Drawing from the heart of Cape Town: in studio with Lauren Fowler

As one of Cape Town’s most well known illustrators and graphic designers, Lauren Fowler’s artful illustrations and designs have launched her into the realm of children’s books. Her first, Florence and Watson and the Sugarbush Mouse – a collaborative project conceptualised as a play – tells a delightful South African story about a little mouse called Petal trying to find her way in the world. She shares more about her craft and her creative process.

I’m an illustrator, graphic designer and thing maker. My illustration style is all hand drawn, naive, friendly and detailed. I really love drawing animal fur and patterns. My art prints are a little more serious and artful and my smaller prints are more decorative and cute.

I have a lovely studio at the Woodstock Foundry in Woodstock (the gritty inner city neighbourhood on the border of Cape Town’s city centre). There is a wall that curves with four sash windows and it’s my favourite part of my studio because I get the most amazing natural light. The original building of the Woodstock Foundry is very old and my floor tilts to one side, which I love. Besides all my creative neighbours and my studio, one of my favourite things about the Woodstock Foundry is the courtyard. When the hub first launched, little seedlings were planted and now four years later the courtyard is an explosion of green. It’s a little oasis in the industrial heart of Woodstock.

I write all my ideas down in my diary or into my phone. Ideas are tricky because they could be really great, or not really transpire into illustration properly. They also seem to have a time limit – sometimes if I don’t get onto something fast enough, the ideas seem stale to me and then I reject them. It’s finding a balance, the energy and excitement that an idea gives you and then channeling that into an image. Basically like alchemy!

Once I’ve formed my ideas onto paper using my trusty clutch pencil and inked with my techincal pen, I scan them, move things around in Photoshop, perhaps add some colour and send to print. My biggest achievement last year was the children’s book Florence and Watson and the Sugarbush Mouse, on which I collaborated with comedian and actor Rob Van Vuuren, director Danielle Bischoff and producer Siv Ngesi. I am so proud of it and my heart shines every time I see a child reading it.

Learn the art of yoga through meditation in Cape Town

Jason McNamara, known as Jay Mac, is a well-loved, heavily tattooed figure in the local yoga scene. Along with his wife Michelle, he heads AIR Yoga & Meditation Atelier, one of Cape Town’s most successful yoga studios. Located in the trendy hipster suburb of Woodstock, on the border of the city centre, the studio offers Jivamukti and Ashtanga yoga classes. Jay Mac tells how it all came about.

Devotional chanting—or Kirtan as it is known in Sanskrit—is not something I ever imagined I’d be in to. As a kid I grew up yearning to go to Sunday school like all the “normal kids”, but my parents weren’t that way inclined. Fast-forward to 2011 and I’m in a state euphoria. I’m in a Yoga Shala in Ubud (Bali, Indonesia), surrounded by what appear to be Krishna devotees, and we’re chanting to the Hindu deity Ganesh!

“What? This is crazy! How’d I get here? Who am I? What is this feeling?” These were the thoughts running through my head.

My wife, Misch Mac, had convinced me to take a break from my highly stressed career as a creative director and business owner and join her in Bali for a yoga retreat—albeit after some resistance from my side. That was the first step in the journey that transformed my life forever.

Fast forward to December 2013. After three years of intensive training, studying and gaining a further advanced qualification in the Jivamukti yoga method, my wife and I landed in Cape Town, broke and uncertain of what the future held for us.

The power of this thing we call “yoga” in the West revealed to us our next step: AIR Yoga & Meditation Atelier was the calling.

We were offered a permanent teaching slot and ownership of the studio alongside some of Cape Town’s finest teachers—Jim Harrington, Neal Shail, Vanessa Jaich and Jill King, to name a few. We jumped at the opportunity and invested all of our time and energy into spreading the global message of Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu, meaning “Love and compassion for all beings”, as the driving principle behind the Jivamukti yoga method.

So what makes our yoga studio different in Cape Town? We chant. We support a vegan lifestyle for the wellness of all. We take pride in our music playlists. We theme each class and yoga asana sequence according to a dharma talk, purpose or intention. We teach with a sense of humour. But most importantly, we teach the art of yoga through meditation.

Neighbourgoods Market — Cape Town’s most famous food market

Want a taste of Cape Town’s booming food markets? The Saturday market at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock should be your first stop.

