5 minutes with Deziree Smith, founder and creative genius behind the brand, Whimsical Collection:
Tell us about your childhood – where did you grow up?
W: I grew up in Klerksdorp, a mining town not too far from Potchefstroom. It was very easy living in the platteland. We played in Rooi Grond and danced in the rain. Far removed from today’s technology generation. Back then the truly simple things in life were magic! I always long for ‘times gone by’ and intend to paint a collection on this topic soon.
Tell us about your interior designer career – who did you work with, also, has this had impact on your career as an artist today?
W: Fresh out of college I was fortunate enough to work with the celebrated designer, Ralph Krall. I pretty much made the coffee and paintings at the same time. His style was very colonial and African, and that rubbed off on me as a young artist. He used a number of my paintings in his decor and was without a doubt a big stepping stone into my career as a fine artist.
What do you love about your job and being an artist?
W: Every day I create something new. I’ve never been bored. I have so many ideas to share with the world, and I can’t help the feeling that the best is yet to come.
What inspires you?
W: This incredible place called Africa. From our smallest insects to the bigger than life big five.
What is the toughest part of being an Artist here in South Africa?
W: Without a doubt the endless brilliant artist out there. The competition and you have to do something completely different to stand out.
What is your favorite piece to date, and why?
W: There is one painting I regret selling. It’s called ‘Off the Edge of the map’. It depicts a plane flying over palm trees and a map compass in a sea of green – my favourite colour . This painting represents the endless journeys that still lay before me. It inspires me to keep going. I have no idea who owns this piece now, but I hope it one day finds its way back to me.
Tell us about Whimsical Collection?
W: We are a proudly South African company that create African gifts from the designs that I paint. Each design in the whimsical family was crafted by hand and used exclusively for us. Products include prints, magnets, trays, beach bags, cosmetic bags, cards, signed prints, gift tags, placemats and scatter cushions. We create fun memorable designs that feature on practical products. We invite our clients to take a piece of Africa home with them. On our signed prints we promote the plight of our African animals and offer a website link where one can go to donate much-needed funds in this very real time of poaching. Our paper products are produced from a registered sustainable forest and we aim to keep our footprint green and hope to inspire our buyers to do the same. Whimsical Collection also donates to The Rhino Orphanage in the Limpopo Province to help bring up the babies whose mothers were poached.
What makes it so popular?
W: We produce products that not only feature the big five but also, the often overlooked hippo and wild dog. It is a celebration of African animals. Future ranges will include a wider variety of the African Wildlife. Our products are made in South Africa. Our team includes dedicated staff from disadvantaged African countries. Our bags and pillows are made in our studio and all our products are packed by hand. Every sale gets treated as a special gift that gets wrapped with a personal thank you card.
Where to next?
W: We are constantly evolving products and designs to develop our market. We have expanded our workspace and team to sustain this very popular company. We will continue to grow and our ethics to stay the same as the day we started in August 2013. We will continue to empower local community members and we will remain faithful to our animals and the problems they face for their survival.
Tell us about the ranges.
W: Wildlife in Flight is our very first range that launched in August of 2013. To this day, it remains very strong and popular. It showcases our animals floating on vintage hot air balloons. A fun and whimsical take on the normal designs you see out there. By putting the animals in an unlikely space, we have captured the imagination of most onlookers.
Wildlife at Leisure is about bringing Africa wildlife into the home. Leisurely enjoying themselves on the sofa and not ready to get up just yet. I tried to paint the animals on the kind of sofa I can imagine they would have in their own home. Envision this animal coming over for a visit and asking you for another sugar in its coffee.
Wildlife in Colour is about diversity and takes a modern approach to our animals and portrays them in the colours of the rainbow. Bold and powerful, this range makes a statement. Not for the faint-hearted, this range aims to stop you in your tracks and demand you to take another look. Each image was specifically selected to showcase the animal in such a light as one would want to experience them on safari.
Whimsical Christmas was introduced in September 2017. Here, I chose the six most popular animals to bring warmth to the festive season. A more serious approach was taken, considering each was individually painted with oil on board. Inspired by the hues of the African planes and the traditional symbols and colours of Christmas, we created a range that provides a touch of African under the tree and includes a set of six dinner placemats, six gift cards, and six greeting cards. Pink/Orange zebra is about seeing our animals in a different way through a different light or colour. By design, the idea of African wildlife will linger and inspire the world to conserve and protect these glorious beasts that we are custodians of.
What is your favourite thing about this company?
W: The endless possibilities of designs and products, the people we help and the animals we promote, giving back and the fun we have every day!
What is your favourite product?
W: As the artist behind the designs my favourites tend to change. Today it would be the summer beach bag: fashionable, practical, colourful and fun –it’s the perfect summer accessory and has proven to be extremely popular.
Do you have anything else to add?
W: I want to change the way we look at Africa’s animals. My focus in each new range is to portray the animals in such a light that will make us respect them, remember them and ultimately conserve them for future generations. As an artist, we carry the possibility to use our art to communicate and capture the status of our current times and alter peoples thinking. We will save what we love. I hope through my Whimsical Collection work that I have ignited a certain kind of love for Africa’s wild that will inspire us to protect them.
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