She turns junk into exquisite jewellery

Sindi Hlatshwayo. 27/09/07. © Unknown.
Sindi Hlatshwayo. 27/09/07. © Unknown.

Sindi Hlatshwayo does not mind getting her hands dirty.

Sindi Hlatshwayo does not mind getting her hands dirty.

After realising her talent, Hlatshwayo from Kagiso, west of Johannesburg, started turning cold-drink cans into exquisite jewellery. The craft has made 27-year-old Hlatshwayo famous, both in South Africa and across the borders.

Hlatshwayo took part at the 4th World Environmental Education Conference and she has exhibited in Germany, Italy and the UK under the banner Soweto Mountain of Hope. In just five years she had established her own business called Mhayise Designs and proved that the sky is the limit, as Khanyisile Nkosi found out.

Question: What did you do before you got into crafting?

Answer: I taught Zulu, art and basic maths to teenagers at Madala Hostel in Kagiso. These were children who had never been to school.

Q: How and why did you get involved with craft work?

A: It's always been my dream to have my own business. After school, I joined the Imbali Visual Literacy Project and realised that I had a talent in the crafts. It is a community-based project that encourages product development with waste products for sustainability

Q: How and when did you start Mhayise Designs?

A: After attending the Imbali project, I ventured into a small waste craft business called Brighthands with two other waste crafters I met there. Their names were Giggs Moyo and Bethwel Mapheto. We all came up with new ideas for waste craft and that is how we developed our own individual businesses. Mhayise Designs CC was formalised last year and officially registered in February.

Q: What motivated you to start the business?

A: I wanted to fulfil my dream of owning my own business. I also wanted to provide jobs for other people.

Q: How has the company grown and how has it changed your life?

A: Although I am still struggling a little, the business has grown in terms of the relationships that I've developed with people in the art and craft industry, who have invited me to their exhibitions thereby allowing me to market my products, and also with the shops that I supply. The business has allowed me to be self-sufficient and has given me more confidence.

Q: What has been the highlight of your work?

A: Getting new clients.

Q: What role does your company play in terms of community development?

A: When I have a lot of work, I outsource it to other waste crafters. When my business expands, I want to employ other people.

Q: What does it take to become a waste crafter?

A: You have to be creative and humble at the same time. Say you see a nice piece of waste like a tin can in the street that you need, you need to be humble and pick it up even if you're all dressed up.

Q: What are the ups and downs of your job?

A: The ups are July to December when business is good and the downs are January to June when things are quiet and also when there is a lot of work which pushes me to work overnight.

Q: What challenges did you encounter when you started your business?

A: Lack of funds and sorting out marketing material like pamphlets and brochures. I'm still working on the marketing side, which is in my business plan

Q: What advice will you give women who would like to venture into this type of business?

A: Women should not be afraid to stand up, do things for themselves and grab any opportunity they get. They can also contact organisations like Imbali Visual Literacy Project and Waste Art Foundation. They must also have a goal and a lot of patience because things will not be 100percent from the beginning.

Hlatshwayo will be exhibiting her work at the Green Life expo which starts next Thursday until Sunday at the Cresta Shopping Centre in Johannesburg.

How to get into the crafting business:

l Have a dream and a goal;

l Realise your talent.

l Mix with other waste artists and crafters;

l Do product research by making a couple of things and see if people like them;

l Be open to criticism;

l Make things happen;

l Set aside some money and buy basic materials and tools to make your products;

l Check the newspapers for expos and shows. These are important marketing opportunities where you can expose and sell the products that you make.