will be greatly appreciated.

Their current fund raising efforts are aimed at raising money for critical anti poaching equipment, needed to protect our country's precious wildlife.
For information or donations, please contact Delle Henry on 083 292 2928 or email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or, alternatively you can drop off any items at the SANparks offices

Published in News snippets
Thursday, 09 March 2017 09:29

Don Leslie Knives - #KnysnaMade

For most of his life, Don Leslie has been drawn to vocations where he been able to work with his hands. For the first 30 years of his career, he worked as a butcher in Johannesburg, but after many years spent in this industry, he decided to pack in the frenetic city life and move to Sedgefield.

When he arrived in the Garden Route he felt the need for a serious path shift, and he started off by restoring and selling antique furniture and later went on to making his own furniture range using a local indigenous timbers. Then, when the building boom swept the Garden Route, he started a construction company and went on to become one of the most sought after builders in the region, constructing homes of superior workmanship from Sedgefield to Plettenberg Bay.

A few of years ago, at the young age of 73, he decided it was time to retire, but that hasn't seemed to have slowed him down much. These days, when he isn't tending to his heirloom vegetables, you will you find him at home in his humble workshop, lovingly handcrafting one of his unique knives. Knife making started off as a hobby which has provided Don with an immensely rewarding creative - and meditative - outlet, each knife taking many days to complete. What started off as a way to keep his hands busy and to pass the time, has now fortunately become an additional source of income for him. He started off making knives for friends and family, and they have proved so popular that now he has orders lined up from others.

He has dabbled in making a variety of different knife styles, but his most popular to date are his Puukko knives and Santoku knives. A Pukko knife is a small, traditional Finnish belt knife with a single curving cutting edge and a flat back. The basic components of a puukko are a hilt and a blade along with a sheath, which can be then attached to a belt. It is an everyday style knife that is used for everything from hunting to fishing.

A Santoku knife is a general-purpose kitchen knife originating from Japan, with a blade of between 13cm and 20cm in length. The word Santoku means 'three virtues' and refers to the three cutting tasks that this knife is designed for: slicing, dicing and mincing.

For the handles of his knives, Don uses a wide range of African hardwood, including Red & Black Ivory, Candlewood, Paduak, Zebrano, Purple Heart, Sneezewood, Wild Olive and Ironwood. No two knives are alike. Don admits he still has a lot to learn, but with very basic and unsophisticated tools, every knife he has handcrafted thus far, is a true and one-of-a-kind work of art.

For any information or commissions call: 082 579 7644

Published in #KnysnaMade
Thursday, 02 March 2017 13:37

Living Jewels - #KnysnaMade

The Living Jewels project has given Sabine Woodward a new lease on life and it is all for a brilliant cause!

Sabine Woodward has been a resident of Knysna for going on 30 years and for most of that time she ran Emma Jayne Interiors, one of Knysna's original and most successful interior design companies. She sold it several years ago and now dedicates her time towards worthy causes.

After grappling to come to terms with the loss of her mother a few years ago, Sabine found herself in a particularly dark emotional space from which she battled to emerge. However, a year ago, on Valentine's Day 2016, she embarked on a creative project which proved not only an immensely powerful healing tool, but one that really got her creative juices flowing.

In order to try and get out of her funk, Sabine decided to do two things: firstly to sign up as a Knysna SANparks Honorary Ranger, dedicating her time to raising funds for this important organisation and then also to revive her life-long passion for the healing powers of plants.

What started off as an 'art therapy' exercise, is now her “Living Jewels” project, which raises money for the SANParks Honorary Rangers Programme. Focusing on making art pieces that depict some of our vulnerable and endangered wildlife species, Sabine combines – and essentially up-cycles - an eclectic assortment of second hand materials; from wood, to metal, glass, semi-precious stones, shells and other interesting items.

The very first piece she started back on Valentine Day last year, is now completed and on show at the Sahar Persian Carpet Shop (Shop5 of the Boatshed, Thesen Harbour Town.) It is titled “Mating Seahorses at Full Moon” (mating of seahorses usually coincides with a full moon). This piece is in honour of the Knysna Seahorse, our own town's most iconic little species, which is listed as 'Endangered' by the IUCN. It's a dazzling piece, and one which Sabine hopes to sell in order to raise money for important nature conservation programmes run by SANparks. She has already sold a few other smaller pieces and is currently busy on several others, depicting pangolin, Cape parrots, owls and flamingoes.

