When Mike Carella and Riaan Hanekom started working together, both were involved full time at Streetwires, a craft organisation that develops, creates and markets mostly wire & bead craft. It was in this environment that they learnt to sculpt using the materials with which they worked on a daily basis.
But when did ‘craft’ become ‘art’ for them? While the eurocentric among us may point to marble or oils and pronounce it art, closer to home, we find it in the beads, clay, wood and wire that have been used for generations by those who, while true artists, had neither the means nor even the inclination to use materials imported from other lands. The truth though probably lies not in the material, but in the intent, whether to copy other works or create an original.
Mike and Riaan may use the craft of wire & beads, but they interpret it in an exceptional way and in so doing, it becomes, unquestionably, fine art. While Riaan loses himself in the world of fire and metal, cutting and creating 3D lines in wire and steel and forming animals that in stance hold all the tension of a living creature, Mike paints in beads. Pointillist Georges- Pierre Seurat worked on canvas; Mike’s world is that of the alchemist; bottles of light, variations of colour, mixed, shuffled and finally threaded to create sculptural pieces that are truly breathtaking.
The marriage of creativity that has given birth to this partnership showcases how, given a conducive environment, the creative potential of an artist can be realised. Rather than attempting to contain artists within an existing structure, Streetwires is an organisation that allows artists to grow within and then supports them in their path beyond. In building a long-term relationship based on symbiosis rather than indebtedness, a community is formed that allows the cross pollination of ideas and opportunities on an individual and group level.
What inspired Riaan & Mike to capture the beauty of African animals in sculpture? Riaan answers simply that he would much prefer people to be taking home sculptured African animals rather than shooting the living and mounting them on a wall. Both are lovers of the bush and with their roots from outside the city, Mike and Riaan are passionate about the animals from which they draw inspiration for their sculptures and relish the idea that for every piece they create, there may be another ‘similar’ that continues breathing somewhere else.
With a harmonious marriage of materials and talent, the work of these two men has truly come of age and with their sculptures having already been featured locally in galleries and on Top Billing, they are now focused on building towards an exhibition in New Orleans in 2010.
For further information or to contact the artists visit Netsomi Zam / Streetwires studios at 77 Shortmarket, Cape Town, email@example.com, 021 426 2475
“I have been told that as an African, if you can make a really good Lion, then you can call yourself an artist” – Riaan Hanekom.
In South Africa, the story of wire art is very much a human one, starting with children in impoverished areas creating their own toys from debris and garbage. As these children grew, impoverished conditions and lack of skills or opportunities in the formal and informal job sectors meant that many had to generate their own incomes, and wire art took to the streets.
Streetwires, founded in 2000 as a place where talented people could share knowledge and skills, is home to a number of people working together to design, create and market unique wired and bread art and craft, all of it handmade by over 120 permanently employed artists working full time from studios in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
This social entrepreneurial organisation believes that empowering individuals through meaningful work is essential and that sustainable work contributes to growth. The vision of founding members Winston Rangwani and Patrick Schofield has resulted in a successful creative collaboration of people from the professional design, business art and craft worlds.
The 60 students enrolled at each of the organisation’s training studios are taught more than just their craft; equal focus is placed on developing business skills and identifying areas into which they would like to grow.
The shop, showroom and working studio in Cape Town is open to visitors, where they can interact with the artists, and view and purchase anything from a simple key ring to a one-off sculpture. Guided tours are offered for those wishing to learn more about the history of wire art and the skills required to work in this medium. Streetwires also offers interactive wire workshops and team building events.