Frances van Hasselt’s Rugs

WORDS Robyn Alexander IMAGES Warren Heath / Bureaux PRODUCTION Sven Alberding

Designer and entrepreneur Frances van Hasselt creates beautiful mohair rugs that reflect all the uniqueness of their origins in the South African Karoo.

The arid, semi-desert landscapes of the Karoo are an acquired taste.

This is a place where extreme harshness – scorching heat on summer days, icy cold on winter nights – coexists with the delicate beauty of plant life, and where the bone-dry air is scented with dust, yet still clean and crisp. Sunrise and sunset are soft and subtle, the land stretches seemingly endlessly to the distant horizons, and the sky feels somehow higher above than it does elsewhere.

This is also a region renowned for its mohair. The mohair fibres produced by the angora goats of the Karoo are some of the best in the world, and prized around the globe (most especially in the textile centres of Italy and Japan).

And designer and rug maker Frances van Hasselt has always known about the superb quality of South African mohair: she grew up on her family’s farm, which is located outside the small town of Prince Albert and includes one of the oldest angora goat studs in South Africa.

Making each one of her rugs is a unique process for Frances: she is pictured above with one of her most recent rug designs, which creatively reflects the colours and textures of the Swartberg Pass, in which she is standing.

“When I am in the Karoo, I spend time outside walking, as this is where most of my inspiration comes from,” Frances says. The light and the colours, the patterns formed by the gravel roads and folded mountain ranges – all of these unique signifiers of place are reflected in her designs. These might be inspired by “the tiniest folds of a veld flower or the balancing act performed by rock formations”, she says, adding that nature’s most valuable lesson is that of simplicity.

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