Finding beauty

Free State, South Africa

Free State, South Africa

First let me set the scene. I flew 13 hours from Chicago to Doha, Qatar with food poisoning. I have never had to use those little bags the airline provides and let's just say I never want to again! Then an 8 hour layover in Doha where I met my friend Barry. We get on the plane to go to Cape Town fly for a couple of hours and then learn that we have to turn around and go back to Doha. Found out later that Saudi Arabia had launched airstrikes on Yemen and wouldn't let us fly over their air space. A couple more hours in Doha and then finally our 9 hour flight to Cape Town. Checked into our hotel and I tried to eat some dinner and then got about 6 hours sleep before we had to get up in the morning early for a short flight to Bloemfontein. Basically I hadn't slept for 2 days and I still had food poisoning...

All of that disappeared when I saw my friend Cora and we started the drive to Mud Studio. 

Let's just say 4 wheel drive is a good thing!

Let's just say 4 wheel drive is a good thing!

Off a mud road nestled in the hills is a wee magical place called Mud Studio. It is located in an old mission within the free state (a plot of land king Mo Shoeshoe of Lesotho gave to the Boers in order to keep the peace). It is part working farm, part church and part pottery studio. 

We were lucky enough to be given a tour by the owner Werner.  He said when he first came to the area the women were making clay beads to be made into necklaces. He took their idea and expanded on it making beautiful chandeliers and pottery that are seen in the pages of magazines and stores like Anthropologie. He trains and employs people from the surrounding area. 

We also got to see some of the pottery being rolled out and then placed in forms. Some of the clay is rolled with an intricate design. Imagine my surprise when I recognized a set  of coffee mugs I had wanted to buy from Anthropologie. 

Each piece has the indelible mark of the people who made them. My friend Cora and I liked the ones that were a little misshapen because we could see the fingerprints of the people who were making them.

Werner took us to the storage shed where we wandered for almost an hour trying not to buy everything! I tried to winnow down my pile but it was impossible. His wife Phillippa is an artist and I fell in love with one of her vases that had stitching on it. I wish I could share pictures, but my luggage still hasn't made it to me! 

Out in the beautiful air shaded by a tin roof there were lines with clay beads strewn about the grass. Women were working on creating the large chandelier masterpieces. I need a bigger home to warrant hanging one!  I saw one of the Mud Studio chandeliers hanging in a restaurant in Cape Town and it was stunning. 

Even though all I wanted was a bed it was an experience I wouldn't have missed for the world. I am so grateful to Mud Studio for opening their doors, answering my questions and letting me take pictures. 

We were then invited to go over to the Mission to see the church. It is on on a working farm and so in the background you could hear the sound of men at work, but within the church all was peaceful and still. The grounds are simply stunning and Werner's mother is a master gardener. The flowers everywhere are beautiful. You can tell the family loves the land and are wonderful stewards of the legacy they inherited. 

This is why I travel. 

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