Adele runs a one of a kind mohair operation on a piece of farm land situated on the East Coast of South Africa. I had the privilege of spending some time on the farm getting to know more of Adele's heart for the business as well as shooting some scenes that show off the beautiful lifestyle and work done on this farm.
I decided to do a short interview with Adele to share her heart and thoughts behind Adele's Mohair:
What is Adele's mohair? A brief introduction to what you do!
“Adele’s Mohair is a small handcraft business making knitting yarns, dying yarns from natural fibres like mohair and wool and then also knitting products from those yarns.”
Do you have a significant STORY behind Adele's Mohair you like to share with people?
“The business started as a hobby and grew into a business which opened its doors here on the farm in 1983. Our policy has always been to employ and offer jobs to as many local women as possible in order to give them skills, develop confidence and self-worth through the manufacture of beautiful colourful products. Many of the rural women have not had the advantage of an education and for them, employment is often hard to find in a competitive environment. So rather than use technology our strategy has been to develop the ancient crafts of spinning, knitting and crochet all done by hand. Surviving 33 years in the current environment is quite a good story.”
Tell me more about your products and maybe the different processes involved in the getting them to completion?
“Initially the semi-processed and machine spun mohair is ordered in and we take the natural coloured yarn and fibre and dye it into 95 colours. We also develop some of the yarns by adding beads, ribbons, and knobs. These products are for the hand knitting market and the fibre artists. Our policy is to utilise and not waste any leftovers so we are constantly designing and up-cycling the mohair yarns or finished items. We also recycle yarns to make new products. In these processes, the traditional spinning wheels are used. The other section of our business is to knit the coloured yarns into scarves, shawls, blankets etc. All knitted items are finished off with crochet edges or tassels or fluffed up by hand requiring a high labour input also. “
What inspires you to keep on doing what you do?
“The challenge of making new products, the need to help people generate an income, to earn an income myself and the joy of working with colour, texture, and design.”
Tell me more about the ladies that you employ?
“About half the ladies are still based on the farms but many have been forced into the towns as their spouses seek work through the industrialisation of farming. Several of these ladies have been with me since the beginning so there is a variety of age groups, but more and more younger ladies are joining us. This has been a big blessing as that has eased things as they are literate and have been able to take more responsibility and become managers of sectors in the business. Many walk long distances as there are no taxis available in the rural areas while others find the taxis from the town very expensive so hitch to work. We try to offer flexibility to these women especially if children or parents are ill.”
Where does it all take place?
“Sherwood Farm is situated about 25km from Port Alfred on the East Coast of South Africa. Most activity takes place in old farm buildings on the premises. The knitters work from home and some of the fancy yarns are made at home too.”
Is there a story you would like to share behind your current workshop and how these spaces came into operation?
“The space we occupy was initially used for a functional pig farm but in the 1980s the government closed all the local abattoirs thereby forcing farmers to supply only to the cities. Chronic oversupply to the cities caused prices to fall to ridiculous levels. The oversupply meant they could not take the volumes we were used to selling so closure was our only option. We revamped the space and my hobby moved into the buildings very happily and we have subsequently even added to the space as the business has grown.”
What can you share about the workshop experience, feeling/atmosphere you aim to create?
“Our workshop is generally a happy, noisy space. The ladies usually work in groups with their friends and each group is in a different area with a kettle and seating. During the winter months, many ladies sit outside in the warm sun and in summer in the shaded areas and because there are not rules and restrictions people are cheerful. Visitors are always welcome and photography a source of pride for the individuals who get to feel like film stars. Its good for confidence and self-worth. The atmosphere is always congenial and welcoming and workers are always willing to show off their work its good to see.”
How is your business different from a huge industrial machine operated factories?
“As a small business, it has heart and personality. How nice to be able to work outdoors to be in an open environment with no traffic and pollution. Its good for the soul and the wellbeing of the individuals. They are people and not numbers and although they don’t have anything to compare with the fact that we don’t have a huge turnover of staff is a testimony to the fact that they enjoy the work.”
Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share about Adelle's mohair?
“It’s a privilege to share one's life with a community. We all aspire to better things but enjoy what we have and the lifestyle we lead. We don’t have the city pressures of more, more and more and don’t feel we lack anything because there is no daily in your face comparison. We have to make plans to achieve anything as we don’t have access to facilities and that’s a challenge but it encourages the creative. There is always so much more to do and the internet has opened huge opportunities. Bigger is necessarily better but true values are and we have that opportunity to live with them.”
Visit Adele's Mohair for more information: http://www.adelesmohair.co.za