Lauren is spreading her wings


Not so long ago Lauren sat us down to let us know she had accepted an exciting new opportunity to head up a new hotel retail market which launches early next year.

When a person is such a valuable and unforgettable part of the history of Streetwires, it is really hard to even start thinking how to put into words a retrospect of the value they have added.

Lauren’s journey with Streetwires is probably one of the longest, as she has been working with us basically from the very beginning. Some of the longest-standing team-members here pin down her start to 2003. I got to start working with her in 2008 when she returned after a couple of years away. While I sit here thinking how to make a short blog post of a lifetime of memories, so many things start popping up. With Lauren around there was always so much laughter, many jokes, much teamwork in times of stress – and beautiful products, so many beautiful products.

For me, Lauren’s most amazing talent of many (and which will be her biggest legacy here), is her gift for product development and design. She has a natural creativity and eye for trend and is able to translate this very well into reality in conjunction with the sample team. Through her guidance, the quality and variety of designs has increased in leaps and bounds. This was especially noticeable after my return here after 6 years.

Lauren has headed up the most challenging sales portfolio, which we call ‘Corporate and Custom’ – translating all the bespoke requests into product mainly for the corporate market. The growth in this demanding portfolio is testament to her talents, and she leaves huge shoes to fill here.

The other thing that stands out about Lauren is her passion for the business as a whole, and most especially for the people at the heart of it – the artists. Lauren has personally hosted parties for interns, for artists, cooked for, mentored, helped with family issues and illnesses, and even led some excursions for the artists over the years. If she wasn’t selling up a storm or designing something extraordinary, then the team knew Lauren had their back.

That is why we decided to interview some people she has worked closely with, to convey just how we have valued having her here. We started with the sample team, the group of artists she worked the most closely with. (They are also a little shy, so they chose to do a consolidated tribute 🙂 )

Favourite memory: ‘She had nice jokes all the time, everyday she came up with something new that made us laugh.’

The value she has added: ‘She made new ideas work.’

Their farewell words to her: ‘We wish you success in all you are going to do after Streetwires.’

Then, an excerpt from other team-members:-


Lauren has a good memory of every product, good relationships with the clients, great ideas for custom made products and also really funny nice jokes.

I wish her all the best at the new place, and hope that she will not forget Streetwires. Lauren knows that Nobs loves her so much.’


‘I am going to miss her great input at Streetwires. I wish her all the best and that she knows that Streetwires will always be her family.’


‘Lauren is always fun to be with. She has good ideas for the sales department, good ideas for the decor for the store, and good ideas for the new stock. I’m hoping that she has a lot of fun at her new work and hope that she will also make the people over there happy.’


‘She is always on focus and has a good vision for Streetwires and works efficiently. Good luck wishes, Lauren, for your new job and hope you will be enjoying life.’


These few words are just a drop in the ocean, and we can’t thank her enough – but we wish her so much success, luck and fun with her new role.

An appropriate Xhosa farewell would be ‘Hamba Kakuhle Sisi’ (Go well, sister), but it seems too final to say this as we know we will still be seeing and hearing from Lauren regularly. After all, Lauren IS Streetwires, and she always will be.

Introducing Citizen



We have been so lucky to have crossed paths with an extraordinary artist, with an extraordinary story, and even more extraordinary talents.

What makes it even more amazing is that Citizen is a beader. If you know anything about wire & bead art, you will know that the men normally focus on the wire armature, while the beading is reserved for the ladies.

With a tertiary education in Fine-Art, Citizen has broken stereotypes and discovered a passion for ‘painting with beads’.

Citizen’s story is an interesting one. Let’s meet the man behind some amazing gallery pieces that we will be auctioning soon.

Having studied extensively, Citizen’s academic background spans both Fine Art and Chef School. In the end, art won, as Citizen says he met his wife at Chef-School and soon realized that a marriage can only have one chef, so he decided to refocus on art instead.

 Citizen’s academic achievements didn’t come easily. Suffering from anxiety, he dropped out of college for a little while. During this time, he really struggled to find work, so he decided to help his mom out in her business. He never actually knew what his mother did for a living. He just knew that the family was always provided for. He found out soon enough when he joined her. His mother owns a very successful funeral parlour, and Citizen spent much time working there. Art started calling again, and he returned to college to complete his course, still helping his mother after hours. Citizen is now a fully-fledged artist who has found his niche, and we are so glad we have connected.

