By Jana-Mari Smith
“At first this was just a hobby. Then my hobby became my career, which I think is everybody’s dream.”
Glenda Meinert’s hobby of making art from leather is inspired by Namibia’s landscapes and wildlife. She has always had an artistic vein running through her, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that she took the step of putting her art on the market. After a job at Nakara that lasted for more than a decade, and a few years of being a stay-at-home mum, Glenda took the plunge and opened Glenda’s Leather Art Boutique at the Namibia Craft Centre, showcasing her knack for art. She has never looked back.
Predominantly the stall exhibits unique canvasses onto which Glenda creates what at first seem like paintings. But with a closer look, it emerges that the ‘paintings’ are in fact bits of leather, carefully cut and pasted on top of each other to create stunning landscape and wildlife portraits.
Occasionally the leather ‘paintings’ are interspersed with other artefacts to increase the illusion of reality – bits of wild grass, ostrich eggshell pieces, porcupine quills – even cotton thread to simulate a fishing line.
Glenda says the inspiration for these art pieces originated from her work at Nakara, when she began taking off-cuts home and experimenting with them. These days she selects leather to create pieces that are, in a sense, three-dimensional renderings of Namibia’s wildlife and nature. Her style is realistic and based on using a natural colour palette, which nevertheless creates the illusion of form and shadows by carefully placing similar, yet different, colour pieces on top of each other – soft browns in various shades, blue, yellows, beige and black. Occasionally she does splash out and adds bold colours, deep reds for instance.
Sometimes she takes reality a step further – a piece featuring two gemsbok is made from gemsbok leather; a kudu portrait from kudu skin.
Her passion lies in the fact that each time she starts a new piece, she knows it will be exclusive. “Each piece is unique. Each single one is special.”
Glenda also uses her clients as a basis for inspiration. For those who regularly buy her art, she sets the goal of constantly creating new pieces. “I’m always up for a challenge’” she acknowledges.
Due to her experience in the leather trade, Glenda makes sure that the leather she uses in her art is exportable to different countries, ensuring that customers do not face unnecessary hassles at customs.
She gladly makes pieces to order, basing her designs on the client’s request.
Over the years, Glenda has made different sizes of her leather artwork, including small items measuring no more than 30 x 45 centimetres. The largest piece was a landscape that stretched two and a half metres across.
She doesn’t restrict her talents to leather ‘paintings’ however, and her shop also showcases smaller projects, such as greeting cards featuring wildlife and landscape photographs she has taken during trips across the country. This year she began dabbling in Christmas candles – decorating them with bits of leather and beads, ostrich eggshell pieces and other material. She also produces a range of mobiles, and gift boxes covered in leather.
“I’ll try anything. Whatever I can make, I do. If I see it sells, then I start producing more.”
With her endless enthusiasm and passion, and Namibia’s vast landscape and wide range of wildlife as inspiration, it is clear that Glenda will keep on creating great art for a long time to come.