Master class: Meet the brains behind the new Pierneef-inspired collection
We chat to Bianca Grobbelaar from Rest Established about a new line of clothes, furniture, jewellery and textiles inspired by SA master Jakob Hendrik Pierneef
With art being such an integral part of our heritage it is wonderful when bright minds celebrate and reinterpret old Masters in a unique and beautiful way. Rest Established, a small photographic and product development company owned by Bianca Grobbelaar, recently launched a collection that commemorates SA artist Jakob Hendrik Pierneef’s masterpieces in a perfect and welcome example. We catch up with Bianca to find out how this wonderful local initiative came about during such turbulent times.
Where did it all start?
I love art and love visiting museums abroad, especially if I can bring something back of a particular artist that I like. I bought myself a pair of Mona Lisa socks at the Kunsthalle in Hamburg in July 2019, and that got me thinking that nowhere in SA can you buy functional art products that are inspired by our masters. I got back and started with product research on SA artists but also products that can be produced locally to support small businesses. It was important for me to get local printers, weavers, knitters, craftsmen and embroiderers involved to make sure that this project will provide work for the underprivileged. It was only in March 2020 that I contacted La Motte museum about their Pierneef collection. A few days later we went into lockdown, but the dream lingered.
What inspired this collection apart from the fact that you love Pierneef paintings? What does the collection consist of?
I love collaborations and with my marketing background I knew that it is always better to work with others who have expertise in their field. Rest Established collaborated with FOUND.Collection, Love that Space, and ZVD Bespoke Jewellery. Together we created clothing (drawstring jackets, tees, socks), furniture (cabinets and small tables), jewellery (brass and glass pendants and brooches, beaded necklaces), and textile items (scatter cushions, knitted blankets and clutch bags) inspired by Pierneef’s paintings and linocuts. I decided to use a lot of his linocuts for the launch.
Black on white is always bold, the contrast is vivid and dramatic, timeless, and powerful. We tried to involve different craftsmen from different backgrounds, because for me it is important to tell a real South African story.
To name just a few examples, the beading of the beaded jewellery are done by ladies in KZN and Khayelitsha, Cape Town; embroidery of labels on tees and scatter cushions are done by ladies in Kayamandi, Stellenbosch; the scatter cushions are made by a lady in Retreat, Cape Town; and Clutch Bags have Shweshwe on the inside and are made by men in Kraaifontein, Cape Town. For the launch I also commissioned artist Michelle Kruger to make a Lego piece of Pierneef’s self-portrait, currently on display with the rest of the products at La Motte Museum.
A big part of the story is to give back. A lot of people know Pierneef’s works but what a lot of people don’t know is that Pierneef was very fond of the different people groups in South Africa. His house in Pretoria is called Pierneef’s Kraal and below is an interesting excerpt from La Motte’s website on the inspiration behind the Kraal buildings:
The inspiration behind the connected buildings placed in the shape of a kraal originated specifically from the Xhosa culture. Referring to other African or indigenous tribes, Pierneef named the land Elangeni ,which in Zulu means ‘in the sun’. An eland motif was carved in the front door wood and above the fireplace an image of an antelope was cast in sandstone. Both these works were executed by Coert Steynberg and were typical of Pierneef’s attraction to San rock art.
At the time that the farm was bought, there were foundations of an earlier indigenous kraal on the land, and Pierneef decided to incorporate these foundations in his own ‘kraal’. The layout of the different buildings created several small patios. Inside these patios Pierneef could make his own gardens, containing some of his favourite species such as shrubs, thorn trees and Kiepersol trees.
I also created an interactive art piece with the artwork, “Willow tree, fountains Valley”. We pixelated/divided the painting into almost 3,000 x 3 x 3cm blocks. You can buy a block for R10 and attach a piece of fabric to the artwork in aid of Aitsa Aftercare in the Dwarsriver Valley in Kylemore, Stellenbosch. The interactive piece is also on display at La Motte Museum.
Why did you choose Pierneef specifically as an artist and can we look forward to more Old Master-inspired products in future?
I visited the Rupert Museum as his station panels was on exhibition and bought myself a small booklet on the life of Pierneef and his work. This inspired me to find out more about his art. It was love at first sight when I visited La Motte Museum and stood in front of his black and white linocuts. I immediately visualised it on a jacket, and it was there that I decided to launch with Pierneef.
Pierneef has such a richness in his work that I am sure he will keep me busy for quite a while, but I am definitely thinking of other artists too.
What do you aim to accomplish and/or communicate with this collection?
My vision is to make art functional and accessible to the public and to educate them on the Masters of South African art. But also, to create jobs for those who are underprivileged.
What were your main challenges during the creation of this collection?
Financing was a big hurdle at first as the whole project got financed out of our own pockets. A week after I saw La Motte in 2020, we went into lockdown, so I had to wait it out. During that time, I did a lot of research on items that I wanted to launch with.
It is also tricky to keep everything local as a lot of our big textile manufacturers closed down during Covid-19.
From sending the first e-mail to the launch at La Motte took two years.
Where can we buy and view the Pierneef collection of furniture and apparel?
From The Voice Collective. All items are currently on display at La Motte Museum and his house, Pierneef’s Kraal, in Pretoria.