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Fusing art and functionality: Carrol Boyes redefines homewares

Renowned South African artist and designer, Carrol Boyes, has met global success fusing functionality, art and design with imagination to create a range of handmade, essential homeware items.

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The foreign-born artist has found a niche in creating a functional homewares range that merges art with purpose, now selling her eclectic collection at department stores in 27 countries across the globe.

Inspired by the world around her and her artistic intuition, Carrol’s collection uses natural shapes to evoke a sense of fluidity.

“I often fall asleep with a potential design playing on my mind and then, in the moment of waking – that space between the sub-conscious and the conscious – it will come to me. When people ask how I come up with my ideas, I often say “I dreamt them up”,” she says.

Every item is completely handmade, with no two piece ever exactly the same, Carrol says.

“You would be amazed at how many pairs of hands can go in to the making of just one piece.  Every person that touches it puts a little bit of their own soul into that piece.”

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But Carrol’s success didn’t come easily, leaving everything behind to follow her dream as an artist 30 years ago with just enough money for 6 months in her pocket. But it was this choice that would ultimately catapult her into success.

“I never gave up on my dream of being a “true artist” and when I reached 35 I realised only I could make that happen and it was time was time to see if I could do what I love and make a living from it,” she said.

“It was quite scary to start, especially as I only had enough money to last me for the first 6 months. I started sculpting every day cutlery items in my home, buying just enough material to make something I could sell. It was a challenge making things that are usually boring everyday items into something that was more fun and interesting.”

When her business started to grow rapidly, Carrol called on the help of her brother and father to set up a factory on her family’s citrus farm, where she started to teach people how to make the products I that she designed.

Today, Carrol has expanded into a second factory on the same Cape Town property where she first created her range.

It was the unique offering of her range that saw her brand gain traction with word-of-mouth.

“I have been very fortunate in that from my early days the business grew by word of mouth. A few magazine editors and interior decorators loved my idiosyncratic designs and the business grew from there,” she said.

All of the hard work has been well worth it for Carrol, with the brand selling in 22 stores in South Africa and across 27 countries, including in big-name department stores and with over 1000 products in the range.

“In recent years, companies such as Bloomingdales and Nieman Marcus in the USA and of course David Jones  in Australia have helped us to reach even more people, so I would say it has been more successful that I could have imagined when I started out,” she said.

“When I started my business I didn’t plan for it to become this big and I certainly didn’t set out with the intention of creating homewares for a specific market. I just wanted to be an artist and make a living through my art. It was wonderful to discover I could meet people’s needs and at the same time create something unique and fun to use,” she said.

It’s the originality of Carrol’s homewares collection that has seen her products so well-received by consumers worldwide. But it was always Carrol’s intention to create an accessible range, she says.

“I wanted to create things that would be accessible to most people, rather than an elite few. My aim was also to combine sculpture with functionality. It’s easier for people to justify buying an expensive object that they have fallen in love with if they have a practical use for it.”

And it’s only upwards from here, with Carrol recently building her own chocolate factory and launching a wine business a few years ago, both of which have been hugely successful. So much so that Carrol is now looking to launching a beauty range – but it doesn’t end there.

But Carrol is also set to make a difference with her new-found fame, now looking to promote sustainability by recently launching a sustainable bags collection.

“I have always been concerned about our impact on our environment and so earlier this month we launched a range of felt bags that are hand made by the local community and made entirely from recycled plastic bottles. We will continue to research other ways we can make a difference and do similar projects.”

“Apart from that, I want to keep dreaming up and producing new creations for many, many years to come.”