Plain Tiger Spotlight: Okasie

By Greer Krige

If you haven’t yet heard of Okasie, you are in for a treat. This South African company was founded in 1999 by duo Dane Erwee – the creative and Chris Willemse- the business expert and has evolved steadily from there.

At its core an unrivaled events company, floral design and installation innovators, décor and design hire trailblazers. Central to all they do, lies a deep love and celebration of flowers and nature, and homage is played to these elements in all that this dynamic pair undertake. Their latest direction is the creation of a selection of bespoke, one-of-a-kind artworks, handcrafted from floral elements grown on their Stellenbosch farm and dried, pressed and paired with mixed media that result in a creation that takes one’s breath away.

Each of their botanical designs is a tapestry of colour and texture with a patina that adds a sense of timelessness.

Respect for, and consciousness of, nature and our natural environment are obvious through the use of upcycled frames, hand-dyed natural fabrics and local botanicals.

I asked Dane what inspired this new direction.

“It was never intended to be something deliberate, it simply happened by accident when I placed a leaf on a piece of old fabric…maybe also a referral to older pressed botanicals that had that wonderful 1970’s feeling about it, hidden away in junk stores and dusty attics. In saying this, I think that there is definitely a strong sense of nostalgia as well- I do remember placing Michaelmas daisy branches in telephone books as a young boy and then wanting to frame them one day after…or the surprise of paging through a book and finding a forgotten leaf in it, thin and light, almost transparent and perfectly flat. Also the fact that the colours change as the flowers fade…revisiting something I did as a kid is different now..I am trying to create scenes in nature in which the viewer can dream of and escape into, scenes with movement and depth or simply a blast of colour.”

And what makes their pieces so special:

 “Our pieces are also unique in the sense that we only use old frames and repurposed linen. We hand dye some of it or simply assemble the background with odd pieces of vintage fabric and off-cuts. It is an absolute joy to have an abundance of farm foraged material at hand to play with. It is not an artform that is really controlling – the leaves or foliage simply speak for themselves and find their own way into a composition where there isn’t really a right or wrong

I was curious as to whether as a florist he has a favourite flower and if so, which one and why?

“I love most flowers, especially soft herbaceous blooms like delphinium but find myself more and more attracted to exotic looking plants. I especially like things that can work indoors and that can become part of the interior world. Or plants that grow outside and that can survive indoors for a short while. Simply to almost confuse you and make you look twice.”

And we’ve all heard the quote, “do something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life”, so I asked what he loves most about his job?

“My career as a florist has forced me to look at things differently. There is a constant need to re-invent and re-use. I like the unpredictability of the product and the fact that you are creating a living thing that needs water. I also embrace the frustration that comes along with the unpredictability and how that forces me into battle in trying to create something that will work well and succeed in a particular situation. Floristry has recently moved towards omitting water and making use of more natural ways of dried material and softer meadowy grasses and seeds. I like this look for now but I am slowly getting excited for the next chapter... And I might just be growing my own marigolds!”

Shop the Okasie artworks here, but they are limited edition so don’t miss out!