When she is not immersed in Living Jewels, she spends her time doing weekly clean-ups together with other volunteers from SAnparks and the Knysna Basin Project, clearing rivers of litter before it ends up spilling into our precious Knysna Estuary. She also studies the healing powers of plants and works part-time at the Africology Shop at the Boatshed (producing a luxurious, natural and eco-friendly skincare range, fragranced only with pure essential oils.).

Please support her worthy cause. Her next pieces will be on display at the Knysna Tourism offices, so watch that space!
For more info contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in #KnysnaMade
Thursday, 09 February 2017 14:06

The Sedgefield Stitchers - #KnysnaMade

I first spotted Judith Miller's crocheted blanket masterpiece on the 'Handmade in Sedgefield' Facebook page, a social media platform dedicated to locally made products. It is an intricate work of art comprising of many different colours and stitches revolving around a central mandala. It is a labour of love, and one, I am told, that took many hours to complete. Although Judy was taught how to crochet by her aunt at the young age of nine, she hadn't picked up a crochet hook for many years – until now. “The career path I chose didn't really inspire much creativity”, says Judith, “ and it wasn't until I joined the Sedgefield Stitchers group that my passion for the craft truly blossomed. It appears she is not the only one hooked on crocheting.

The art of crocheting dates back to the 19th century and was originally practised by peasants in Scotland, with a small hooked needle called a Shepard's Hook. It derives it's name however, from the French word 'crochet', meaning crooked shape. In the last decade or so this age old craft has seen a massive revival and crocheting is now a big part of both urban street wear, high-end fashion collections and interior décor items around the world.

Crocheting is not the only activity enjoying a widespread renaissance. It seems more and more people are tapping into the spirit of using their hands to make things. Whether it is crocheting or vegetable gardening or baking bread, there is immense satisfaction in being able to stand back and admire something which we have physically produced ourselves. In a world that revolves on so much “virtual reality”, there is a growing desire for people wanting to live in the now, to connect with the real world and with each other and picking up a crooked hook and a ball of wool helps people do that.

The Sedgefield Stitchers is a perfect example of this. In September last year, Sedgefield local Tracy Chandler- Babst felt the urge to learn the art of crocheting and sent a message across a local Facebook page enquiring whether anyone would be interested in starting up a group. The response was overwhelming and 6 months later they have grown to be a group of 14 ladies. They meet once a week, where they share both ideas and skills, generally inspire and connect with one another. You wouldn’t believe it by looking at the incredible work that they are producing today, but many of the ladies were completely new to the craft of crocheting before joining the group.

The Sedgefield Stitchers have been so uplifted and inspired by this creative outlet that they have decided to give back to their local community. They have chosen to support the Living Cornerstone in Sedgefield, a public benefit and non-profit organization that cares for Alzheimer sufferers in a supportive home environment. The group is now very busy making crocheted items for the 22 residents of the home. Items such as blankets, hats, scarves, and also what is known as a“Twiddle Muff”, which is double thickness hand muff with bits and bobs attached inside and out. It is specifically designed to provide a stimulating activity for restless hands for patients suffering from dementia.

If anyone can perhaps spare wool, buttons, bells, beads or other 'bits and bobs' that you do not need or use, the group would be extremely grateful.
(The group is open to all, so if you want a great interactive learning experience feel free to join.)

For any enquiries email Tracy: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in #KnysnaMade
Thursday, 26 January 2017 14:02

WildRhubarb – #KnysnaMade

Tatum Williams is one of Knysna's best known textile designers and her company WildRhubarb has provided her with the ideal platform from which to interpret both her love of art and her strong connection to the natural world. Her hand produced textiles depict various aspects of South Africa's iconic indigenous fauna and flora.

Tatum attended an art, ballet and music based high-school in her home town of Durban and it was here where she began learning the fundamentals of art and design and where her passion for drawing was fostered. After completing her matric she went on to become a successful model, gracing the pages of various fashion magazines both locally and abroad. She eventually made Paris her base, regularly jetting off to New York, London and Tokyo for various modelling assignments.

Seeking respite from the high-paced world of fashion, Tatum would often return home and spend time with her mom, who at that time ran the Knysna River Club. Knysna was the perfect place for her to decompress and she immersed herself in the beauty of Knysna's natural world.

Upon returning to South Africa, Tatum moved around a little, first buying a farm in the Eastern Cape, and later, when her daughter Hannah was born, she moved to Johannesburg to once again work in the modelling industry. It wasn't long before she realised that the frenetic rat race of city life wasn't what she wanted for her daughter, so she made the move to Knysna, where she has remained since.

