Did you know?
Surveys show increasing numbers of visitors want eco-friendly holidays that benefit local communities.
On a sheep farm in the Eastern Cape you’ll find a pottery studio that uplifts people through creativity and beauty.
The founder is a young woman named Elize van Aardt, who has married into the long line of Van Aardts who have lived in this area between Cookhouse and Cradock for many generations.
After studying ceramics at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, Van Aardt brought her skills back home, experimenting with mixed media fused in fire – clay, glass and metal.
Her farm studio has trained many people and now provides permanent full-time employment to previously unskilled women.
Here functional items with a decorative twist are produced – milk jugs and platters and bowls with beautiful roses, for example. Recently, a range of brightly coloured cups and saucers was developed.
'It’s mostly organically inspired, with slightly wonky shapes,' says Van Aardt. 'Our work has a kind of French country look.'
Other popular items from Elizwe Ceramics include wall tiles – individually created pieces of art that glow with colour.
Van Aardt is committed to sharing her skills and knowledge to uplift others – giving classes on mosaics and teaching disabled children how to create pottery at a school in Port Elizabeth. She also offers pottery workshops for children and adults.
Visitors to Fairworld Farm just outside Cookhouse are very welcome, but works of Elizwe Ceramics can also be found further afield, in Cape Town, Robertson and Port Elizabeth. Its work is also stocked in Karoo décor shops like Windmill Junction in Graaff-Reinet, The Studio in Bedford, and Bliss & Bloom in Cradock.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Elize van Aardt
Tel: +27 (0)42 247 1723
Cell: +27 (0)82 855 5563
How to get here
Cookhouse is about two hours' drive from the nearest large town, Port Elizabeth. You’ll see the signs on the N10 national road. Drive through Cookhouse (a very small town) and after a few minutes you’ll see a large sign to Fairworld Farm. Follow the dirt road to the farmhouse.
Best time to visit
Winter (June to August) is a lovely time to be in this region, with the snuggly weather and Aloe feroxes blooming crimson in the veld. The weather is most temperate between March and April, and again in spring, from September to October.
Around the area
The Eastern Cape Karoo Midlands, which has Cookhouse near its geographical centre, is a delightful place to explore farm stays and small-town life. Don’t miss the Walter Battiss museum in Somerset East, which is also a great destination if you are interested in fly-fishing. For more crafts, there is another farm near Cookhouse, called Kokskraal, where beautiful beadwork and jewellery are produced.
Length of stay
If you’re staying in Somerset East, Cookhouse, Cradock or Bedford, a stop for an hour or so at Elizwe Ceramics forms part of a lovely day drive.
Where to stay
There are lovely guest houses and farmstays a pleasant half an hour’s drive away, in and around Somerset East. An hour away is Cradock, which has a beautifully restored hotel and heritage guest houses.
What to eat
Hobson’s Choice Deli in nearby Somerset East offers produce from the region as well as great breakfasts and lunches. It is also open for Sunday lunches.