Archive for October, 2016

Posted on: October 31st, 2016 by Catherine Ronaasen No Comments

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.

Posted on: October 21st, 2016 by Catherine Ronaasen No Comments


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!



Posted on: October 13th, 2016 by Catherine Ronaasen No Comments

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.


Posted on: October 6th, 2016 by Catherine Ronaasen No Comments



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!