A LIFETIME devoted to the creative arts has given Arina Venter the competence to work in any medium and the independence to produce in only those she loves most.
The walls of her home in Stilbaai are adorned with the drawings, paintings and wood etchings she completed earlier in her art career — a time whose busyness did not preclude learning the crafts that have occupied her recently, and which she now displays in a colourful array of beading, jewellery in silver and precious stones, quilting, weaving, painting, sculpture and cloth dolls.
Arina’s career after she graduated as a young sculptor has ranged from teaching and lecturing in several countries, exhibiting her art and critiquing the art of others, moderating at exams and adjudicating, running her own art school, and in the early 1990s teaching at the Pretoria Art Gallery.
Even before marrying and becoming the mother of four sons, she was learning from a silversmith the intricacies of jewellery making. When she began her career as the Pretoria Art, Music and Ballet School’s first sculpture teacher, she was already making enamel jewellery.
“As a student I sold the enamel jewellery for pocket money.”
Overseas travel and living abroad occupied much of her time as a wife and young mother, but in between she managed to start her own art school, which she ran for about eight years.
“That was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn, because I had various age groups: primary and secondary school kids, students swotting art at other institutions who came to me for extra help, a lot of adults, many of them professional people, and also a lot of children with special needs. Even stroke patients came to me for therapy.
“I also gained a lot from teaching overseas because I met many people and had the opportunity to learn the differences between their cultures. I had people from various countries, namely Chile, Britain, United States, Tunisia, Belgium, Korea, Germany and France. Everybody comes with a different background, style, age, and you have to adapt your teaching.
“I believe if you are a good teacher you don’t force your style on your students, you develop theirs.”
When the family returned to South Africa permanently she lectured art students as well as art teachers who did in-service training. She moderated exams and was chief moderator of exam papers. On request she still critiques the work of other artists.
Their move to the seaside town on the Cape South Coast was the culmination of their travels, and fitted in well with her decision “to do everything I love”.
“I am a jack of all trades and master of none,” she jokes. “I can work in any medium, because I have taught them all. I know all the crafts because I have been teaching them. Along the way I learnt how to do the things I now love most, like making silver jewellery, painting and sculpture, but I also do beading, lamp work beads, which is the art of making beads.”
While overseas, she was able to source beads from various countries, e.g. Afghanistan, Africa, Tibet and Taiwan, and now makes pieces of jewellery from those beads, and from lapis lazuli from Egypt, the deep blue semi-precious stone that has been prized since antiquity for its intense colour. She also includes other semi-precious stones in her silver jewellery.
Arina enjoys cooking, but loves baking. “I did a lot of courses in gourmet cuisine, especially for entertaining. I have been a compulsive collector of recipes for more than 40 years and have recipes from all over the world.”
Her creative drive leaves its stamp on her surroundings in some uncommon ways. “At the moment I have finished making a mould for the tiles we will use in a bathroom we are renovating,” she says.
Because she is at work doing what she most enjoys, she seems tireless. “There is always something keeping me busy.”