'Echo' craft bazaar

2008-11-04 00:00

IF you have been hearing rumours that there will be no Echo Craft Bazaar this year — relax. They are not true. The region’s leading craft showcase and Pietermaritzburg’s best Christmas shopping experience will definitely take place, running from December 3 to December 7 in the big hall at Project Gateway (Pietermaritzburg’s old jail) in Pine Street. The venue, which has plenty of safe, off-street parking, is ideal as it ties in with Project Gateway’s new status on the city’s Heritage Route, announced at the end of last week. The opening will be at 6 pm on December 3.

Last year, the Tatham Art Gallery announced that it could no longer be involved in the running of the bazaar — it was time-consuming and took the gallery staff away from the core function of managing an art museum. But finding people with the necessary time and expertise — and access to a suitable space to house the bazaar — proved difficult.

However, two fairy godmothers appeared in the form of Stella Pretorius and Julia Buss of uSisi Designs, a craft company that employs around 30 crafters and is based at Project Gateway. Both women have been involved in the Echo Bazaar in the past and know exactly what is involved.

“Because time is short this year, we are not inviting individual crafters to submit work for selection,” says Buss. “We have invited the people and organisations who we know can deliver.” She explains that having the bazaar in December is good for organised craft groups, most of whom work to order. Christmas is obviously a busy time, but, by November, the big orders have been filled, and they have the capacity to produce the decorative and gift items that make the bazaar such a success.

The craft industry is facing challenges — after all, in a time of recession, they are making things that people do not really need. And, even though the government has given craft and crafters quite a lot of backing, imports from the Far East and China are putting a huge strain on local craft, says Pretorius. “There are very few craft shops around that sell 100% South African craft,” she says. “The temptation for them to go to the trade shows and get stuff from China is huge.” Chinese labour is cheap, and the Chinese buy local craft and copy it, then send it back to the South African market. It is always worth checking to see where the label says a craft piece has been made.

But at the Echo Bazaar, all the items are South African, with 90% of them being sourced in KwaZulu-Natal. On sale will be bead work, fabric items, Zulu dolls, wire and scoobie wire pieces, brass work, pots — including some from the Magwaza family — ceramics and grass work.

So whether it is small gifts that can be posted, or big, showy items, the Echo Craft Bazaar will have them all. This is one shopping experience not to be missed.

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