In this week’s Lockdown Life I catch up with artist Kristen McClarty, who lives in Kommetjie, Cape Town.
I’ve been interested in eco-printing since I discovered it last year, at a workshop held by ecoprinting artist Ira Bekker at Soil for Life in Constantia. Then I found local eco-printing artist Kristen McClarty and started looking for her label, inyoni (little bird) in local shops. Here I catch up with her to find out how lockdown life has been for her in Kommetjie.
By Kristen McClarty, inyoni
I live on the beach front in Kommetjie, a seaside village outside Cape Town. I live with my husband, Andy, daughter Meghan (at UCT) and son Angus (in matric). And of course Axl – teen staffie and studio assistant.
I grew up in Empangeni in Zululand and went to boarding school from age 12 in Pietermaritzburg, where I also studied B Comm Law. I married Andy a few weeks after my final exams, and then we packed up our worldly possessions and moved to Noordhoek, Cape Town, where he was from. I worked for 13 years in large consulting firms, specialising in Tax Law, resigning in 2010 to concentrate on my family and, as it transpired, my art. I have practised many forms of art and making through my life, and these interests and skills came together in 2019, when I started my textile art brand, inyoni. This brand features eco printed one-off textiles, made up into wearable art and décor items.
When lockdown hit us, my first response was to panic. I really value my freedom to roam and although it’s silly, that’s what worried me the most. I very quickly realised that the risk to our health and economy was dire, and that enabled me to shift from panic to knuckle down mode. Work, varsity and school were suddenly at home and we had to learn to work with each other and help each other manage in uncertain times.
In the few days’ warning we had before lockdown, I did a huge forage for local foliage, which enabled me to eco print flat out for a week or so into lockdown. Since there was no stock going out, I started accumulating a body of work that I hadn’t managed to do before. That progressed naturally to the need for an organised and professional catalogue and then an online studio store, all of which was done during lockdown, from my home. As lockdown progressed, I responded. For instance, I included bed throws in my range when bed linen was considered an essential good. This ability to pivot has enabled my business to continue through lockdown, and allowed me to reposition the brand for the future.
I used routines to get myself through the first bit of lockdown, when I was feeling quite anxious and confined. I took videos of the beach from our home every day, and posted these on Facebook, on my personal page and our community page. This meant a lot to those whose lives normally revolved around the sea and who could no longer get near it. Pretty soon, I had grannies in flats in Joburg and relatives overseas, waiting for their daily dose of Kommetjie and the sea. It gave me some purpose – to share something beautiful every day.
When I realised we could take any transport to buy our essential goods, I started riding my bike and walking to the local shops, making it last as long as possible and taking the slightly longer route. This lifted my spirits and I shared the special things I saw along the way.
My favourite places
Best shopping: Just Foods Deli in Kommetjie – a short ride or walk from my home and purveyors of most of the good things we needed. I am afraid to say I need something every day.
Shopping for certain special things: Foragers at The Village Hub in Scarborough – an exceptionally beautiful drive along the coast to buy the best tomatoes (for the tomato lovers), fresh bread and biscotti to have with our coffee.
Best drive: The one from Kommetjie to Scarborough and back. It was like therapy in the early days. Sometimes we got there and didn’t really need anything and drove slowly back again. It took the weight off my lungs.
Best walk: Through Skilpadsvlei, a green belt close to my home, on the way to the shops in Kommetjie. I so love the open space and the fynbos, the paths criss-crossing the grass, little plants coming up. As soon as we could take our dogs on walks, Axl and I spent some good times exploring, taking photos, dawdling.
Best place to get coffee: Once it was allowed, The Back Door Coffee Club, operating our of Kommetjie Surf shop.
Best place to be: My own home in a very special place, overlooking Long Beach, Kommetjie.
Lockdown day: Since the whole house was working at home, we quickly got into a routine. Wake up early, video the beach and send to the world via social media, take a walk, get a coffee, come home for brekkies, settle into the day of eco printing, printmaking, chores, invigilating school tests and then exams, making masks, keeping safe. Zoom meetings for family birthdays, shopping for my elderly in-laws, plenty of family time that we wouldn’t otherwise have had. Reconnecting.
The world after lockdown: Eventually lockdown will lift but I hope the world won’t be the same. I am hoping that many of us have used the time to reset and recalibrate and reorganise our lives and priorities, so that we can live in a more sustainable way. With less driving, less stress, more time together. Hopefully we have used this time to change our business to accommodate this new reality. A greater reliance on e-commerce and less of being in a specific place, a long drive from home.
We have quietly celebrated a 21st, 47th (me), 50th and we are about to do the same for an 18th. This year has not been what we expected, but it has been one of learning new ways and slowing down and being together.
Lockdown Life is a series that I launched during lockdown. Catch up with Cape Town Eats founder Pamela McOnie, designer Das Lyon, Cape Town Vegan Garth Tavares, Faithjuice owner Joy-Anne Bromilow, Twyg founder Jackie May, The Beach Co-op founder Aaniyah Omardien and UCT multimedia student Stella Hertantyo.