Sweet-Orr Celebrates Local Creative Talent

Love What You Do: Workwear Brand Sweet-Orr Celebrates Local Creatives

WORDS Gina Dionisio

Local workwear brand Sweet-Orr has partnered with 10 South African industry leaders to showcase their talent and celebrate their inspiring stories.

For just over 150 years, local workwear brand Sweet-Orr has empowered generations of people in countless industries to do the work they love. It’s this commitment that has drawn Sweet-Orr to trailblazers, creative thinkers, and hard workers in every field; and why they’ve chosen to celebrate them and the remarkable work they do. Sweet-Orr has partnered with 10 South African industry leaders to showcase their talent and celebrate their inspiring stories with their new #LoveWhatYouDo campaign. It’s a ‘hat tip’ to the hardworking men and women from different industries, who all share one common trait: they have a deep-rooted love and passion for what they do. The 10 South African industry leaders are:

  • Lyndi Sales – Contemporary artist
  • Otto Du Plessis – Sculptor
  • David Southwood – Photographer
  • Hiram Koopman – Saxophonist
  • Gino Lange – Custom car fabricator
  • Bongani Mnisi – Conservationist
  • Leighton Rathbone – Mixologist
  • Thandie Dowery – Jewellery designer
  • Jo Neser – Olive farmer
  • Buddy Chellan – Professional BMXer

From this impressive pack, we interviewed five creatives whose dynamic and thoughtful work will, no doubt, excite you too:

Lyndi Sales

Contemporary artist Lyndi Sales has been creating a series of installations and artworks for the past 20 years. Her intricately made constructions shed light on the fragile nature of our existence and temporality.


Your work is so intricate – what attracts you to this kind of practice?

I like working with intricate small units that can be multiplied to form a much larger whole. The accumulation of multiples reminds me of the building blocks of the universe. The fragility of this intricate network that binds everything is elusive. I’ve always wanted to see beyond the veil of this three dimensional realm that we live in. I often look to the microcosm and the macrocosm as the realms unseen, only viewed through the aid of a microscope or a telescope. The intricacy of patterns in nature, in animals and in science is what intrigues me.  

What are the main themes that run through your work?

Temporality and transience are themes I find myself returning to. The existential questions around life and death.  I have always been interested in somehow portraying the metaphysical realms. I look for parallels between science and nature and the spiritual. And the connectivity that binds us all through the infinitely small and large. 

Are there any artists who inspire you?

I’m inspired by the autobiographical references in the work of Marina Abramovic and by her vulnerability, courage and passion. The sheer wonder of how Tara Donovan creates her installations and her patience and perseverance with an overlooked everyday object to speak its own language through multiplying it has inspired my practice.  

I often reflect upon the overwhelming emotion I felt when I saw The Night Café by Vincent Van Gogh. I’m in awe of his passion for his craft. And then Wassily Kandinsky for inspiring me to want to visualise the unseen through shape and colours. 

Thandie Dowery

Nomi Handmade, owned and founded by Thandie Dowery, takes pride in being a multicultural brand with Shweshwe roots in Sotho culture. Currently, the South African jewellery maker is targeting the global market and has stocked shops in the US, UK, and Europe. Nomi Handmade specialises in modern, minimalist pieces, and the brand’s go-to material is Shweshwe fabric, which features prominently in every design.


How did you get into jewellery design? 

I’ve always had a love for shweshwe, but having more of a minimalist taste, I couldn’t imagine wearing a garment made from the bold, vibrant prints. So my work around was to make accessories that could accent my outfits rather than be a main feature. Friends liked the pieces I would wear and literally stole them off my body – which, in turn, happened to them too, making me realise that perhaps I was onto something. And so my jewellery business was born.

Can you tell us more about the meaning behind the name Nomi Handmade? 

Nomi Handmade is named after mom, Nomgcobo, whose nickname was Nomi. Nomgcobo means happiness in Xhosa. Coincidentally, my mom also converted to Judaism and the name woman converts take on is also Nomi. The Hebrew meaning is beautiful and delightful. Both meanings I think are fitting for the bright, colourful pieces in the range, which aims to make the wearer feel beautiful and inspire happiness and delight.

If you could collaborate with another local designer, who would you choose and why? 

iloni. I absolutely love the metal embellishments they use on their rubber jewellery pieces. It would be great to collaborate on a necklace and bracelet range, incorporating shweshwe with their brass pipe and rod fastenings.

Otto Du Plessis

Founder of Bronze Age Foundry in Cape Town, Otto Du Plessis is a sculptor who is passionate about creating figurative bronze work.


