Makers Making A Difference: Nicky of Love Milo

After spending a morning with the lovely Nicky Ellis at Love Milo‘s studio in Cape Town, I was compelled to get to know her better and share this authentic creative’s beautiful brand. It was a festive event that marked the launch of the brand’s latest range: ceramics, accessories and wallpaper with beautiful magnolias that add vivid pops of colour to their traditional black-and-white palette. With pink drinks, Turkish Delight, and the most amazing macaroons EVER, we were even more smitten with Love Milo. During our chat, Nicky tells me about her passions, inspiration, and love for nature.

Turkish Delight and Flowers

Shop Love Milo homeware, accessories and wallpaper online here!


Nicky Ellis of Love Milo

Q: When did you start Love Milo, and why?

Nicky: I studied cinematography and worked as a photographer and a film colourist for about six years. I thought it was going to be a very creative job, but I just ended up making things look how everyone else wanted me to make them look. And often it didn’t look nice to me, but then I’d have to put the work out anyway. That started getting to me! It didn’t feel authentic, and it didn’t feel like the kind of a path I wanted to follow.

Then when I fell pregnant with my first child, Milo, I got this sense that I wanted to make my own things. That motivated me to leave my job to make things I love and then hope for the best! Which of course, thinking back now, is a ridiculous thing to do when you’re pregnant! I’ve always done ceramics, and so I rented a studio, and I started making plates. I used my photographs and turned them into more graphic elements to add to my ceramics. That was seven years ago, and Love Milo grew from there!


Q: You’re obviously creative and artistic but what else are you truly passionate about and how does that translate into your work?

Nicky: I’m very passionate about photography. My mom’s also a photographer and an artist, so art and photography are the things I’m most passionate about. That and nature. I spend a lot of time on our farm in Namibia, and that’s actually where the first design, the branch design, came from. We’ve got a big old dead tree outside our house set against this beautiful desert backdrop.

Love Milo Magnolia Cup

Q: You’ve featured a lot of insects in your previous designs. Were those also originally your photographs?

Nicky: Yes, because what makes me really excited is imperfect lines that I find in nature. Lines in wings, in leaves, in branches; there are these beautiful patterns which are not something that you could get on a computer. They’re imperfect, but there’s something so magical about these shapes and lines. I find that whenever I walk outdoors, I look for things that have pretty patterns and shapes. Sometimes even my son will bring me dead things that he thinks should be my next design! The dragonfly design came from one of the insects he brought for me.


Q: Do you have a favourite project or a favourite design up to date?

Nicky: I think my first design, the branch, will always be my favourite because it was the birth of the company. It’s like the symbol of where I came from and how it began. Everything else is special and stays special for a while before I move to the next thing, but the branch will always be the anchor of the company. It holds a deeper place in my heart.

The branch is also the one design that no matter how much time goes by, everyone still wants. It’s become quite symbolic of Love Milo.


Q: Tell me about your new magnolia range.

Nicky: Our look for Love Milo has always been black and white. I wanted to maintain that look, but I also wanted to start incorporating colour a bit. So, I played around with different flowers. I love flowers, and I’ve been dying to use flowers in my designs. I thought about doing pressed flowers because a lot of my designs come from things that stir up nostalgic memories for me and I used to press flowers as a child. But it still wasn’t quite right. And then I found the magnolia. The branch of the magnolia fits so nicely with the Love Milo graphic branch, and the colour is just so special. It works well because it’s not too different from what we’ve been doing, but it brings in some colour through the blossoms.

Love Milo Magnolia Bag

Q: And challenges with this new range?

Nicky: The challenges mostly were the colour. When red is fired in the kiln, it changes a lot. Getting the ink ratio right took me months! Every time I would fire it, the purple would come out blue, or it would come out grey.


Q: Any big plans for your business over the next 12 months?

Nicky: We are busy moving more into the online space, and so we’re launching our new website towards the end of the year. Our main focus for the moment is just developing our online store.


Q: Are you also working on a new range already or you’re taking a break from that for a while to see how this one goes?

Nicky: I’ll probably start working on a new range in about a month. Once the new online side of things is stable, I’ll work on the next thing. Because I play so many roles in the company, I don’t have the luxury of doing just design. I have more time now to do design because I’ve got people doing some of the other things, but I still do 4 or 5 people’s jobs! I photograph the products, I run the website, upload all the products, and do the marketing. So, in between, I have to find time to be creative as well. I have to structure it in a way where I can fit everything in without one aspect of the business losing momentum.