Citizen finds he is most inspired with designing patterns for his beadwork, having no boundaries, and being able to see where the process takes him – and to make any changes or adjustments to his patterns as part of the process. His favourite work-space is in his garage, where he locks himself in for some quiet, creative time.

Citizen is also very much a family man, with 2 daughters, and a son on the way. He likes to let his wife to plan the family activities, but he really enjoys baking, visiting museums, and singing and dancing with his family.

We will unveil some of his work in a follow-up post, where we are planning an auction of his one-off gallery pieces, but for now we wanted you to meet this amazing man.

It’s all about the people – Cath’s series of favourite stories – Part 1

Over the years, we have had some incredible requests, some incredibly funny moments, and worked with some amazing partners. As I have missed some of these moments in my absence, I gathered the team, to ask for a ‘top 5 list’. I did plan to shoot off a quick blog with all of them, but on gathering pics, I realized this was impossible. The only way to do the memories justice was to create a series of stories…. That way I can also savour the feel-good goosebump moments myself as I write!

Part 1. All aboard

As many of you may know, we don’t only create and sell the best wire and bead handmade craft this side of, well the universe – but our principle artists also offer workshops to anyone interested in learning a bit more / having a bit of team-building / birthday / hen party / book club fun – or for tour groups wanting to make their own gift to take home.

Sometimes, these workshops take our artists off site, mostly to some interesting spots, and once on a cruise-liner. To Mauritius!

Artwell Munenura, our principle sample artist (he deals with bespoke requests and cost estimates and constant interruptions from the sales-team), and Jethro Mare, all-round solid talent, in-house comedian, and the one and only grandmaster of the beaded gecko were invited onboard the MSC Rotterdam on it’s Voyage to Mauritius, to keep the guests entertained with wire-art workshops.

Not only was this a fantastic ‘trip-of-a-lifetime’ for Artie and Jethro, but the passengers enjoyed the workshops and the advice from Artwell, and the jokes from Jethro so much – that our two hero’s were apparently literally mobbed at breakfast every single morning for more help and design ideas!

Here are some of my favourite pics from the voyage. As for Artie and Jethro – they are hoping for another experience like that, so we’re holding thumbs for another opportunity!



We might be moving

Across the road….

So, with some big plans for the block that has been our home for the last 14 years, and some uncertainty as to whether our building will be affected (77 Shortmarket Street is a Heritage Building, and has not been sold to the developers by our landlord at the time of writing this), we have decided to make some contingency plans in the event that we will either lose the building – or that construction will mean that we have to vacate for a period, or more permanently.

While the development itself is highly controversial due to the historical charm of the area, (and anyone that knows what packing is like knows that moving is not fun) – we’re keeping an open mind as change is very often a good thing and it may be fun to create some new memories in a fresh space. After all, any creative loves a blank canvas!

Here’s some info about the actual development: (Please note, it has been difficult to find an article to share with you that is not heated in some way, as the development is a sensitive matter to residents that have lived in this historical area for generations. The opinions in this article do not represent or reflect in any way any opinions of Streetwires. We simply just wait, and plan for all outcomes, to keep the best interests of our business top of mind.) A reference is made to our little home though: Brummer said “careful consideration” had been given to working around a small property which its owner, Cecily Blumberg, did not want to sell.’ It is important to mention that both the developers, and Ms Blumberg have been incredibly helpful and accomodating with us throughout the process, and it was in fact Ms Blumberg who has shown us an alternative option if needed.

So through this, we have already found a new space, which we are thinking about – literally across the road from where we are now, next to our favourite Italian mechanic Tony, (who we still somehow want to hear swearing into the engines of vintage cars!)

While the space is currently a maze of strange rooms (You need a GPS to find your way out), and a storage place for car tyres (great ambience, and rubber smell hmmm), it has loads of natural light for a new artist studio, handy dispatch area for those boxes and boxes of wire art that travel across the globe, plus ramp access from street level for visitors (no more stairs, yay!), so it looks like a great option for us.

There’s going to be a lot of work to be done, as a tyre storage facility does not make for great interior décor, or building layout – but hopefully with the right help (perhaps some interior design / layout students, flooring and paint samples, dry-walling heavies – hint, hint), we’ll have something amazing to open up for a First Thursday early next year.

So, while we wait to hear more (development is due to start around February 2017), we thought you’d enjoy looking at a collection of some moments, memories and the gradual transformation of 77 Shortmarket in all the years we’ve filled the space with laughter, music, beads, braais, life-size lions, tour groups, and kilometres of wire.

