I looked at the picture on the mug in front of me as I waited for my hot chocolate to cool. I smiled. A buxom woman stared back. She looked as if she was posing or modelling. What tickled me was that this was not the tall, wafer thin figure that so many women aspire to nowadays. This woman was big and curvaceous. Yet she looked perfectly content within herself. She seemed to be saying: “It’s alright to be big. It’s beautiful to be large!”.
I like that! The equally large figure on the plate under the mug possessed considerable élan! I laughed softly to myself. Like me, this woman carried a jumble of bags. What’s really likeable about these figures is that they don’t conform to modern day “figure” expectations. They are Rubenesque and I like that!
Who are these caricatures created by? I didn’t need to look at the bottom of the mug to know these were Sharon Dold designs. Sharon, like me, lives in George. We had never met, but I planned to remedy that situation.
I invited her for coffee at Travelbugs, one of my favourite restaurants in George. While I awaited Sharon’s arrival, I tried to picture what she looked like. Did she look like one of her creations? Was she a large woman with a very red mouth dressed in a funky kind of manner? How old is she? I wondered. I remembered another one of Sharon’s creations: An older woman wearing a purple dressing gown and matching purple eye shadow. Her hair is in bright blue curlers that match the hilarious blue glasses through which her long lashed eyes are peering.
“Gaynor?” A soft voice enquired.
I looked into the smiling, fun filled face of a woman about my age. I smiled as I shook her hand. “Hi there, Sharon! I have been admiring your work and I didn’t know what to expect today. I was half anticipating the appearance of one of your Fat Ladies. But I see that you are nothing like them. I don’t know whether to be sorry or relieved.”
She laughed and this blonde haired, brown eyed woman sat down opposite me. We began chatting and Sharon’s story started to unfold…..
When she finished school, despite being passionate about art, she did a “very dependable” secretarial course. If you have the creative impulse within you, inevitably it finds it’s outlet. Sharon’s creativity was alive and well and burning to be released. For a friend’s birthday present, she took a plate and painted a funky bird on it that literally zinged in it’s bright, alive colours. Her friend raved about her creation! Soon Sharon was painting plate after plate with these freaky, funny birds. They were squawking, laughing, winking and behaving in an un-birdlike, thoroughly lovable manner. Her creativity had found it’s niche!
Her Fat Lady design for which her name is now synonymous leapt onto paper more than fifteen years ago and it is still the design for which she is widely known. Sharon laughed as she explained how one day a Fat Lady curved up at her from beneath her pencil. She smiled greeting her new creation and a few more Fat Ladies appeared in answer to that smile. I chuckled when she showed me a picture of two women in their bathing costumes on a beach. It is obviously not pleasant because they have their arms wrapped around their bodies for warmth. Their voluptuous breasts ooze above their arms! These Fat Ladies are not smiling though. Their eyes are beautifully made up but their red lipped mouths are pouting. I identify with that picture. I am not a great lover of the beach!
Sharon initially began marketing her designs from her home. She reproduced them very basically on plates and stationery. Now there is a thriving factory in the heart of George that utilises the very latest graphic design technology to produce an exciting range of homeware and gifting merchandise – stationery, crockery, trays, fridge magnets, spoon holders. Sharon Dold’s Designs are now found in over three hundred retail outlets throughout South Africa. One of her greatest pleasures as her business grows is that she is able to employ more and more local people.
I asked Sharon about the future, where she saw herself in five years?
“I would like to have significantly increased my international presence” she replied.
“Although it is wonderful that my designs have widespread recognition in South Africa, it would be incredible if they attained world-wide fame!”
I smile at the thought of beautifully made cards with Fat Ladies ‘strutting their stuff’ being sold at John Lewis in England (akin to Woolies in SA).
With the ailing, weak Rand there is definitely no better time to try!
To visit Sharon Dold’s Design web site click here!