Her career in the world of textiles happened quite by chance. At one point she undertook to do all the design and décor for her mom at the Knysna River Club, where she hand painted each individual piece of fabric with mostly indigenous botanical designs, such as king and pin-cushion proteas. The décor pieces were an instant hit and many of the visitors would ask to buy items right off the wall or table. She realised then that she was onto something, and essentially hasn't looked back.

She launched her company Wildrhubarb more than ten years ago and is now one of the most successful textile designers in the region. She runs her business from a small factory space in Knysna's Industria, where she does all her own silk screening. A self confessed old-school designer, she still hand draws all her designs and does not make use of any computer rendering. She outsources the sewing to various seamstresses in Knysna. Drawing inspiration from nature, Tatum endeavours to capture that beauty of our environment and convey it into textiles & dècor products that will inspire. Her handmade functional art pieces serve to beautify interior spaces and enrich the senses.

Her products are sold in various outlets throughout South Africa, but can also be found in stores in Knysna and beyond, including the Hands Design Collective, EyeLove, Metelerkamps, ilovani at The Heath in Plett and the Harkerville Market. Her exclusive Rhino range can be found at African Bean.
For more information visit: wildrhubarb.co.za

Published in #KnysnaMade
Thursday, 12 January 2017 14:46

Holmes, A Passionate Creative

Local art prodigy Houghmordeen Jansen, fondly known as Holmes, grew up in an informal settlement in Sedgefield. The second of four children, he was raised by his mother and grandmother, both of whom instilled within Holmes a strong sense of faith and unwavering courage.

Dynamic and extremely confident by nature, Holmes began sketching at an early age and was recognised throughout his school career for his innate artistic talent. On one fortuitous day, when he was a young teenager, he was walking to the beach when he noticed that Sue Watson's Gallery was holding an exhibition, and he made a beeline into her studio. This chance meeting with Sue was set to positively change the course of his life after she agreed to supply him with the art materials he so desperately needed and to give him art lessons, thus guiding him in on his artistic journey.

After he completed his matric, he did not immediately have the means to continue with his studies, but through sheer tenacity and belief in himself he later went on to enrol in the Cape Peninsula University of Technology to study Graphic Design. “I felt I had developed enough technique and my own sense of style, which is why I chose not to study fine art, but rather to acquire new skills, which is why I chose the field of Graphic Design. After successfully completing two years, Holmes decided to take a gap year, during which time he immersed himself in his art and built up a impressive body of work. His work has been accepted and exhibited at The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum in Port Elizabeth, Knext Art Gallery, The AVA Gallery, Art It Is Gallery, Art Mode in Cape Town, The Gavin Project in Johannesburg and Art10K.

Holmes is a multi-faceted creative person who has produced multiple uniquely styled works and has become a professional artist well-versed in mural painting, fine art and design. Some of his clients and collaborators include the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Edgars, Rhumaa (a socially responsible storytelling fashion brand ), product designer Heath Nash and Afrikaans recording artist Jitsvinger.

He has big plans for this year. Not only will he be working hard to complete his diploma but he is also busy producing an exciting body of work which he plans to exhibit here in Sedgefield at the end of the year. The venue for the exhibition is yet to be finalised.

Although he is currently living and studying in Cape Town, he is still very much rooted to his birth place of Sedgefield. Much of his work is inspired by his own community, and he manages to brilliantly capture the essence of township life and the many facets it holds; the community spirit, the struggles and the vibrancy of the streets.

It is clearly evident that not only did this talented young local beat the early odds stacked against him, but he has risen far above them and is already making an indelible mark on the exciting world of art. Watch this space!!


Published in #KnysnaMade
Thursday, 05 January 2017 11:37

A Year in Focus - #Knysnamade 2016

Below are brief descriptions of the creative talent showcased last year in our #KnysnaMade Campaign. We look forward to seeking out even more talent during 2017.

