Turning old cans into pretty things

Mavis Taole, founder and owner of Rare-Zolution Design and Craft, enjoys being in the spotlight.

Mavis Taole, founder and owner of Rare-Zolution Design and Craft, enjoys being in the spotlight.

After trying her hand at poetry and drama, she soon discovered her talent in crafting and immediately took the opportunity to explore her potential.

Taole, 26, masterfully turns empty cold-drink cans into necklaces, bracelets and earings. She also makes clutch bags and hats out of cans.

Her ability to turn cans into beautiful pieces of jewellery not only provides her with an income, but has also opened doors of opportunity for her.

Taole's work has taken her abroad, where she showcased her designs in Germany, South Korea, Spain and Jamaica.

She has just landed a contract to coordinate an exhibition in Brazil.

Taole, who describes herself as a trendsetter, now plans to introduce silver into her designs.

Her designs, which have been featured in an international magazine, have made her well-known in the art sector.

She now runs workshops where she teaches people how to make a living as waste crafters and to change the mindset that waste crafting is only for the uneducated.

Khanyi Nkosi spoke to her.

Q: You say waste crafting is your calling. How did you discover it?

A: I never imagined myself in the arts. In 2002 I took part in a craft production learnership after completing my matric.

Before I was accepted for the learnership I was asked to bring along samples of my work. I took along a pair of old jeans that I had redesigned and a small piece of jewellery I had made.

It was only after I was accepted, and the programme had helped enhance my skill, that I developed a passion for craft work and realised I could make a living out of it.

Q: There are so many people doing craft work. What makes your work unique?

A: It is the technique that one uses that distinguishes one from the rest. My technique and passion for my work has set me apart.

Q: How has owning your own business changed your life?

A: Being your own boss is liberating. I work hard but I enjoy every minute of it because I love what I do.

Q: And what are the lows of running your own business?

A: Having sleeplessness nights worrying about where the next salary will come from.

I'm also always on the road, which means I don't have a lot of time to spend with my family.

But I make sure that what little time we have together is quality time.

Q: What has been the highlight of your career so far?

A: The overseas trips.

Q: What has kept you motivated?

A: The overwhelming response I received to my products and the fact that I sort of represent young people since there are not so many young people involved in this kind of business.

I used to think that craft work was for people who didn't make it at school but that perception has since changed. It is all about innovation and passion.

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

A: I run workshops where I encourage and teach people to use their hands to make a living.

There is also a programme we are working on with other business associates in which we will be promoting environmental awareness at schools.

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

A: Capital has been a major issue. Surviving hand to mouth is not good but I'm slowly getting out of that situation.

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

A: They should be committed and determined to make it, no matter how difficult things might seem.

They should also be creative and have a passion for their work.

Q: What opportunities are there for young women who want to start a career as a waste crafter?

A: There are plenty of opportunities. People should not limit themselves to cans.

There are plastics and many other materials that can be used and explored. It is all about creativity and innovation.

Q: Where to from here?

A: Crafting is my calling. I'll just follow it and see where it takes me.