What attracted you to using bronze as a medium?

Bronze is an incredible medium, because of its strength and durability one is capable of making sculptures and furniture that would not last if it was in other mediums (wood /ceramic cement etc). The incredible patinas or colours that can be obtained and translate your sculpting language  beautifully.

Are there any themes that run through your work?

Most of my work is quite organic – it is about the connection between animals and humans and the life we share. I see myself as a sculptor and a designer. My work has an element of realism and a contemporary finish and includes furniture, vases and sculptures. Southern Guild represents me and with them my work has travelled the world at all the major art and design fairs. The world of art and design is starting to merge which means that designers are becoming as important as artists and their work is becoming collectable. Southern Guild has locally and Internationally become one of the most important galleries and I am proud to be represented by them.

Which artists and sculptors inspire you?

So many, if I have to name two it will be Egon Tanya and William Kentridge – they make it look so easy and their work is effortless. I have worked and cast bronzes for various different artists including Kentridge, Brett Murray, David Brown, Kevin Brand, Dylan Lewis, Wim Botha, and even the late Eduardo Villa. What I really appreciate about most artists is their approach to the work they do. Sculptures  are so multifaceted in regards to the process followed to get to the final product. Bruce Arnott had a major influence on a couple of famous sculptors. His work was all about the simplified form and essence of the human, he was a remarkable teacher and craftsman and has taught me a lot about finishing bronzes.

David Southwood

For over 20 years David Southwood has been capturing photos that have asked questions with craft, humour, and empathy. David’s work has been shown in The South African National Gallery, The Finnish Museum of Photography, The Christoph Merian Stiftung, the collection of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, The Goethe Institut, and The Spier Art Collection. His work has been featured in numerous accredited publications, too.


What drew you to photography and what keeps you interested in the medium?

As Gary Winogrand said, ‘Photography shows you what the world looks like.’ This is what drew me initially. This fascination with light and materials grew into and combined with the possibilities for incessant travel and meeting a diverse range of people: from Pollsmoor inmates to Philosophers via the man in the street. The man in the street is the most important person for me, and the sooner I return to straight-up portraiture, the better. Tooling around unknown cities on my own with the camera is the Golden hour, no matter the time of day. Don’t let anyone tell you that the Golden hour is dusk; that’s fiction from the top drawer. 

What in your eyes makes the perfect shot?

A camera is like an amplifier for the curious which enables the user to magnify and distill surface and interior into, ideally, an elegant synthesis. If this sleek synthesis manages to garner more than 180 likes, then it can be adjudged ‘perfect.’

What are your career highlights?

  • Meeting William Eggleston in Spain and managing to somehow make my question hit home through all the hard tack which he was sinking.
  • Working for two weeks in Pollsmoor. Profound education, not fun. 
  • Sneaking through the back door of MOMA with a specialised lanyard and card to meet a curator, thus avoiding a very long queue.

Hiram Koopman

Since an early age Hiram Koopman has been passionate about creating music. He has collaborated with numerous artists from South Africa and around the world, including Ken Raynolds, Neville D, Emo Adams, Vicky Sampson, Elvis Blue, Anton Goosen to name a few.


How did you discover your love for music?

I come from a musical family, and specifically my dad has been playing saxophone for 50 years. Growing up, playing in the church band every Sunday with my dad, grandpa, brothers and uncles cultivated a love for music from a very young age. Moving on from playing in church to bigger stages, theatres and festivals, the love for music even grew bigger. Also, travelling overseas to Europe, UK, Canada, America, New Zealand and Australia, you realise that music in actual fact is a ‘universal language’ and that no matter where you play in the world, it will always speak to someone, somewhere, somehow.

Is there a genre of music that you are particularly drawn to?

I grew up listening to great Jazz artists such as George Benson, Al Jarreau, Stevie Wonder just to mention a few. My parents used to listen to older jazz artists like The Commodores, El Fritzgerald and Barry White. My dad had a huge collection to B-bob jazz such as Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Miles Daves. I have a broad spectrum of music that I really love, from Rock to Pop, Hip Hop and Jazz. I love playing Jazz though. It feels like a ‘love at first sight’, feeling when playing it.

Are there any musicians who inspire you?

Yes, I believe that our planet has been blessed with extraordinary musicians that inspire me in making a change in people’s life through music. One such person is Kirk Whalum, a professional saxophonist and humanitarian. His career as a musician started as a young boy, and his big breakthrough started when he joined Whitney Houston’s band, and later started his own band. Not only did he start his own career but also invested in multiple community projects where he helps the less fortunate in supplying basic needs such as houses, schools and food.