How to get the most out of your brief


At some stage of our lives, we will either be on the receiving end of a brief, or giving one. Creative briefs are special little beasts of their own – mainly because when dealing with a creative, one sometimes takes that word literally, or sometimes one is unsure exactly of all the detail necessary to effectively communicate what it is that you’re needing.

To give you some examples, here are some things that can possibly go wrong when instructions are a little vague.

Briefing disasters


Perhaps it’s good to check how your logo will behave on a new item before you sign off production.

Perhaps it’s good to check how your logo will behave on a new item before you sign off production.

Always good to brief the designer of the direction that the item must face.

Always good to brief the designer of the direction that the item must face.

Be as specific as possible. With briefs, instructions will always be taken literally.

Be as specific as possible. With briefs, instructions will always be taken literally.

When it comes to effective briefing, visual references and written instructions are always appreciated. While doing some research, we did have a good giggle at some of the instructions that drive creatives mad…

What not to say in your brief

You’re creative, you figure it out.

I’m not sure. Try something else.

Try a more powerful colour.

It’s not wow enough.

 Make it pop.


So, how do you get the most of the briefing process?

Have a budget in mind

Know your budget for the project, or per product. With the cost of raw materials, plus the time needed to execute, having an idea of the price-point you are looking for really helps when putting something together. Be as specific you can with the budget. If you give too large a range, this can cause an overheating of heads trying to work out if you want cheap or high-end, detailed or simple, etc.

Use references but not rip offs

With the information you are giving on your brief, visual references / CAD drawings / colour-swatches / googled images, etc are received with open arms. Be careful to keep your references original – don’t make one creative copy another creatives’ work (that’s a no-no in the underworld of original work and respect for artistry), rather give some strong guidance and direction in terms of what you want – and of course an idea of size will also help prevent any surprises later!

 Clear OCD instructions

 What can I say here? The more detail, the better. If something needs to be 17.31cm exactly with 3 and a half rows of red beads, then rather write a thesis of instructions than end up with something that is slightly out of what you wanted. Most of the time, you, the person tasked with briefing the creative have in turn probably been briefed by someone else (a client or a boss), and we want you to be the hero by wowing them with what you have sourced – so be detailed with your instructions, we certainly love that very much!



Cath Returns

I’m Back!



A series of amazing events, starting with me bringing a government official to Streetwires on my birthday, led to a lunch a couple of weeks later with Lauren, followed by a coffee-chat with Riaan, and next thing here I am back at my desk at Streetwires! (well, a different desk, but nonetheless!)

After spending the 6 years since I left Streetwires learning and honing digital and online skills, it just made total sense for me to come back and (hopefully) add value with these skills. I’m here part-time, as my career journey has taken me on an entrepreneurial path too – but it’s wonderful to be here again!

Coming back after all this time, I’ve noticed a lot of changes – and welcomed the familiarity of some things which have remained the same! For anyone who has experienced Streetwires, I hope one or two of these will bring a smile:-

One of my favourite memories from before I left.

One of my favourite memories from before I left.

While I was away, the graffiti in the area became less accidental, and more artistic.

While I was away, the graffiti in the area became less accidental, and more artistic.














 So what has changed then?


The inside of the building – The shop is now downstairs, as is the welding workshop of Netshomi Zam. Upstairs, you’ll be greeted by the artists’ studio, the worker-bees, the admin team… (and even Riaan and his new recliner). There’s even a new, bigger kitchen with a coffee machine! The sample team now sits with the sales-team, which makes total sense (even though the sample artists turn the radio up when the sales team nags too much).

New faces – Bernadette, in accounts, is a new face for me – but a wonderful one at that! More efficiency, team-ethic and super-dooper friendliness I have not seen in a bean-counter ever before. It’s lovely to be back to be able to work with her.

Products – Well, after 6 years, it’s to be expected – but there’s so many new and amazing products to catalogue, and that’s precisely one of the things I’m busy with. It always blows my mind what can be done with some wire, a few beads and a pair of pliers.

No neighbours – With some development plans for the block we’re in, Carol Boyes has moved a few streets down. This, however does not mean there’s more parking available now (see what hasn’t changed, below!).


And what hasn’t?


The artists still call Riaan ‘Madala’ (Old man) – enough said, poor guy!

