Pewter perfection

From ceramic salad bowls to wooden serving boards and pewter butter dishes, no Christmas table should be without a touch of sophisticated tableware. And because we love local, we’ll be serving up a truly unforgettable meal using some gorgeous creations by Hillcrest mum, Gerda Munnik, who thrives on handcrafting beautiful things.

Immaculately groomed, Gerda’s up at 4am doing paperwork and updating her website before taking her daughter to school. Then it’s back home to do her own house work until afternoon school duties and extra mural activities take over. She’s a self-taught creative perfectionist who took a hobby and turned it into her livelihood, so that she could play a more valuable role in her daughter’s life. When she’s not chaperoning, cleaning or spending quality time with her loved ones, Gerda gets cosy in her home-based workshop where she meticulously works with materials like pewter, glass and wood to create an ever-evolving collection of themed table accents, serveware and more.

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“My father did everything around the house and always got us kids involved, whether it was welding steel feet onto table legs or changing a tyre. We learnt to weld and fish before we learnt to cook. He taught us how to work with our hands, and I think because of this, I have always loved being creative.”

I started working with silver to make jewellery, which I enjoyed so much that I founded Chlo Jewellery and Décor – an online store through which I sold my earrings, necklaces, bangles, bracelets, charms and rings.

I traded at local markets, and the more people I met along the way, the more inspiration I gathered. I love to learn and push myself as far as I can go, so this year I decided it was time to work with pewter.”

For Gerda, it matters that each piece is unique, and it has to be perfect. From making her own moulds for pewter castings to hand sanding timber boards, there isn’t an element to her creations that she doesn’t do herself.

“I have no problem starting over if I am not happy with the slightest detail. I know someone else might not notice, but I can’t handle something leaving my workshop if it is not up to my standards.”

When it comes to her pewter creations, Gerda is quick to photograph anything she sees that inspires her – these are often related to nature – then scans the photo into her computer that creates a 3D drawing which is sent to a CatCam to create a mould template. She then uses a milling machine to make a reverse, two-part mould. This is filled with silicone and needs 16 hours for both parts to dry before the two silicone halves can be clamped together and filled with liquid pewter. Gerda works on about 10 moulds at a time. Creating her silver charms, earrings and bracelets follows the same process as her pewter work, but plaster of Paris is used for the mould around the silver designs, which is broken and removed once dry.

“The next step is to cut off the excess pewter with a craft knife and then I use a dremel – a multi-functional electronic tool – to create the final designs which are used on items like platters, ice buckets, salad servers, wooden platters and cheese boards. All pewter is polished before packaging.”

Gerda sells directly to customers and businesses. She doesn’t wish to own a store because she loves building personal relationships with people in order to fully understand what they want.

“When you’ve been raised in such a way that you’ve been given the confidence to do your own hard work, you have the ability to create your own destiny. I don’t like the idea of mass producing anything, and people have such wonderful ideas to share, which keeps my creativity at an all-time high, which is why I’m so excited about my Christmas range.”

Wooden serving boards for garlic loaves, Snack Bowls made of glass mounted on a pewter stag, beautiful ceramic butter dishes adorned with pewter stags, wooden salad bowls with pewter squirrels, and some fun and beautiful silver charms and earrings are just some of Gerda’s festive collection pieces that will available at the Shongweni Farmers & Craft Market Christmas Extravaganza during December.

Otherwise you can browse and shop online at online www.chlo.co.za

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