Artists Jaap & Melanie Pieterse with LeathaIntrigued by the delightful wooden fisherman that miraculously appeared at the end of the Kalk Bay harbour pier in October last year, Kim did some sleuthing work  to find the creator of this magnificent piece and so it came about that we met with Jaap and Melanie Pieterse at their home in Fish Hoek.

Multi-talented Jaap grew up in Sasolburg in the Free State. His first artwork was a watercolour of the Sasolburg factory landscape painted at the age of six. After matriculating he studied Fine Art, photography and sculpture at the Pretoria Technikon, of which he speaks highly. Despite the fact that his father wanted him to do graphic design and his lecturer was urging him to paint, he opted to do sculpture, having always loved wood and carving. “In sculpture you see something inside the material and need to be very disciplined in carving it out. There are only so many mistakes that can be made before you destroy a piece of wood  and there is an intensity in creating the perfect figure.”

Lamp and dog basket created by Jaap Pieterse of Fish HoekSeeing my concern about placing my chilled glass of water and mint onto the wooden arms of his couch, Jaap grinned and said that watermarks all add to the character of his work. He likes to make things that people can use and here he has been influenced by his study of the traditional forms of African Art. “African artworks were created for use. My artworks are to be used and enjoyed. Marks made along the way add to their character. Creating is a way of life for me – making a space acceptable to myself.”

“It is hard to get out there and make a name for oneself, especially as holding exhibitions of my work is not my way of doing things. I like to put my artwork in random places appropriate to the nature of the piece. Art in a museum has a restricted audience. ” He erected the 2.5 m high fisherman which he has named “Takhaar” ( “unkempt hair”) at Kalk Bay harbour in the early hours of the morning. The statue was admired and photographed by many, but he was forced by the authorities to remove it at the end of January. “Fishermen complained that it got in their way of casting and patrons at the Brass Bell moaned about the ‘man in the picture spoiling their ultimate photo of the lighthouse in a storm!’”, he says with a wry grin.

After completing his studies at Pretoria Technikon, Jaap worked in a photographic studio, but after his camera was stolen his passion for photography waned. He has also been a barman and for several years  created custom-designed leather seats for Harley Davidsons which married his passions for leatherwork and motorcycles . When the shop closed he turned his attention to making moulds of fibre glass and eurothane rubber for 3-dimensional murals for private customers. The business was doing well but then both he and his partner decided to move to Cape Town.

Rocking chair created from driftwood by Jaap Pieterse of Fish HoekSettling in Hout Bay he joined up with student friends from the Technikon creating balustrades and chandeliers for City mansions. When this business fell apart doors opened for him in the film industry, where he worked twelve hours a day, five to six days a week. Now he offers his services at a price- “it will take a lot of money to keep me away from my wife and child”.

It was while working on the set for the blockbuster film, 10 000 BC that Jaap and Melanie met. Jaap was the creator of 26 huge trees used as a backdrop in the film while Melanie was involved in the making of puppets, props and wardrobes. Both have since left the film industry to devote their time and energy to raising their young daughter Leatha, the working hours in the film industry being long and uncompromising.

Jaap is being sponsored to create six statues over three years. His figure “The Pointer” sits astride the roof of a shop in Kalk Bay, her finger pointing to the spot where “Takhaar” was standing. The interaction between Melanie and their young infant led to Jaap locking himself into his workspace for hours after the birth of his daughter to create this figure. It was at this time that he realised just “what  Jaap Pieterse  was all about”.

Jaap's furniture up front, a painting by Melanie on the wall behindMelanie, an artist in her own right, understands and supports her husband’s need to live the life dictated by his need to create. She majored in Art Directing at City Varsity after which she was employed in the advertising and film industry. She paints in oils and acrylics, although with motherhood being a fulltime job her painting has taken a back seat. After leaving the film industry she focussed on making leather handbags, belts and baby shoes  on commission which she sells to shops in the Wilderness and elsewhere. She also does the computer and admin work for Jaap’s business in between growing  the family’s herbs and vegetables. As if this isn’t enough, she is in the process of setting up a new business with a friend.

Jaap sells his furniture and figures made out of driftwood and metal through his business “Bluegum Tree”. To augment his income he also makes kitchen cupboards.

Anyone wishing to enhance their living spaces with creative and functional wooden artwork can contact Jaap on 084 627 4449 or email him at blugumtree@gmail.com

See also Kim’s article on public or street art in which Jaap’s work also features:

Three local art initiatives demonstrate that we need the authorities to support local creativity and worksof public or street art.

Our communities are so much richer, interesting and exciting when they include murals, sculptures, landscape art etc that help to express who we are or are simply fun elements in an otherwise function-orientated built environment.  … http://scenicsouth.co.za//2012/02/ct-design-capital-of-world-where-is-public-art/

Viv