Tony – Those who know the colourful Italian mechanic from across the road with the even more colourful vocabulary (the one who can shout at a traffic cop and flirt with a lady at the same time), will be pleased to know he’s still in top form, and still stealing all the free parking in the greater Bo-Kaap area.

The technology – I’m pleased to say that the ‘spindle’ or ‘bead machine’ is still a favourite gadget with the beading ladies. For those that aren’t familiar, this gadget comprises a wire frame, a Tupperware bowl of sorts, and an empty pen casing. You’ll have to visit to find out more.

Other technology – We still have ‘The S Drive’ and ‘The Database’ – (both reverently mysteriously named labyrinths of servers, and admin/costing/recipe/CRM systems where files and photos are saved in such a way that even the FBI would have problems finding a keyring image).

Laughter and fun – Everyone still works hard, and plays hard here. The vibe is still fun, light and happy. This definitely charges my batteries after all this time. And Riaan sometimes shares his beers with me at the end of a productive week.

‘Flops’ – Products that are not up-to-scratch in terms of quality or technique are still called ‘flops’ by the more experienced artists; beaded animals sometimes have no eyes, and the odd thing gets done upside down – but with an environment of mentorship, we are all here to help and guide and that’s why I love this place.

Spot the beading machine!

Spot the beading machine!

It’s good to be back, and with an interesting time ahead – with some building development plans that I touched on earlier, we may have to look at leaving this building behind at some point. 77 Shortmarket is a heritage building, but we are still uncertain as to what the bigger plans are when the developers start next year. While we prepare to possibly pack all our memories and create new ones, we are looking for some options in terms of office, studio and shop space. If anyone knows anyone who knows someone who knows a place, give us a shout!


And come and visit, I’d love to see some more familiar faces.


Streetwires studio



Nothing is better than seeing everyone busy.


Artistic Expression



They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – unless you’re an artist trying to make a living that is…


With wire-art being endemic to Southern Africa, there are so many talented wire-artists around. Along with such creative talent also comes the pressure to sell – and a lot of artists take inspiration from what products are selling well elsewhere, to make a living. With a substantial (upfront) cash investment into raw materials that artists have to make in order to be able to create pieces, one does understand the urgency and pressure to find and create that ‘winning’ design that the market is currently hungry for. Sometimes, unfortunately this often happens in reverse with client requests, reinforcing a message that copying instead of creative expression is okay.

Here at Streetwires, we sometimes get requests to copy a sample that a client has purchased or photographed elsewhere. This is something we politely decline to do, as we take the ‘art part’ of wire-art very seriously and believe inspiration, signature and style is unique to each crafter, or group – and prefer to develop the quality and art side of the craft. We also like to encourage our artists to come up with new ideas or interpretations on a theme to keep our offering fresh.

What really is fascinating as part of this process is to see everyone’s unique ‘signature’ or understanding of a new idea presented to them. Let’s dive in and see what we mean about art and interpretation. Maybe this will inspire you to explore and try something new!

Here is a digital idea sketch that came from a client brief.


Here are the interpretations from 3 different artists.

 streetwires-bonsai-tree-bead-and-wire-detail streetwires-bonsai-tree-bead-and-wire-example-2 streetwires-bonsai-tree-bead-and-wire-example-1

And here’s the final approved product.


They are all true-to-brief, and all magnificent, but definitely show how many different styles and ideas that come from creative crafters.

I think this gives a good example of how one can put their own twist on something. Be it in the style, technique, or raw materials used.

So never forget, as an artist brainstorming some product development, there are so many subjects of inspiration around – just a walk, or listening to a song, looking at a magazine, or watching people in a taxi can bring some amazing ideas.. Also feel free to research what is working out there (a good example is the fact that each season brings a new colour palette trend – go and look at the lastest paint swatches in a hardware store for ideas). If one wants to rejuvenate a product range that may have stagnated, a great way to do this is to try a few pieces out in the new season colours. You may just be surprised!

And saying that, as a customer, it is one’s responsibility to encourage creative interpretation and not to commission artists to copy other people’s work. Make sure you always go directly to the source. If cost is an issue, speak to the artist. There may be different ways (or materials) to create the product cheaper. This is something we always accommodate at Streetwires, with careful consideration to paying a fair wage for that piece.

And if you have a new idea for a commission, don’t be scared to share it – everyone creative likes to try something new, and the best way is via collaboration. It’s the only way to keep this art alive. We for one would be very happy to help!