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All-Round Creative Stella Hertantyo Welcomes Play into Her Practice

While Stella Hertantyo studied multimedia journalism at the University of Cape Town, it’s her whimsical fashion illustrations that first caught our eye – an excellent example that developing your artistic skills is a multi-faceted and ongoing process, and that having different outlets and expressions can strengthen your creative output on the whole. In our conversation with Hertantyo we discovered more about her recent studies, illustrative style and passion projects, one being cnscs_: an inclusive, inspiring online space that speaks to making thoughtful and low-impact choices in your life and style.

Stella Hertantyo

Tell us about the work you created during your final year. Any projects that stand out for you?

One of my biggest interests and passions is exploring and learning about how to create a slower, more considered, ethical, and sustainable fashion industry – especially locally. So, for my final journalistic body of work, I did a deep dive into the opportunities and challenges for creating a circular textile economy in a South African context. I called this body of work ‘Thinking in Circles’ and it includes written articles, podcast conversations and a photo essay. Created in my final semester of my undergrad, ‘Thinking in Circles’ explores conversations with designers, educators, and industry professionals to seek out experiential stories and industry knowledge, to understand what it will take to create a circular approach to production in the local fashion industry. I hope that it paints a picture of the opportunities and challenges that the industry faces, as we begin to re-imagine the future of fashion. You can browse through the different elements of the body of work here.

How would you describe your style to someone who’d never seen your work before?

If we are talking about my illustrations, honestly, I just create illustrated characters wearing outfits that I wish I could own! My illustrations are whimsical, playful, and filled with colour. In terms of my writing style, that’s a tricky one. I was recently talking to Modupe Oloruntoba (a local fashion writer and creative content consultant) for a cnscs_ article and she said that her love for fashion media began because it opened up a whole world and global industry to her. That is my aim with my writing too – to open up worlds for those who wish to enter, explore and learn. Have I managed to do that? Well, you’ll have to tell me 🙂 

What would you like to be known for in the local creative industry?

Haha, I don’t think I’ve ever considered myself to be a Cape Town creative. And, this is a tough question, because: imposter syndrome. But, I’d love to be known as a writer who makes every interviewee feel comfortable, heard, at home, and able to share their stories. Doing interviews is my favourite part of the writing process. When it comes to illustration, that began as a hobby, so I haven’t thought about it in terms of a career, yet. But, I hope that when you look at my illustrations, they remind you to wear whatever sparks joy for you! 

What do you love about illustration? 

I love that it allows me to be playful and embrace my inner child. My dad is an artist and I’ve been drawing, making, and creating since I was a child. In high school, I took art as a subject and started doing oil paintings, because that is what most of the other students were doing. While I enjoyed pushing myself as an artist, I ended up putting myself through a lot of stress to create these technically difficult, hyperreal paintings, because I thought that was the only style of painting that was regarded as “impressive”. After high school, I didn’t want to touch oil paints and canvases for a very long time, because it felt like they were linked to the stress and burnout that I experienced in my final year. So, since high school, it has been a slow process of falling back in love with art and the process of creating – figuring out the place it holds in my life, figuring out why I love to make and create, and rediscovering how to be playful and whimsical.

That’s how I fell in love with illustration and started to discover my illustration style – it reminded me of the kind of art I created as a child, and I loved having space to just play. I have accepted that my art doesn’t have to look perfect and I don’t have to create it for anyone other than myself.  And, really, that’s what my illustrations are. I used to only use watercolours to illustrate, but I’ve been meaning to learn digital illustration for years, and the national lockdown that began in March finally gave me the time to do that.

What are your plans for 2021?

This year, I am looking forward to continuing my learning journey by doing a postgraduate diploma in sustainable development at the Sustainability Institute in Stellenbosch. Other than studying, I am excited to connect and create with more inspiring humans (online and offline), nurture my friendships, hold my loved ones close, spend time in nature, go on local getaways and build community with Masego Morgan in our cnscs_ corner of the internet. I haven’t thought further than that, because 2020 taught me that I should know better than to try and predict what the year will hold. So, I’ll just allow 2021 to unfold and embrace curiosity of the unknown, for now.

What were some personal projects (not necessarily linked to studying), that you’re passionate about?

At the beginning of 2020, my best friend (Masego Morgan) and I created an online platform together, called cnscs_ (pronounced: conscious). We created cnscs_, because we wanted to create an online community where knowledge, ideas, and resources around sustainable living (especially in a local context) could be shared. We see cnscs_ as a space to introduce people to sustainable living and apply it to their lives in a way that’s sustainable to them. Our focus is on telling and sharing African stories and decolonising the current sustainability narrative.

We share interviews with lots of change-making people, resource-based articles that inspire positive action and spark thought in our sustainability school section, wish lists, moodboards, musings, and tips and tricks that we have learnt along the way. We talk loads about personal style and slow fashion, but we also sprinkle in content that discusses other aspects of sustainability. To learn more, you can check out the cnscs_ website and Instagram page.

Follow @stella_hertantyo on Instagram.

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