BY Karen Gibbs | June 3, 2009
Mielie Studios: running ragged for all the right reasons
If we don’t find ways of improving people’s lives, it will affect us negatively. If we do, it gives everyone involved nourishment, learning. And purpose.
– Adri Shutz
Spinning straw into gold: that’s what they do at Cape Town’s Mielie Studio. Scraps from South Africa’s fashion and textile industries become hooked rugs, handbags, pillows, and very stylish ottomans like the Fluffball shown here.
Founder Adri Shutz, who defines her style as “happy chaos,” started her business in 2002 as a way of combining her love of color, fibers and fabrics, with her awareness of the need for social change and environmental responsibility. “You can’t live in South African and not be affected by poverty – whether it’s through crime or doing something good or just seeing what’s going on around you.
“But along with the difficulties, you see right away that the most amazing traditions of beading and sewing and design are handed from generation to generation by the poorer people of our country.” Shutz dove into the idea of starting an artisan-based business without any formal business training. Seven years later Mielie now employs 50 South Africans.
The Fluffball is just one of many designs brought to fruition by Adri and the artisans she works with. Their partnership does stop at fabric and fiber goods, however. The latest joint effort is a plentiful organic garden, whose fruits and vegetables are shared by everyone working at Mielie. “It’s a way of addressing the economic situation right now. If we can’t create demand, we can create a way of making everyone’s cash go further by putting food on the table.
“What really turns us on, though, is creating something beautiful from stuff no one wants anymore. And it really is a turn on. When you see, for example, all the yellow scraps gathered from all the gown makers who work with us, it’s like a humming bird for your eyes. They shimmer.”
But perhaps not as much as Adri and her comrades busy at their work.
To purchase the Fluffball, contact Amaridian Gallery at www.amaridianusa.com.
For more information about Mielie Studios, visit www.mielie.com