FNB JoburgArtFair fea­tured artist, Bil­lie Zangewa

House and Leisure (South Africa) - - Contents - PRO­DUC­TION GARRETH VAN NIEK­ERK PHO­TO­GRAPH GRAEME WYLLIE


I am on my feet for most of the time when I’m work­ing – from the pen­cil draw­ing through to the cut­ting and even the pin­ning. The only time I’m off them is when I’m sewing. My feet hold me up and give me bal­ance when I need to be pre­cise. There’s a lot of walk­ing in the cre­ative process and for that rea­son I make sure I’m in com­fort­able shoes. My Adi­das Steeples are my favourite, and I re­cently got a pair of black suede Pu­mas with foam tech­nol­ogy.


My knees and legs walk me back and forth be­tween the cut­ting ta­ble and the work in progress. I also like to run off and busy my­self with mun­dane chores to help me fo­cus.


They are the most im­por­tant tools in putting my work to­gether. I took up sewing in pri­mary school. I loved learn­ing a new skill and en­joyed the sat­is­fac­tion of a fin­ished prod­uct. I made a bag, blouse, cush­ion cover, doily, and bolero, among other things. My hands ex­e­cute the whole process from be­gin­ning to end: I start off with a pen­cil draw­ing on newsprint pa­per, which I use as a tem­plate to cut and pin my silk pieces, and then fi­nally assem­ble ev­ery­thing to­gether with a ba­sic run­ning stitch. I have long, thin fin­gers that are nim­ble and dex­ter­ous, and they are very im­por­tant in ex­e­cut­ing minute de­tails ac­cu­rately. My hands were re­ally made for mak­ing and I bow down to them.


I try to leave my head out of the cre­ative process as much as pos­si­ble. I am a highly strung, an­a­lyt­i­cal thinker and it’s best to shut it down as it in­ter­feres with my in­tu­ition and the abil­ity to re­ceive in­spi­ra­tion and guid­ance. So I use my brain mainly for mo­tor, vis­ual and tac­tile func­tion. Singing helps me to get out of my head, but I also prac­tise yoga and med­i­ta­tion with Yoga with Adriene on YouTube.


It is all about the eyes for me. I’m look­ing all the time. Hand-eye co­or­di­na­tion is not only cru­cial in trans­lat­ing my re­search pho­tos into a pen­cil draw­ing, but also in de­ter­min­ing scale and an­gle and ges­ture. I think I do the most acute look­ing in the draw­ing phase. It also helps me to de­ter­mine the colours to use and how to es­tab­lish bal­ance. The eye al­ways knows whether there is bal­ance or not.


I love to take in the dif­fer­ent scents of the silks; du­pion silk and I were des­tined to meet. The silks smell of their ori­gins and I’m en­chanted by the sto­ries they carry, what they have ab­sorbed and trans­ported. It makes me feel as if I am on an ad­ven­ture on the Silk Road.


I sing while I’m work­ing. It helps me to fo­cus and for­get about the stresses and ex­pec­ta­tions that can come with cre­ativ­ity. All that deep breath­ing in­volved in singing oxy­genates my body, clears my mind and helps me to re­lease emo­tions. Bey­oncé gets me in the right space, with Ri­hanna also star­ring as a fre­quent guest in my reper­toire, and lately I’m into Mariah Carey. I’m en­joy­ing belt­ing out emo­tion­ally charged songs, and Mariah is per­fect for that. bil­liezangewa1

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