JB Furniture Manufacturers employs time honoured cabinet making techniques coupled with several contemporary design and manufacturing processes in the making of their timber furniture range. www.jbfurniture.co.za/

Crispen Manhanga of Nelchris Arts & Crafts, is one of Knysna’s leading wire artists, producing an incredible range of intricate beaded wire work. 078-8847750 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Bevan van Druten from Exhibit Art, is a hugely successful artist, who combines his love of the natural world and art to create unique sculptures from an assorted assemblage of driftwood. www.exhibit-art.co.za

Ali Goris from One Bright Day employs an age old technique known as lost wax carving when creating his stunning jewellery pieces. He is inspired mostly by things which he finds in nature. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Well-known local commercial and fine art photographer Alix Carmichele broadened her creative landscape earlier this year with the opening of her new shop called Magpie’s Nest, which sells an eclectic collection of locally hand crafted goods, vintage clothing and more. www.facebook.com/magpiesnestknysna/

Cutting edge urban street wear brand Stoned Oxygen (S02) clothing company was launched by Sedgefield resident Cassidy Bo Morrison. Her motto: High on Life www.stoneoxygen.com

Glass Roots is a contemporary glass fusing studio located at the Mosaic Market in Sedgefield. They produce an exquisite range of glass jewellery and functional and decorative homeware. www.glassroots.co.za

Local African contemporary artist Artwell Musungate manages to creatively depict the raw, unequivocal charm of Africa and its people. He paints both landscapes and African figures in a style reminiscent of post-impressionist painters. www.facebook.com/artwell.musungate

Owner of Fullturn Clothing Jurgens van der Walt is a self-taught local illustrator of immense talent. His work depicts his own personal reflections, and other social commentary www.fullturn.co.za

All natural, hand-crafted Nourish Natural Soaps are heaven-scent. Free from any harmful chemicals and colourants, these soaps are made entirely from pure, natural ingredients and essential oils. www.nourishsoaps.com

The soft furnishings and accessories produced by local textile and home décor studio iSpy, pack a definitive design punch, bringing bold splashes of colour and quirky cheer to interior spaces. www.ispy-shop.com

Richard Henley of Full Circle Furniture, combines contemporary design with time-honoured, traditional techniques when making his handmade furniture pieces - each are functional works of art. www.fullcirclefurniture.co.za

Sedgefield Craft Brewery at Sedgefield's Scarab Village makes some of the finest craft beer in the Garden Route. Cheers to that! This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Graham Sparks has been a member of the Knife Makers’ Guild of South Africa for 20 years now, which is a serious benchmark for success as a knife maker. Each of his knives are functional works of art.
044 387 1304

Using the hard covers of discarded old books, Wake up and Dream makes notebooks filled with blank pages - each cover etched with mindful, contemplative quotes amid soulful designs. www.wakeupanddream.co.za

Vukani Beading Group is a group of local bead artisans from Smutsville that make a range of exquisite traditional beaded jewellery. www.facebook.com/Vukani-Beading-Group

Yellowood Ventures product range includes fridge magnets and key-rings made from yellowwood timber, each laser engraved with a design depicting a unique aspect synonymous with towns across the Greater Knysna area. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Fulton Wire Works produces a wide range of beaded wire art including a range of African wildlife figures along with several functional items such as spice racks, shampoo and conditioner holders, soap dishes and bowls. 076 182 2905

Four Flowers Water is a Knysna based company which delicately infuses water with pure botanical extracts, resulting in a healthy, sparkling and refreshing drink with no calories, no sweeteners and no preservatives. www.fourflowerswater.co.za

Kites by Design are old-school kite making purists very well known locally and abroad for their flawless kite craftsmanship. They are often commissioned to make one off bespoke kites for avid collectors. www.facebook.com/KitesByDesign

STARBOATS manufactures and repairs paddle boats, fishing boats, canoes and pontoons - many examples of which can be seen on the waters throughout the Knysna Estuary. www.starboats.co.za

Portia's Designs is a children's clothing line using traditional West African fabrics that are very bright, funky and eclectic in design. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Lydia's Up-cycled Jewellery range is a brilliant concept, whereby she converts old or discarded materials into stunningly unique, one of a kind jewellery pieces. 073 072 2303

We recently discovered a perfect, and exquisitely beautiful alternative to plastic water bottles – wearable, Earthdrop ceramic water bottles. Made by local company WearOne. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Little Tribe sells a unique range of locally handmade designer kids clothing, accessories and bedding and the profits go back into the community to uplift children in need. They recently opened a shop on Thesen Island called The Story. www.little-tribe.com

Hope HQ is the Knysna Youth For Christ's thriving hub of activity. It comprises of four divisions: Options Care Centre, Team Khanya, Hands & Hearts Skills Development Centre (“Toolbox Project”) and the Ithemba Craft and Skills Centre. www.yfc.co.za

