16 May The Sera Holland x Poetry Collaboration Inspired By The Fynbos Of The Western Cape
“The Sera Holland x Poetry product range was created as a larger extension of the fynbos flower bowl range that Sera produced last year. The original range consisted of different bowls which were handmade on the wheel and then hand-painted with various fynbos flowers, most of which were discovered and documented during her walks in and around the Western Cape.
For this collaboration, she needed to do things a little differently (due to the larger quantity of products). Sera teamed up with a local ceramic manufacturer who helped make and supply the shapes and conduct the firings. Together, Sera and Poetry chose 4 of their favourite prints, which were rolled out across a range of trinket bowls and vases which will be made exclusively available from Poetry stores nationwide. Sera hand-painted each item at her home studio in Cape Town.”
Read as we chat to Sera Holland about her journey and how she navigates working with established brands such as Poetry…
On her creative beginnings:
‘I started off working in Advertising as a graphic designer, where I spent most of that time working as a Senior Designer at a big ad agency in Dublin. While I loved agency life at the time, I felt creatively frustrated and while looking for creative outlets, I came across textile printing which I fell in love with and ended up studying part time. I found myself being drawn more and more towards pattern design, so I sourced a fabric printer, learnt how to sew and started to make things like cushion covers and napkins in my spare time which I would sell.
When I moved back to CT in 2012 I decided to turn my little side project into a full-time business, while freelancing as a designer on the side to finance it. And that is how I started Handmade By Me, a little local homeware business which focused on bespoke textile printing and decor products. I absolutely loved this business, it was my baby and I got to do whatever I wanted including opening up a retail store, as well as designing and manufacturing products for other retailers. But after 7 years I decided that I didn’t want to be in production anymore, and so decided to close the doors to my business, and start freelancing as a designer once again. The timing couldn’t have been better considering Covid was just around the corner, and I was incredibly fortunate to have some of my freelance design projects to fall back on during that crazy time. I also donated all the last pieces of fabric to make masks to raise money for Ladles of Love which I felt was a meaningful end.
Another thing I finally got to do when I closed HMBM’s doors was to get back into painting, something I hadn’t done since my school days, which I always wanted to explore but didn’t have the time. When covid hit, another local artist started a fund-raising initiative called coronacommissions where artists would offer to do painting commissions in exchange for donations to covid-related charities. I decided that this was a great way to practice my painting skills while also doing something to help those in need, so I decided on a whim to put myself out there. I initially panicked, but ended up doing over 30 paintings, and I still do them today (although I now call them Postcard commissions and clients pay me now rather than a charity). And ever since then, I have been painting almost full-time and I am absolutely loving it!
Pottery is something I have been doing for many years, it was my creative outlet for when I was flat out with HMBM. It is mostly something I do for fun rather than to sell, although in 2018 I did a collaboration with Anthony Shapiro at Handmade Contemporary in Joburg. And I have done various commissions over the years. Last year I released a range of Fynbos Flower Bowls which sparked an interest with Poetry stores and started a conversation about a possible collaboration.
The Sera Holland x Poetry product range was created as a larger extension of the fynbos flower bowl range. The original range consisted of different bowls which were handmade on the wheel and then hand-painted with various fynbos flowers, most of which were discovered and documented during my walks in and around the Western Cape. For this collaboration, we needed to do things a little differently (due to the larger quantity of products). I teamed up with a local ceramic manufacturer who helped make and supply the shapes and conduct the firings. Together with Poetry, we chose 4 of our favourite prints, which were rolled out across a range of trinket bowls and vases which are now exclusively available from Poetry stores nationwide. Each and every item was hand-painted at my home studio in Cape Town.’
Advice for upcoming artists on how to partnering with big brands and managing the relationship so you or your work doesn’t get taken out of context and stays true to your artistic vision:
‘A collaboration is a partnership which must work for both parties. And the most important part of any partnership is communication. Very often working with a big brand can be very intimidating so its important to know what you are and what you are not willing to do upfront – I call them my non-negotiables. The offer of exposure can be really enticing, but remember you have bills to pay. Being open-minded and professional and trusting your judgement will also go a long way.
I have had my fair share of attempted bullying and blatant copying by big retailers in the past so I was very cautious when Poetry got in touch about a collab. But I have to say that is has been an incredible experience so far. Even though we both had to compromise on some things at the start, I feel like we have been on the same team the whole time, and have both gone out of our way to make the collab a success.’