We at Darling Sweet are proud to be associated with the relaunching this month of The Darling Trust’s Evita’s Crafters women’s craft and skills development project. The project is in fact a reincarnation of the Trust’s Craft and Skills Development Centre that was launched in 2006. The centre trained unemployed women in various crafts such as beading, embroidery and weaving, and the results of their handiwork were sold at Evita se Perron, where the project was based, to provide the women with an income. By 2008 over fifty women had passed through the programme, by which time the centre evolved into a cooperative – The Darling Craft Cooperative – formed by six of the centre’s crafters. Sadly, the cooperative struggled to become financially sustainable and a few years later had to close its doors when donated funding dried up.
Earlier this year Darling Sweet, with our company focus on women’s empowerment, as well as being an active supporter of The Darling Trust, decided to revive the project as ‘Evita’s Crafters’. The aim of the project is to provide a space, resources and infrastructure for the women of Darling to create needle-craft objects which can be sold, thus developing a skillset and generating an income for themselves. The multi-talented freelance photographer Jacqui van Staden,who recently moved to Darling, is coordinating the project. For some years Jacqui has been developing her own line of toys, the Monster Project, with the dream of someday going into production. When she was approached to coordinate Evita’s Crafters she saw it as the perfect opportunity to make this dream a reality. In early June Jacqui, together with a small band of Darling women in need of an income set about installing themselves at Darling Sweet and started producing Jacqui’s Monsters under her watch. Soon these one-of-a-kind bespoke Monsters started appearing for sale in shops and online, and have since become highly sought-after amongst collectors of handmade toys and as gifts for children alike.
Once the Monsters were well into production Jacqui set about extending the range of toys, and there are now elephants, woolly mammoths, whales and many more animals to come in the next few months.
Besides Jacqui, the rest of the current team of crafters are; Claritha Lewis, Rachel Menelephy and Jermaine October. Claritha, who worked for Bonwit for 25 years, does all the sewing. Jermaine cuts all the patterns as well as doing the final finishing, such as adding buttons, final stitching of details and stuffing. She also works closely with Jacqui on problem solving prototype patterns. Rachel’s skills lie in embroidery and finishing; overseeing the detail of each monster, from creating the eyes to sewing on the pockets and finally closing up the creature once it has been stuffed. This intimate group of women make the perfect team and they look forward to growing the project. When asked about the future the women are quick to point out that they plan to relocate to bigger premises, buy a second industrial sewing machine and take on more crafters to increase their production, seeing as they can hardly keep up with the current demand for their toys.
All the toys created by Evita’s Crafters are made from recycled fabric donated by the public, so if anyone would like to donate fabric, haberdashery or funds towards a second industrial sewing machine, or would like any further information, please email Jacqui at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Evita’s Crafters’ toys are sold online via our online shop (www.darlingsweet.co.za/shop), at the Perron’s Arts & Crafts shop, and at some markets which they advertise on their social media. You can follow the crafters on Instagram – @evitas_crafters – and facebook – @evitascrafters – to keep up to date with what they are doing.