Euan started his tumbling business on our farm, and it grew over the years into a very busy business with exports all over the world. He had big tumblers going all the time, and I noticed the small tumble chips coming out with the sludge when the tumblers were emptied. I have always been artistic and creative and at the back of my mind I hoped to make ornaments and jewellery using the small chips. I was then running a terribly busy boarding kennels and needed to put things aside for a bit.
One day I used a piece of brass wire and fashioned a dragonfly, put a kind of Perspex on the back and used my very first lot of stones. The same day an agent of Euan called in, saw the dragonfly, and placed an order. I then designed a few different templates and started off with four farm ladies sticking our very first batch. Our agent was happy, sent them overseas and we were soon flying forward with our business.
I employed a few more people, including men to do the twisting and tieing, and we sent off our first largish orders overseas. Later I went to the Department of Trade and Industry in Pretoria, and they helped us for nine years with our shows, travels, and shipments. Euan also was travelling a lot at that stage and he also got many orders for us overseas, often sending out containers of the ornaments. By then I had 30 people employed, most of them from the squatter camp at Majuba, and five kms away from our farm. It was a happy, busy, and productive time.
Then in 1999 Euan was killed in a motorcar accident while travelling to johannesburg. He employed many people on his own side, and the devastation was terrible. Shortly after his death we were hit by a fire that burned out 56 farms, and ours was totally burned out in 20 minutes. Many of the kraals were lost and 7 of our black people were killed. Then a week later we had 2 ft of snow. Our staff then were in plastic tents, our water pipes burned, and this alone was horrible. A week after that my mother slipped and died that night. So we had a long way to climb back.
I travelled twice to the States, got large orders for our ornaments, but felt I needed to step down. Many of my staff were infected with HIV and during the next couple of years, many of them died. My farm was sold, I remarried and moved to Newcastle. But I kept the drums of stone chips we had collected over so many years, and my head girl, Pienkie, is still with me. She travels 50 kms to work and back every day.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I prefer to leave the others behind, and it is working well for us this way. Our gardener twists the wire round the templates at his home, I shape the wire myself and Pienkie takes it home to the camp. There she has her own little group that stick the backing onto the wire, and I pay them per item. This way works well, and I will continue working with only Pienkie here every day. She sticks the stone, and we rope in more help if necessary.
We would love to build up our business again and it does help many underprivileged people who otherwise earn nothing. I am sending photos of Pienkie, Bongi (my domestic who also helps downstairs) and Beghi, our gardener. He earns a substantial amount of extra money as he takes the templates and wire home to twist, and ropes in help from his own family members too.