When I started, I was doing everything. I was invoicing on Photoshop because that’s how much I knew about accounting! Luckily, I don’t do that anymore. But like any business owner, I’m still picking up lots of other jobs in between.


Q: What advice do you have for people also wanting to start their own small online business or design business?

Nicky: I would say be prepared not to make money for a while. Have a salary set aside for yourself because it takes a while to start turning a profit. And then, as your business grows, you have to put more cash in, so it takes a while.

The other thing I would say is don’t go too big too soon. Grow it organically, starting with just a few products. See what works, and then you grow from there. Don’t buy loads of equipment; get the bare minimum, and when that has paid for itself, you invest in the next thing. We tend to think we need a lot more than we actually do. Keep your costs to the bare minimum in the beginning. Take your own photographs, do your own website, try and take on as much as you can until you’re in a place where you can spend more. Otherwise, you shoot yourself in the foot.

Love Milo Floral Display

Q: Your husband is also in the business with you, how do you manage that work-life relationship?

Nicky: I’m very lucky that Matt is the opposite of me. He’s more left-brain thinking and systematic than me. So, the side of the business which I’m terrible at like the accounts, the managing of stock and the crossing of the “t’s”, he’s taken over. That’s a huge burden off my shoulders because it’s something I don’t like doing. So, it’s a nice symbiotic relationship because he enjoys that aspect and I enjoy mine, and we don’t step on each other’s toes.

Also working together in the company means that we’re both sharing the profit and we’re building something together, which is very nice.


Q: You have two other kids as well?

Nicky: Yeah, I’ve got three children. Milo is the eldest, Phoenix is my daughter, and then Mason is my baby.

Milo loves the brand, and he loves reminding everyone that he has a company named after himself. Phoenix often asks why she doesn’t have one, so I’ll have to do a range for her at some point, and I’ll have to call it Love Phoenix or something! And Mason is still too young, but I am sure he will catch on at some point as well.


Q: And then lastly, anything that you’re proud of in your business?

Nicky: We have been asked to exhibit at New York Now for the third time, and we’ve also exhibited in Paris three times. And we are stocked in some really nice shops worldwide. I think it’s quite an achievement that shops love our products and that people from around the world have our cups in their homes. I am very proud of that.



10 Female Artists making Waves at the State of The ART Gallery

Whether it’s time to rally a community or motivate solitary meditation, art can evoke engagement and excite society. In a country where we’re only now beginning to understand one another, art can be a helpful tool to bridge the gap.

10 Emerging Female Artists have been shortlisted for the State of The ART Gallery Award 2018, and we feel privileged to gush about our South African talent. These artists work across a variety of mediums and have creative narratives unique to their style. The finalists explore themes of identity, the physical body, our shared South African history, and the wonder of the natural world. Find out more about the State of the ART Gallery Award here.

State of the Art Gallery

Here are the 10 finalists and a peek of their artwork on exhibit at the State of the Art Gallery this September!

Jo Roets

Jo Roets Ndebele inspired clay sculpture - Homeology

Delicate and precise – this is the essence of Jo Roets’ work. She is interested in the perfect geometric patterns of nature and symbols derived from traditional South African cultures. The selected artworks on exhibit are part of her paper-thin light relief sculptures inspired by historical shapes like crocheted doilies and Ndebele designs. To Jo Roets, botanical elements can instil calmness in its viewer. Roets is driven to create a connection between culturally different people in her work.

Janna Prinsloo

Janna Prinsloo mixed media artwork - Homeology

Fascinated with the inner world of individuals, Janna Prinsloo aims to “represent hidden truths and personal, internal realities”. Inspired by walks in nature, Janna believes that art can speak, and she hopes to be a positive and uplifting voice.

Anna-Carien Goosen

Anna Carien Goosen Art

Moving between realism and abstraction, the work of Anna-Carien Goosen has a sublime surrealistic point of view. Through the habit of people-watching, Goosen is inspired to create artwork that captures the complexity and constant movement of the world.

Nadine Hansen

Nadine Hansen - Homeology

Motivated by emotion and philosophy, the work of Nadine Hansen is influenced by meaningful encounters in her studio. The human existence and its situational essence make up the core of her work, with conceptual self-portraits being frequently featured. Nature’s brilliance often complements Hansen’s primary subject as she has “discovered many natural wildlife traits which reflect the human psyche”.

Lezanne Kotze

Lezanne Kotze - Homeology Art

Forever exploring her creative boundaries, Lezanne Kotze aims to gain insight into her artistic narrative while creating art that is engaging. Kotze plays with the juxtaposition of organic and geometric forms in her work with the indigenous flora of the Western Cape as her muse. Oil paint is her favourite medium; its long drying time allows her the freedom to evolve her paintings.

