When last were your expectations blown right out of the water!? Well, I recently escaped for a little getaway up to the Northern Freestate on the border of Lesotho – expecting snow, frost and little else – and was more than pleasantly bowled over by a) the raw, desolate beauty of the area, and b) the creative richness of the local arts and crafts.
One of the highlights was a day spent in the quaint town of Clarens close to the Golden Gate National Park, where we scoured vintage shops, art galleries and little homeware boutiques – until we had reinvented “retail therapy”.
There must be something in the air, or water at the very least, because everything in this part of the country appears to be artisanal – from the carved giant beaded necklaces to the stone hearts standing alongside rock angels in every size imaginable, on the side of the road. I have to say (and I did more than once) that I was in heaven!
I simply loved the prominence of the up-cycling culture, which seemed richer than ever in the Freestate. From the old meat cupboard covered in rust for which a small fortune was being asked, to the vintage garments made new with an intricately beaded brooch or floppy flower…or the playgrounds, which were masterfully put together with rusty old tractors or merry go-rounds made of old car parts – ingenuity reached all levels of creative! And it seems reviving the old fetches a tidy sum as people are willing to pay for a little historical adage.
Treasure-hunting most certainly fuels the appetite and a good amount of hearty Freestate fare was enjoyed during my stay. Some of the highlights feature the likes of: some pretty fabulous pizzas, an Eisbein stew, frilly eggs and free range bacon (to die for!), pannekoeke (pancakes) with the traditional accompaniments, delish homemade onion and chilli chutneys, the creamiest cheeses (definitely owing to happy, healthy cows)…and of course far too much red wine! Those that were enjoyed in restaurants or cafes were always artfully presented, and service was always delivered with warmth and a smile.
In fact, the appeal of Clarens for all of the above reasons, reaches far and wide and the little town has become well known for hosting many popular annual cultural festivals including the Harley Davidson Open Road Fest.
Worth a mention, was my coming-of-understanding of the wonder that is encapsulated in the simple iconic image of the windmill, and thanks to my time in the Freestate, I feel that I now finally understand…
The icon of the windmill is relatively flat on paper or fabric, but when standing upright in real life against a backdrop of blue sky that meets a field of wintery white grass – the silhouette is pure romance. And, all I want for Christmas is one in my back garden!
I highly recommend a wholesome injection of crafty culture, which lies waiting for you in abundance up in Clarens, in the Freestate…knock yourself out – I did, and came back inspired!
Written for eat.art by: Nancy Hoepner – Magpie: Creative Marketing, Design and Lifestyle
Mother-of-two delicious girls, lover of food (fine and fast), purveyor of all things pretty and Jill of all things ‘creative’…Nancy has a background in the visual arts, design and marketing and is the owner and Creative Director of Magpie as well as a co-owner and partner of The Magpie and The Owl – Signature Events. Having worked with the eat.art team for some time, she is thrilled to take time out from juggling and add some spice to the eat.art blog. Don’t get us wrong….it’s not that it needs it….it just wants more…and she is happy to oblige.