AfricAnatomy is a range of contemporary wildlife illustrations on calendars and cards done by graphic designer Jo Hugo. It is essentially a “meshing” - as she calls it - of her love for wildlife, for Knysna - and her strong conservation stance. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

SilentK Clothing Co. (named after the silent K in Knysna) is a t-shirt design company based in Knysna that produces a range of t-shirts with local expressions that really tug on our 'Proudly South African' heartstrings. www.silentkclothing.co

Johnny Snyman of Heartwood Bows makes handcrafted contemporary bows and arrows employing time-honoured traditional methods and materials comprised of wood, bamboo and special transparent uni-directional fibreglass. www.heartwoodbowsonline.com

Facebook group called Handmade in Sedgefield South Africa serves to showcase and sell items handmade by residents of Sedgefield and provides a place where people living either in Sedgefield or further afield can then browse and buy. www.facebook.com/groups/handmadeinsedgefield/

Published in #KnysnaMade
Thursday, 22 December 2016 13:58

AvoPomme Creative Hub

A few months ago, Bernice Haman and Ricardo Van Lingen (the creative powerhouse duo and founders of the stylish online magazine “Knyslifestyle”) walked into the vacant Shop 45 at Woodmill Lane and their penchant for tackling creative projects was immediately ignited. The shop's paint-peeled exterior belied what lay beyond the front door - a double volume space which they knew would be the ideal base from which to realise their vision - “We want to inspire creative, successful and authentic living, for ourselves and for those with whom we interact.”

The potential was certainly there but the space required a total revamp and it took Bernice and Ricardo a month of hard work and several sleepless nights before they were able to open the doors to the public. Years of experience in the interior design and décor field clearly gave Bernice the edge when tackling this project because the transformation has been truly remarkable. In early December they opened the doors to the AvoPomme Creative Hub - a bright, airy and aesthetically inspiring creative working space in the heart of Knysna.

Woodmill Lane was built on the old Geo-Parkes mill-site, which is an integral part of Knysna’s timber heritage, and the prominent features of the original structures still form part of the centre. This is essentially what gives these shop spaces so much character. It has a staircase leading up to an open-plan mezzanine level, which is lit up by a series of large, antique timber-framed windows. Exposed beams throughout lends a real industrial ambience to the interior.

AvoPomme is already buzzing with collective local talent. The first floor boasts the Urge Urban Café, which serves up a really decent cuppa joe, as well as freshly squeezed juices alongside a range of deliciously wholesome food fare. Their defining ethos is to tread lightly on the planet while fulfilling their creative mission, so they recycle everything and all the vegetable scraps are used in worm farms and also sent to a local pig farmer. They are busy setting up their retail project called Bananalism (which will also eventually be an online store) and which will sell cool, beautifully made items. They aim to showcase the work of as many local artists as possible.

In the far corner of the ground floor there are the creative work stations of Bellwether leather artisans and Jason Springer, a talented graphic designer. Upstairs there is a tattoo studio along with several creative work stations which have been rented out to local artists, including well known wedding photographer, Jacey Searra. Well known local Hannelie Berry, the organiser of the Local Food and Design Market has also moved her office into their hub (the market has recently relocated to Woodmill Lane.)

For the past 6 months Knyslifestyle has been hosting a wide range of creative workshops at venues across Knysna. Now they will have this one central space in which to do this. Their workshops have proved extremely popular with locals and have included pottery, knitting and creative writing and they are taught by passionate, talented people in each field. “Many people have the urge to constantly learn and grow, and these workshops provide the perfect platform for them to do so”, says Bernice. They have some really interesting workshops lined up for next year, so locals must keep their finger on the pulse for what's in store. Get ready to let your creative juices flow.

For more information visit www.avopomme.com and their Facebook page for current happenings: www.facebook.com/AvoPomme

Published in #KnysnaMade
Thursday, 08 December 2016 13:23

Handmade in Sedgefield, South Africa

Nikki Jones is passionate about Sedgefield. She is also a keen crafter who devotes much of her free time to sewing, knitting or crocheting a wide range of unique items from children's soft toys to sewing accessory bags. She first started crafting when she was still living in her native Zimbabwe. After the birth of her twins she decided to become a stay at home mom and started crafting as a way to supplement the family's income. It wasn't very long before she had a thriving home industry and at one point she had seven women working for her.