Adele van Heerden

South African Artists

Described as a “confrontation with the past”, the work of Adele van Heerden is a highly personal response to social, political and historical events. Soft florals and light-hearted toy-soldiers are contrasted to controversial South African monuments. Van Heerden hopes to encourage thought and discussion through her work.

Anina Deetlefs

Anina Deetlefs - Homeology

Moving from a fashion and interior design background, Anina Deetlefs finds inspiration in her loved ones. Deconstructed in aesthetic, Deetlefs’ Skin-series represents a stage in her own life; that of home renovation and uncovering the true essence of self.

Lebogang Mabusela

Lebogang Mabusela

Sculptor and paper artist, Lebogang Mabusela, works to reclaim and re-imagine South Africa’s traditional visual culture and heritage. Aiming to challenge conceptions around womanhood and femininity, Mabusela creates thought-evoking pieces by using doilies. Doilies as the symbol of femininity in Mabusela’s art tell the story of African feminism.

Tina Teles

Tina Teles

Women’s struggles and the human mind are what motivate Tina Teles to create. Sonder is a word that drives Teles; it relates to the “realisation that every passer-by lives life as vivid and complex as your own”. This principle makes her work intrinsically individual. Teles places emphasis on women that are in South Africa due to the African Diaspora.

Chloe Obermeyer

Chloe Obermeyer

A lover of the natural world, Chloe Obermeyer combines her fascination of cyanotype with other mediums to create oceanic scenes. Southern African oceans and coastlines make up her subject matter as Obermeyer circumnavigates scientific discovery and concern.

Read more about these ten fascinating ladies on the State of the Art Gallery website and follow their journey to the Award.

Join the event online and visit the Gallery this September!

When: 6 – 22 September 2018.
Where: 50 Buitenkant Street, Cnr Roeland & Buitenkant Street, Cape Town.
Gallery hours: 10 – 5 Mon to Friday, 10 – 2 Saturdays or by appointment

Makers Making a Difference: Lara Of Mightea Fine

Lara Alexander is the Tea Doctor – or she will be as soon as she finishes her PhD. I chat with this tea connoisseur behind Mightea Fine about her incurable passion for tea, the amazing medicinal qualities of Fynbos, and natural hair dyes.

Q: When did you start your company and why?

LARA:  I started Mightea Fine a few years ago. I am a food scientist, and I’m currently doing my PhD, working specifically on Honeybush tea and the chemistry of the tea. It occurred to me it’s a really good product, and I thought that marketing it as such would be a nice distraction from my studies. A friend of mine is great with graphic design, and she helped me to develop the brand. I already had a manufacturing connection in the industry from my studies, so creating the product was a natural extension of what I was already doing.

Q:  So, you’re basically a tea doctor?

LARA:  Essentially, yes! I’m graduating at the end of this year, so then I’ll officially be a tea doctor.

Q:   What exactly is Honeybush?

LARA:  Most people know Rooibos tea because Rooibos industry is big. Honeybush tea is also Fynbos and indigenous to South Africa, but it’s from a separate family of plant, and it has a completely different taste. It’s called Honeybush, but it doesn’t really taste like honey! It has a very sweet taste with more floral notes. It also has a whole lot of medicinal properties and was traditionally by the Khoisan and the Settlers centuries ago.

The South African Honeybush Tea Association (SAHTA) is doing a lot to boost the industry and in cultivating the Honeybush plant at the moment. They are in the process of getting a geographical indicator for Honeybush so that you can’t grow and sell it anywhere else in the world without accrediting it to South Africa.

Q: Where in South Africa does Honeybush grow?

LARA:   Honeybush grows all the way from Jeffrey’s Bay on the East Coast to Malmesbury in the Western Cape. So, the growth area is big, and each area has its own distinct flavours. There are 23 identified species of Honeybush, but only four main species being sold to the market as Honeybush tea. 2 or 3 of the species are being cultivated, and some are being harvested from the wild. I source my tea from specific growing regions and farms where they occur naturally.

Q:  Is there a big taste difference between the different species?

LARA:  It’s like wine cultivars where is each species has slightly different flavour.  It still has a predominantly sweet and fruity aroma, but then you get different nuances. For instance, Frutea is a species that come from Southern Cape coastal region and has a lot of apricot flavours. And then Fleurtea which comes from the Bredasdorp area has a mixture of Fynbos, Rose and Geranium notes that is much more prominent in the tea from that specific area. I don’t add anything to my teas, and they’re not flavoured; it’s just a natural flavour profile that comes through.

