Yolisa Mathayo has crafting in her blood and is one of a group of crafters forming part of an artist development programme supported by the Drakenstein Local Tourism Association.
Yolisa specialises in exquisite beadwork and is a firm believer that one can make a living from crafts. Formerly from Queenstown in the Eastern Cape, she now lives in Mbwekeni in Paarl, where she creates intricate beadwork to support her family.
Her journey as a crafter started years ago when she learned to crochet to earn an income. She quickly realised that she has an extraordinary gift for creating her own patterns and made clothing and décor accessories, which she sold. “I looked at some patterns in crochet books and realised that I don’t need a pattern – I could do them in my head. I quickly started getting orders and worked from the Ikwezi Centre. When a group of visiting German tourists asked me for beadwork, I realised this could be a good opportunity and taught myself how to bead,” explains Yolisa.
As part of the development programme sponsored by the Drakenstein Municipality, Yolisa attended a workshop hosted by the Craft and Design Institute of South Africa and is looking at incorporating proudly Paarl influences in her beadwork. Her work has been exhibited at the Grahamstown Arts Festival and she has even done commissions for a contingent of Swedish visitors and a South African wine producer with royal connections.
Yolisa is finding a way of giving back to her community by teaching local unemployed women the art of beading. She hosts informal workshops in her home to share her artistry with other women and is also doing training at a Paarl high school. One of her trainees was awarded first prize in the beadwork/jewellery category of the Inkcubeko Yethu – a Culture, Visual Art, Craft Exhibitions and Fashion Show held in Queenstown. “You can make a living from working with your hands, but you must be prepared to work hard,” says Yolisa.
According to Annelize Stroebel, general manager of the DLTA, the artist development programme will be an ongoing and long-term project. “Our aim is to help these artists to become self-sustainable by producing market relevant products, so we are at the beginning of an extended journey that will hopefully result in the establishment of successful small business for these programme participants,” explains Stroebel.