Not for the smooth, white floors in provided Studio, you might think you’ve wandered into an eccentric’s private chamber of curiosities. Islands of natural and man-made wonders cluster in the clean gallery space on Muizenberg’s Main Road.
What could be David Livingstone’s boots stand among assorted busts. Shelves are arrayed with apothecary bottles, leather-bound volumes and figurines. Driftwood angels float over a stuffed owl and oriental collectibles. Oh, and skulls feature everywhere.
It’s not morbid fascination, though — when something from the dark side intrigues them, say designer-manufacturers Bartel van Vuuren and Liezle Fourie, it’s not because it’s dark, but because of its beauty, which is why a cast of a turtle shell (from an exceedingly old specimen, we were assured) can become a luminescent hanging and a hummingbird skull makes a delicate gold pendant.
The display cases certainly fascinate the visitor but they’re only the beginning. The entire space is set up to be a spectacle of sorts and independent creative can be observed at work in their glass-fronted studios. Think of them as terrariums for jewellery and fashion designers, illustrators and the like. In the midst of it all is a working photography studio space, replete with infinity curve, and a soon-to-be-launched mezzanine level for creative classes.
The couple share a common appreciation for the beauty of natural forms, both living and formerly alive. Our philosophy is only to make things we would want in our home, they say. Liezle’s jewellery includes striking sternum-and-rib necklaces and Day-glo coral earrings.
Bartel is fascinated with light and new technology so, although they love the dark side, there’s plenty of colour. There are illuminated picture frames, candles moulded from busts of Bonaparte, and a series of Martini tables in brightly painted steel that wouldn’t be out of place at a Miami pool party.
Their own workshop is at the back, housing tools and machinery of all sorts and prototypes for more unusual wonders. Both designers enjoy all aspects of the process and, with two assistants, design and produce everything under the roof besides the larger laser-cut pieces. We’re not designers who sit and draw and send that off to some poor guy who has to make it, says Bartel.
Sobeit Studio is just the place to find an unusual handmade object from the imagination of some wonderfully cluttered minds, or inspiration from artful cabinets of curiosity.