Q:   How did you come to be so passionate about tea?

LARA:   I took a gap year after my undergrad studies. After my return to South Africa, a friend of mine was doing her master’s degree at the Agricultural Research Council,  and she was working in a research group that specialises in South African teas. She helped me to get a temporary job there as a research assistant.  All the leading experts in Rooibos and Honeybush research were available to me and, being an avid tea drinker, their work caught my attention. They offered me a masters project with funding and when I finished that 2 years later, I decided to continue and do my PhD as well. I really do love tea! It’s so interesting how it affects the body. And the market is also ready for a product like this now because people are becoming more aware of the food they’re eating and how it’s impacting their health.



Q:   What is your favourite tea?

LARA: I like Rooibos. I work with Honeybush so much in my day to day that I think sometimes I’m overexposed to it. But a good South African Rooibos – there’s nothing like it!

Q:  Tell me more about the health benefits of Fynbos teas.

LARA:  Both Honeybush and Rooibos have anti-inflammatory properties, are great for diabetics, have slimming properties, it’s great for colic and tummy issues and helps with stress-relief and then, of course, it’s filled with antioxidants. So, it’s a really good product, and it’s nice to drink something that makes you healthier.

Q:   You also have some very interesting tea-inspired recipes on your blog. There’s one where you wash your hair with tea – does that really work?

LARA:  Oh yes, it actually does work! I came across it on another blog, but I was a little bit sceptical. But it works well as an anti-frizz treatment, and it makes your hair feel great afterwards. I used Honeybush tea, but I think Ceylon tea essentially does the same thing, just providing that extra nourishment for your hair. The only difference is Ceylon tea has a lot more tannins which are great for covering grey hair. Apparently, it’s a traditional cure in India for grey hair. Honeybush is unlikely to stain your hair though.

Q:  What is your favourite alternative use for tea?

LARA:  I love to use tea to make little bath bags*. I add tea to and Epsom salts – it has such a lovely smell! It’s very relaxing, and it’s also great for your skin because it also absorbs UV rays and it has all the antioxidant properties as well. You can also mix it with coconut oil or put it in your bath. That’s pretty much my favourite thing to do with tea.

*NOTE: if you’re in the Western Cape, better stick to a foot soak! 

Q:  Tell me more about your instant tea powder because it’s incredibly concentrated. So, how did that come about?

LARA:  You get a lot of instant Rooibos tea on the market. It’s a very convenient product for people who don’t want the hassle of using tea bags. The powdered tea concentrates that you can buy in the shops usually has maltodextrin added to it to stretch it a bit and to prevent clumping, but mine is completely additive and preservative-fee. It’s also great if you want to use it in baking and you don’t want to add liquid to your mixture. The extract can also be added directly to icecream, or it can even be used as a cosmetic ingredient.

Q:  You’ve mentioned baking. So, do you use tea in cooking and baking as well?

LARA:  I experiment! I use it in desserts mostly because I have a bit of a sweet tooth. But I have a friend who often uses it when she bakes rusks and cookies. I haven’t tried it yet with any savoury dishes, but I have some ideas about it… I’m thinking maybe the sweet flavours will go with something like pork. I’ll get around to it eventually!

Q:  Sounds like a blog post in the making! What else do you have planned for your brand?

LARA:  At the moment I’m still trying to finish my thesis, so until the end of the year I will still be going at the pace I’m going now. But I’d like to be an entrepreneur. I believe it is a really good product, I think people are not as well acquainted with Honeybush tea, but I like to get it out there and to get people interested in it.

Q:  Where can people find you?

LARA:  People are welcome to order online, and I will ship it directly to them. I also do small markets, and I am available at some shops as well: Anja’s Pantry – The Food Farmacy at Stellenbosch Square and if you happen to be George, you can find me at Aweh.


We’ve have been so inspired by Lara’s tea that Anélle is putting together a delicious Honeybush desert for us later this month. We’ll keep you posted! g

Background images courtesy of Shutterstock



Makers Making A Difference: Emma & Leila from Threads That Bind Us

A passion for beautiful Cape Town and deep roots in fine arts compelled sisters Leila and Emma Rowett to create soft furnishings brand, Threads That Bind Us. I chat with them about their work, their plans for the future and the dynamics of sisterhood in the workplace.

Q:  First tell me about your business. How and why did you start Threads that Bind Us?