Food markets are flourishing in Cape Town, and every weekend hungry locals and tourists flock to wonderful food markets across the city to pick up fresh produce from local farmers, meet food producers turning out artisanal products, and settle in for a lazy Saturday morning of fine food and (perhaps) a little wine.

The Neighbourgoods Market in the Old Biscuit Mill precinct in the vibrant suburb of Woodstock is perhaps the most famous Saturday market in Cape Town – and well worth a visit if you can stand the crowds.

If you can’t, get there by 08h30. Either way you’ll find a market with a split personality. Upfront is a dizzying array of fresh produce, from leafy greens to locally grown mushrooms to raw-milk cheeses.

Hungry visitors head for the back, with food stalls selling Alsace-style pizza, craft beer and chunky steak sandwiches worthy of your hangover. Take your pick.

Don’t forget that Cape Town markets mostly operate on cash, although a few vendors accept payment via the smartphone app SnapScan, which app allows you to process card payments by simply scanning a QR code. It’s becoming widely used in Cape Town, so worth installing if you’re visiting.

Old print press turned into one of the city’s hippest design hubs

As the newest development to accommodate Cape Town’s vibrant design and entrepreneurial start-ups, Mason’s Press in Woodstock is bursting with creative energy and raw talent.

Lower Wooodstock has always been an industrialised neighbourhood, with factories and workshops servicing Cape Town’s textile, food, beverage and clothing industries. Many of these older buildings, like the Old Castle Brewery and the Old Biscuit Mill, have been rejuvenated by savvy investors and developers over the years.

Mason’s Press is no different, having been given new life from its previous incarnation as an old industrial centre that housed a printing press.

The developers kept the industrial look of the original three-storey building, but updated it by including an element of playfulness. This is evident walking through the different zones, where art and graffiti murals, colourful outdoor furniture, decorative tiles and bright licks of paint, jump at you when you least expect it.

This playful theme is extended to the enclosed pedestrian walkway, with outdoor lamps and benches placed along it. Surrounding the walkway are artisanal food and beverage shops such as Baseline Coffee, Skinny Juice Company and Moro Gelato, amongst others. This is a sought-after launch and event venue, and the communal hub where patrons, store and business owners mingle.

There is a strong sense of community amongst the designers, creative agencies and businesses at Mason’s Press. They include well-known furniture designer Haldane Martin, interior decorator Sarah Ord, beautifully designed mid-century modern furniture brand Birba Funiture; and local and artful textile designers Black Fabrics.

Other interesting businesses on the premises include My Green Love Affair, a wedding and event co-ordination company dedicated to minimal waste and reducing carbon footprints, and natural local beauty product manufacturers BOTANē Skin Actives.

Wandering through the hallways sipping on a freshly pressed juice, looking into the various studios, ateliers, workshops and offices and knowing that this is where Cape Town’s design and entreprenuerial stars of tomorrow are honing their craft is eye-opening, invigorating and most of all, inspiring.

Small centre, big design ideas: welcome to the Woodstock Foundry

Proving the saying that dynamite comes in small packages, one of the smallest design hubs in Cape Town features some of the biggest names in Cape Town design.

Behind the picturesque façade of a heritage building that is over 100 years old, the Woodstock Foundry is home to a handful of creative studios and retail shops of some of the city’s most talked about design and artistic talent.

When you enter through the parking area you arrive at an unassuming alleyway that leads to a quaint cobbled courtyard lined with a treasure trove of design, jewellery and furniture showrooms and stores. These include well-known local furniture designer John Vogel, jewellery brand Dear Rae and Bronze Age, a design and art studio that specialises in the casting of bespoke bronze pieces.

Up the stairway you’ll find some inspiring studio spaces: Indigi Designs specialises in locally made home décor products; Casamento make creative seating solutions that are eco-conscious and employ handcrafted upholstery techniques; and Smart Art, a digital printing company that will bring your most vivid imagery to life in home and office wallpaper, canvas art or fabric — if you want to do something original with your Cape Town photographs, here’s where to come.

Next to the quaint main building is an annexe that houses the resident coffee shop, Tribe Coffee. And like most of the coffee shops worthy of mention in Cape Town, they roast their own beans and are serious about their craft. Across the hallway is one of Cape Town’s, if not South Africa’s, most loved botanical design and hanging garden specialists, Opus Studio, founded and run by Marissa Pretorius, who hosts regular workshops on botanical design.

The Woodstock Foundry is a hotspot for interesting and unique South African design. The businesses here are a tightly knit community who regularly come together to host events and markets at the venue.