Over the years since moving to Sedgefield, Nikki has met many like-minded and talented local crafters who create really beautiful items but who have never had an ideal online platform from which to market or sell them. This is what inspired Nikki to launch the Facebook group called Handmade in Sedgefield, South Africa. This group serves to showcase and sell items handmade by local residents and it provides a place where people living either in the area or further afield can browse and buy.

Social Media is an enormously powerful marketing tool and this page is a prime example of this, because since launching the page a couple of months ago, the group already has grown to 342 members and many of the crafters on the platform have enjoyed great success in selling their goods. There is even an 11 year old little entrepreneur making book bags on the site.

There really is only one golden rule, and that is that items posted for sale MUST be handmade in Sedgefield by Sedgefield residents.

A limit of 5 items per day, per seller, keeps the page fresh and interesting and those who only want to post an item every now and then are also welcome to do so. Sales are arranged between buyer and seller and the admin of the group takes no responsibility for these transactions.

Knysna & Partners has dedicated a lot of time in 2016 to highlighting and promoting locally made products because we strongly believe the local economy is positively stimulated when people buy local.

Christmas is around the corner, so before you head off to the mall to buy imported goods, browse on the Handmade in Sedgefield South Africa Facebook page, you may just happen upon the perfect gift for your loved one!

Check out this cool local page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/handmadeinsedgefield/

Published in #KnysnaMade
Thursday, 01 December 2016 14:31

Heartwood Bows-#KnysnaMade

Before I met with Johnny Snyman of Heartwood Bows, I scanned his website in the hopes of gaining a little insight into his unique craft. To be honest, I know very little about archery, but I do recall as a young child being wide-eyed and enthralled by the Native Americans in the TV series Bonanza and the way they could shoot an arrow whilst moving at high speed on horseback.

Whilst scrolling through his site, I came across an article which Johnny had written back in 2004, titled “The Legacy of Lighthouse Marcello.” The piece really moved me. He asks the question: “Does he who receives a handcrafted wooden bow know that in becoming his weapon’s master, he too accepts part of its maker? For mingled with the grain, most of the time embedded into the wood lies a little of its maker’s sweat, and heaps more, of its maker’s heart.” The story is extremely poignant and I managed to glean from it a small sense, perhaps, of the allure of archery and the labour of love that goes into crafting a bow and arrow.

Johnny picked up his first bow and arrow at the age of six and from that moment on, archery played an integral part of his youth. He spent many happy days during his childhood target shooting in and around his birth city of Johannesburg.

After completing his military service he went on to work for almost a decade as a professional diamond diver off the West Coast and it was here that his innate passion for archery was seriously rekindled. He realised that when he wasn't diving, he needed to find something constructive to occupy his time in the quiet desert town of Port Nolloth in which he was based, and so he immersed himself in what he loved most – archery - and started making his own bow strings and arrows.

He later went on to work as an offshore diver on oil rigs in both West Africa and the Far East but eventually felt compelled to fulfil his passion and decided to give up diving permanently in order to dedicate all of his time to his craft. The financial reward from many years in the diving industry provided the spring board which he needed to take the plunge. He settled in Sedgefield and hasn't looked back.

Making a bow takes considerable skill, and it took Johnny several years to fully grasp the complexities behind it, because before one can successfully execute the handcrafting of a bow and arrow, one needs to understand the exact physics behind it. Through trial and error and sheer determination he soon started perfecting his skills and it didn't take long before word of mouth did its thing, and he has since become well known, both locally and abroad, for his handcrafted Laminated Composite Custom Bows.

He uses a variety of timber in the construction of his bows and arrows, including both exotic and indigenous hardwoods. Contemporary bow making is a perfect marriage between traditional methods and materials comprised of wood, bamboo and special transparent uni-directional fibreglass. By combining time-honoured, traditional techniques honed over many years with modern materials, Johnny manages to produce exquisite, functional works of art.

Johnny has also spent the last 15 years providing the film industry with a diverse range of archery equipment and expertise, which has made Heartwood Bows a leader in its field. Johnny has supplied archery equipment, technical advisory and archery instruction training for movies such as: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, 10 000 BC, Doomsday, Scorpion King- Rise of the Akkadian, Savage Land, The True Shepherd and several other TV productions such as BBC History of the World and the Crusoe TV series. These and many other recent Hollywood productions have certainly put archery on the map, and the culture as a whole has grown and gained momentum with many taking part in archery as a recreational pastime.

Visit Heartwood Bows: www.heartwoodbowsonline.com for more info.

Published in #KnysnaMade
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