LEILA:  We both lived overseas: I lived in London and Australia for 16 years, and Em lived in London for 13 years. I decided to come home, and, amazingly, Emma decided to come back at a very similar time. We ended up living in Oranjezicht and spent a lot of time walking in Deer Park and walking the mountain and having such an appreciation where we were.

threads that bind us

We both studied art at university and at one point, I made an applique cushion for one of my friends. When I looked at the back, the threads almost looked like a sketch, and that stuck with me and became our inspiration. And so we decided to create something together that celebrated not only the threads that bind us as sisters but the threads that bind us to the family and our country. We showcased our products for the first time at a market in 2016.

Q:  How did living abroad influence you?

EMMA: I worked in a bank, so it was very much getting away from that corporate thing to go creative. In London, there was a big move at the time towards embracing old-school crafts like crochet and other hand work, which had a big influence on me.

threads that bind us


Q:  There a global movement towards craftsmanship and artisans. Why do you think that is?

EMMA:  I think we’ve probably had enough of mass production. We seem to be entering a new world. For so many years, machines have made things – both successfully and badly too. Now there’s a new consciousness of where your cushion has been made and who has handled it and the ethics behind it.

threads that bind us

Q:   You take great inspiration from nature – tell me about your range.

LEILA:  We create products in three distinct categories:  functional art, wearable art, and decorative art.

We started by doing napkins, tea towels, tablecloths, and cushion covers mainly because it’s more accessible than fine art. It’s a functional art range, where you’re using your napkin, and you appreciate it because it has been hand-drawn and hand-stitched, adding value to your table. We were pleasantly surprised by how well that was received.

For wearable art, we made a dress and a top, with embroidery on the side, like little embellishments.

Now, we’re moving into wall hangings and more decorative art.

threads that bind us


Q:  What are your plans for your product line this year?

LEILA:  Essentially we are artists. Our mother is an artist, and as much as we tried to play all that down, it’s in us. We’re realising that we need to embrace that. One of the things we love about living in Cape Town is that it challenges you and forces you to explore your creativity. Everywhere you look, there are amazing people creating amazing things. The main thing this year is to really explore and have fun with our techniques and our products.

EMMA:  We want to push the decorative art side and explore different processes as well. We’ve been playing with a process called cyanotype, which is a very old form of photography, also called a sun print or a blueprint. It’s such an amazing technique because you work so closely with nature. It’s almost like an instant photograph that you put onto fabric or paper – the possibilities are endless! And then to stitch onto it as well and have fun with it.

Q:  Do you have a favourite product in your range?

EMMA:  We’ve just launched a new design – 3 stripes on a tea towel. It is quite simple and minimal. But because it’s not done by a machine, the lines are a little wobbly. It brings that human connection to the product, and it ties in so nicely with our name and what we stand for.

threads that bind us

LEILA:  I’m still a fan of our cushion covers. Changing a cushion cover is such an easy way to change the look of a room or a couch. Obviously, we’ve got a few, and it’s nice to swop that cushion cover out and get a completely different feel.

Q:  Do you do all the work yourselves or do you employ people to help you with production?

LEILA:  We do employ people who do production. Up to now, I’ve done the machine embroidery myself. I trained someone who was helping me at some point, but we’ve found that we’ve got to be careful who does it because of the process.

 Our process is different, it is like a drawing with the machine. Everybody’s stitch is different, and I suppose it’s like your voice in a way. So we’ve got to find someone whose voice complements our voice, who’s stitch compliments our stitch.

People have suggested that we get those big embroidery machines to do it. But that goes against our impulse. We are planning to grow, and then we will employ people, but is it all about finding the right people.

threads that bind us

Q:  How do you manage working with a sister? Does it come with a set of challenges?

EMMA:  It’s challenging, but it’s also extremely rewarding. There’s the communication side of things which can be quite difficult. We both have strong characters, and we’re different people. It works very well most of the time, and then some of the time it doesn’t work so well. Part of the challenge is in learning to overcome the challenges and work through these things.

LEILA:  Our differences are what make us what we are. If we were too similar, we wouldn’t be doing this. It’s good to have that strong natural debate about things and to have that difference of opinion. To feel that you can thrash it out because, essentially, it is your sister and she’s not going away.

threads that bind us

Q: What advice would you have for other craftspeople, artists, or creators who want to start something?

EMMA:  Don’t think about it too much, just do it. It will change as you go and you might end up doing something different, but just do it, just start.

LEILA:  We found that the things that we over-think don’t ever really work. But when we do just go for it, even if the result is not what you pictured, it’s much better than just thinking about it.