The Field Office meets all my coffee quirks

Coffee culture is big in Cape Town and you’ll find artisan roasters all over. But Matthew Ibbotson, publisher of web-based food magazine ‘Crush Online’, likes to start the day with a latte at his local.

I really like going to The Field Office in Woodstock. I live in the area, so it’s sort of my local coffee shop a few streets from home.

Most importantly, of course, they serve really good coffee alongside a few baked goods. They do a really good carrot cake here, too.

The Field Office is also a great spot because it combines a bit of designer style with casual Woodstock creativity. It combines the quirky designer style of owners and interior designers Pedersen+Lennard, with the works of local artists.

The furniture and décor is very cool and a lot of people go there to work because they have free Wi-Fi. On the pavement you’ll find small circular tables on concrete pillars for people to have a coffee outside. It’s a real neighbourhood hangout.

The Woodstock Exchange is a hub for local creativity and design

As Cape Town’s urban showpiece for design, innovation and entrepreneurship, the Woodstock Exchange is abuzz with a creative energy that is as infectious as it is inspiring.

The Woodstock Exchange is everything the name implies. Set in Albert Road in Cape Town’s hippest creative neighbourhood, Woodstock, it’s all about exchange – contributing and building towards Cape Town’s creative community. Fondly referred to as the WEX, the Woodstock Exchange is a place where creativity is the currency and where the sharing of knowledge, ideas and the act of networking inform the day-to-day running of businesses.

What makes this hub stand out is that it was one of Cape Town’s first such design and creative hotspots, with the retail component structured around the French concept of ‘the atelier’. Ground floor shops all have a workshop or studio joined to them so that visitors can see the designers and craftsmen in action, giving equal focus to the finished product and its creation.

The shops here comprise some of the most sought after emerging local brands in the furniture, fashion and product design industries such as furniture shops Eleven Past, Saks Corner, Pedersen and Lennard and Dark Horse, as well as lifestyle accessory shops Wolf & Maiden, Revolution Skateboards, Ballo, Urban Africa and Chapel, amongst others.

Aside from the designer retail offering, the contemporary restaurants and cafés –Superette, Rosetta Coffee, Field Office, Honest Chocolate, Lady Bonham’s Tea Parlour and Starling and Hero, amongst others – all look like they’ve been styled for a magazine editorial. The best part, though, is the influx of the creatives from entrepreneurial businesses, design studios, innovation hubs and creative start ups, whose offices, work spaces and workshops fill the upper three levels of the Woodstock Exchange. They set the tone for the creative energy around and make “people watching” a treat for anyone looking for inspiration.

The Pot Luck Club

Woodstock, Cape Town has become the new artistic hub of the Mother City, its food being no stranger to art. The Old Biscuit Mill is home to many of these incredible dining experiences and one of them is The Pot Luck Club. Its edgy, new age, yet relaxed environment provides the perfect Capetonian atmosphere which has ensured it fills to capacity throughout low and high seasons, and the restaurant manages its 120 guests with ease and smiles, making sure that patrons always return for more. The cuisine itself goes hand in hand with the name Luke Dale Roberts, whose right hand man, Wesley Randles is the Head Chef at the Pot Luck Club. Wesleys manner is that of “We simply want people to come and enjoy fun interesting food in a cool space”. Continue reading “The Pot Luck Club”

La Bottega, a special gem full of Specials

Woodstock, the “Hipster Heaven” nestled between Table Bay and the base of Devil’s Peak,is Cape Town’s oldest suburb and has fast become one of the greatest creative hubs in the Mother City. With scatterings of miniature malls, markets, delectable coffee shops, restaurants and boutiques, this area offers a variety of cultural sites from a highly diverse community. The contemporary décor of these locations is as varied as the people who frequent them. One of these incredible destinations is a distinguished restaurant, nicknamed ‘the little gem of Buchanan Square’. La Bottega literally means: “little neighbourhood shop of the little bite” – however, there is nothing little about this largely amazing location, constantly filled with new and exciting specials to keep the regular customers coming back– and the new customers coming back as regulars.

Continue reading “La Bottega, a special gem full of Specials”

The Old Biscuit Mill

Nestled in the heart of Woodstock, lies one of the more enthralling artistic hubs of Cape Town. With a wide range of day and night markets, grandly dynamic office space, myriad designer stores, divinely delicious restaurants as well as an epic lineup of festivals, events and captivating productions.

Continue reading “The Old Biscuit Mill”