Makers Making a Difference: Dom Murray of Cult Of One

A self-proclaimed denimophile, Dominic Murray was compelled to start his one-man company, Cult Of One, to share his passion with the world. I catch up with him on the phone one evening and we chat about accountability in the fashion industry, floral embroidery and about making a difference in his local community.

dom murray

Q: When and why did you start Cult Of One?

DM: I started Cult of One two years ago. It was a denim brand that I needed to start literally out of an obsession. I had just had it with the industry I was working in and I felt that I had to do something that gave me more accountability.

Q:   What is Cult of One exactly?

DM:  Cult of One is a one-man denim brand. I work with premium denim and create accountable products that are well-made and carry a bit of the creator’s character and what is important to them, as well as the character of the final person that owns the product. This connects the creator, the product itself and the final user of the product to create a consistent line of accountability. I take these 3 elements and find a way of making it the perfect fit, tweaking it, building it, crafting it and just slowly creating it so that all 3 elements are represented in the final product.

dom murray

dom murray

dom murray

Every product is hand-made, customized and tailored to the person that’s going to use it at the end of the day.

Q:  Is Cult of One is your passion project or is it your full-time job?

DM:  At the moment, it’s a passion project for me. I work in the fashion industry as a designer. I started at Hip Hop back in the day and I went to a couple of denim brands and start-up street wear brands from there. Eventually, it got to a point where my day job and all the time that I was putting into it wasn’t giving me the satisfaction I needed. I decided to do something that I’m completely responsible for, something that challenges me. I wanted to do something where what I’m doing creatively is justifying the time I’m putting into it.

dom murray

Q:  And where does your passion for denim come from?

DM:   It was right when I started working in the denim industry, on the very first day that I got exposed to this fabric! Before that, I had never really thought about denim as something other than a blue fabric we wear on a daily basis. But then I realized that it has character. It has the ability to age and break down and get more special. It can tell the story of whoever wears it. It’s so amazing and versatile. It genuinely gets better with age and since I started working with it, it became an obsession that I can’t avoid.

Q:  You also do denim repair.

DM:  I do. One of the biggest things I find in the denim industry is that a lot of people buy a pair of jeans and the more you wear it the better it becomes. But then eventually it gets to a point where it breaks or tears or you get complacent with it. Once it gets replaced, the story ends there. I honestly feel that when it comes to something so great, something that changes so much with you, why replace it when you can simply repair it? To repair a pair of jeans doesn’t take a lot of work but it does give you something that is more unique. It takes something that you’ve lived with for a number of years and makes it so much better, so much more yours. So, yeah as much as I can I encourage people to repair rather than replace.

dom murray

Q:  And you do all the work yourself as well? All the sewing all the stitching?

DM:  Also all the embroidery – everything. I believe that if you’re going to create a product, that’s your promise to your customer. If you aren’t a part of every single process then what’s the point of doing it? So, going back to the crucial message of doing everything by hand, making sure that one person is responsible for every single step in the process.

Q:  Tell me about Denim For Bread.

DM:  The idea behind it was to take this amazing fabric that I love and that’s so durable and try to give it back to a community. Give it back to someone who maybe can’t afford the product itself and linking them to people who are conscious of products and of doing charity.

dom murray

dom murray

dom murray

The project itself started when I created a headrest bag. The bag itself was designed as a bag that could double as a pillow. The idea was to create these durable bags and stuff them with as many supplies as possible: basic commodities like canned food, water, toothpaste, and sanitary goods and hand it out to people that really need it. So, people on the street, and homeless people around my area.

It creates an opportunity for someone who follows my brand to buy into this idea of giving back and really do something practical about it. You don’t have to worry about who it’s going to, how it’s getting there, or what it is. People want to support those less fortunate than themselves and I’ve given them an opportunity to do so.

Q:  So, people can sign up to denim for bread on your website?

DM:  Yes, they can sign up directly on the site or via Patreon. Your contribution covers the cost of the commodities inside the bag and then I cover the cost of the bag itself and get it handed out. On Patreon you can do a monthly payment so every month you’re paying for a new bag and you’re able to help another person.

dom murray

dom murray

Q:  Where do you see your brand going in the next 5 years?

DM:  When I started, I needed to create something I was proud of. Over the last 2 years, it’s grown exponentially and I feel very lucky. Over the next 5 years, I’d love it to become my sole focus day in and day out. At this point, I have my day job which helps to pay the bills but it’s slowly becoming less important in my life.

Q:  And then if you scale, will you employ other people but still oversee every part of the process?

DM:  Very much so. Cult of One was born as an idea of a single person working to create their own product. The growth that I’d like to invest in and put time into developing is, rather than hiring someone to work for me, finding someone to share the passion that I have. I want to provide a platform where they are able to create a product under a label that is recognized but they are still responsible for it. The person who then receives this product at the end of the day will know who it came from. They’ll know the craftsmen, the process, and they’ll understand what inspired the final product that they fell in love with.  It’s to give them that connection, not something that came from a random production line in some random factory.

Q: There are all these artisan makers popping up around Cape Town over the last few years. What do you think influences this and what drives these creative people to now come out and start doing their own thing?

DM:   I think as soon as you start seeing inspiration around you, you start questioning whether or not you’re able to do it. Just the sheer exposure of it really helps to make you want to give it a go.

You see it, you love it, you want to try it. Yeah, I think it’s a great motivation to start trying anything.

Q:  Tell me about Blom Skollie.

dom murray

DM:  Blomskollie was a project I designed for Magdel at Carvel Art. She is a graphic designer turned self-taught tattoo artist. Her work is largely based on floral work – blomme. She’s a fantastic Afrikaans girl. I think a lot of creatives want to be a little bit naughty, they want to have something a little feisty, and when we start playing around with that idea, Blomskollie came out. I created an apron for her to protect her clothes while she is working. It is a custom piece made out of 13-ounce Japanese denim which I then covered with this amazing selection of hand-embroidered leaves and flowers to represent her work.

dom murray

Q: You have a gorgeous Instagram account and a very cool YouTube channel as well.  

DM:  Yes, it’s a bit neglected at this point but with the launch of this latest collection – The Lost Boy.  It’s going to be updated again with some more in-depth views as to how the product is created, the story behind it, the integration. For me, The Lost Boy collection the story of how I started Cult of One and about what inspires me. There will be more content going up there very soon!

Click below to find out more about Dom and his work

dom murray




YouTube Channel


Why alternative African design is going to be big in 2017

Mention African design, and mud cloth, batik prints, animal skin, scary masks and clay pots come to mind. But there is a whole new style of African design emerging, one that plays more on our natural strengths and materials than on the blatantly obvious. The whole world is moving back to natural on the one side and in super-contrast, to high-tech on the other. And with Africa as the cradle of humankind, it is only natural that designers are coming back to the African continent for their inspiration – whether it is high or low tech. Alternative African design is going to be big in 2017 because there is a new wave of creativity coming from the continent in unexpected and original ways.

africa trend

Where tropical greens and birds of paradise were very trendy for the last couple of years, Pantone has hinted that its colour of the year for 2017 may just be a more subdued kale, hinting of a subtropical landscape. Other colours in the Pantone spring palette are sky blues, deep orange and yellow, and pops of pale and bright pink – reminiscent of an African landscape and sunset. Here are a few ideas on how to incorporate this growing trend for all things alternative African in your home.

africa trend

These beauties are from Hellooow Handmade. They are made by a group of women affected by HIV so besides being lovely to look at, they also play an important role in empowering a community in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Hand-rolled from recycled paper clay, kiln-fired and then strung onto a wrought iron frame, these chandeliers will become an amazing feature in any room in your home. Colours and designs are both customizable, so let your imagination run wild!

africa trend

Do a bit of peacocking with this feathery Juju hat from Cameroon. Handmade with raffia, feathers and twine, this unique and delicately hand made head piece is sure to make a statement on your head or wall. Available online from Etsy.

Here are a few other inspiring local pieces that celebrate the vast collection of patterns, flora, techniques, materials and innovation that Africa has to offer.

africa trend

  1. Acacia Thorn Umbrella – Kudu
  2. Choctaw Cushion by Hertex – Superbalist
  3. Cotton Hand Woven Quill Blanket – Mungo
  4. Die Swart Hings floor lamp – Jan Douglas
  5. Short Indigo Jar by Love Milo – Nonna
  6. Delphine Bar Stool – Superbalist
  7. X Table – Superbalist

I look forward to exploring this trend further in 2017 – watch this space!


Local shopping for textured decor accessories

If you need instant texture gratification after following our blog posts this month we have just the thing! We have sourced some of the most beautiful textured decor accessories from five of our favorite retailers and they are all available online.


1. Braided storage basket

This natural storage basket is made from a rug.

2. Tribal chair
A striking black and white poly-rattan weave on this furniture range is handwoven in Indonesia and ideal for outdoor relaxation.
3. Moroccan carpet design 4

Make a statement by adding this woolen Moroccan knotted carpet to your home.
Available in four designs.


1. Leaf pod light

Pod shaped chandelier constructed on wire frame using “leaf-like” ceramic pieces.

2. Beaded stool

A beautiful, versatile clay beaded stool.

3. Splash back

A beautifully crafted 15 piece mural splash back. Holes can be made to incorporate a mixer.

4. Lace woven platter

Woven ceramic “rope” platter –  purely decorative.

5. Embossed, Margaret jug

Shweshwe patterned, cylindrical jugs with large round handle and toucan spout.


1. Plush faux fur sigzag blanket 

A plush faux fur blanket is irresistible to touch! Wrap yourself up this winter to feel snug and cosy.

2. Chunky knit throw 150 x 180 cm

This throw is something special: it is a beautiful, chunky cable knit with printed silver foiling detail. It is super soft to the touch and will definitely finish off any bedroom decor with its luxurious appearance.

3. Cable knit weave 50 x 30 cm pouffe 

Choose a cable knit weave pouffe for a quick way to decorate any lounge setting. Filled with recycled polystyrene beads, this pouffe provides comfort with ease of mobility.

4. Metal Marrakesh bottle and urn

This hand-made metal bottle and urn with embossed detail can be used as a statement piece in your home to add an exotic Moroccan touch to your living space.


1. Marrigold wooden mirror 

The wooden carved petal frame with its exposed grain adds beautiful texture to this mirror.

2. Boston bookshelf 

A contemporary bookshelf with beautiful sleek lines and a subtle woodgrain texture.

3. Ling medicine chest

This medicine chest would make a gorgeous accent in a lounge with lots of storage space for bits and bobs.


1. Polypropylene crochet carpet

These crochet carpets can be made to any size and colour – gorgeous!

2. Teak bowls

Wooden drinking bowls with organic shapes and stunning wood grain.

Happy shopping,


Cement Shopping – the South African way.

Let’s shop!

Here are a few items sourced from local shops and designers to satisfy your cement craving.


1. Cement wallpaper collection from Cape Town based designer Robin Sprong – surface designer

2. Edged cement vase from Weylandts

3. Color blocked cement planter from Mr Price Home

4. Round cement vase from Weylandts

5. Hurricane lamp from Mr Price Home

6. Cement tile ‘Uptown Silver’ 600 x 600 from Italtile

Happy styling,


Shopping guide with a conscience

Every year around this time I get panicked! It all starts with overstocked shop shelves and frantic Christmas carols of yesteryear and then I know … the festive season is upon me and I am yet again not really mentally or physically prepared.

For the past two years I have avoided shopping malls due to the madness and did all my gift shopping at the local nursery. They have a selection of small shops that sell everything from wine to coffee. It also made me feel good that I supported my local small businesses.

So I decided to share a list of why it is important to shop local and add a few online shops that will help you avoid the rush all together .


10 reasons why you should buy local

  1. You support local artisans, and therefore your local economy and community.
  2. You get high-quality items that are built to last, not all the stuff that has the “How cheap can I produce this?” mentality.
  3. Your gifts are the best on the block: cool, trendy, unique, and usually one-of-a-kind, you can find some really awesome handmade stuff that’ll make everyone ask “Where can I get one?”
  4. Customization!  Since each and every item is made by hand and you are usually talking directly to the person making it, you can tweak the color or size of something you are interested in. You can sometimes even get a fully commissioned custom order done!  This avoids you having the excuse of “it was all the store had left.”
  5. You’re helping the environment.  It’s always a nice feeling to go green isn’t it?  Handmade items aren’t made in a waste-producing factory and shipped halfway around the world using fuel and energy.  Buying handmade (especially really local) can greatly reduce your carbon footprint.
  6. You gain a unique connection with an artisan.  You can be in direct contact with the person who made the item with their own hands.
  7. Let’s not forget the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing you helped support someone very directly.
  8. Avoid crowded stores. Buy handmade items at local craft fairs, markets and boutiques, or shop online to avoid people altogether.
  9. Get it gift wrapped. This may not apply to all handmade goods, but a large number of sellers do offer a gift wrapping service – sometimes even for free!
  10. Get it all done at once. Find a large craft show in your area and get all that holiday shopping done at once.



If you really want to make it personal this year, why not get your photographs or Instagrams printed into a photobook with ORMS? You can do it all online and it’s bound to get you lots of brownie points.

xmasshopping3 thelisaportercollection

My list of local online shops that supports local!


1. Hello Pretty – South Africa’s top designer marketplace

2. Mzansi Store – Local brands handcrafted with integrity and soul

3. Local Fair – The online marketplace for people to sell, buy and be inspired by beautiful, unique and handmade items

Happy shopping,

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