Mother's Sculpturing Workshops

From TygerBurger, 5 October 2011.  Article and photo by Esmé Erasmus

Harry Johnson and Mel Lowe

Here is Mel Lowe (centre) with well-known sculptor, Harry Johnson (left), and Ronel de Jager, whom she met at the workshop.  In front is the sculpture Mel has made of her 10-year-old Mishka.

Fourteen years after the death of all four of her young children in a collision with a truck near Klipheuwel, the tears are still lying shallow in the eyes of Mel Lowe, now living in Durbanville, when she talks about her children.

On this past Monday it was exactly 14 years earlier that she was blinded by the early morning sun at a four-way crossing near Klipheuwel, not even noticing the oncoming truck.

She was on her way from their stud farm Summer Breeze to take the children to the bus stop for school when the accident happened.

But her story is not one of bereavement only.

Mel has walked a long road to cope with her loss and is today the passionate mother again of 10-year-old Mishka, who "is my life", she says.

Mel wants to start Studio Joy, a sculpturing art studio, after she discovered the therapeutic value of doing art to help other people with bereavement, whether it the loss of a child, a partner, disease, divorce or any other pain someone is suffering.

Although she had always been doing art since she was pregnant with her first child and also presenting art classes, the idea to help others with art was born when Mel (55) and a few others recently joined a sculpturing workshop.

Five women, each on their own journey in life, attended the workshop. One of them, Ronel de Jager of Durbanville, coincidentally was on duty at the hospital when Mel was submitted after the accident.

The sculpturing workshop was presented by Harry Johnson, known as the world's fastest sculptor and currently of Bloubergstrand, in a studio in Van der Bijl Street, Durbanville.

It was here that the others learned of Mel's journey back to enjoying life and having a purpose again after her loss, first of her children and then, three years later, of her husband in divorce.

Mel, who was in a coma for almost two weeks and could not even attend the funeral of her children, was just released out of hospital and still on crutches when her sister, Cynthia Fowles, dragged her off to art classes in Somerset West.

Slowly she came to terms with her loss.

"If I do art, I am so focused with what I am doing that I just lose myself.

"It is such an escape and relief of all the sad things in my life.

"When people are so injured inside and have so much pain, it can be therapeutic to create something and find joy and purpose in life again.

"Art has given me the courage to find my self worth again", she said.

"Many people have supported me. I want to give back to others now."

She received over 200 support letters from people after an article in You magazine about her surrogate motherhood of her daughter three years ago.

Johnson was inspired by Mel's story and decided to help Mel to start her own studio to reach people through art.

He donated a sculpture in aid of Studio Joy to help Mel subsidise people in need to be able to attend these workshops.  The sculpture is on display at the E-PHIPHANY gallery in Bella Rosa Street, Rosenpark, Durbanville.

They are now looking for a suitable place, such as an old farmhouse or outbuilding or any other available space, which could be used as a studio.

An exhibition of the work of the people who attended Johnson's sculpturing workshop, will be presented at the E-PHIPHANY gallery later in October.

A meeting is held on Saturday 8 October at 11:00 for anyone who wishes to become involved with this project, donate tables, chairs, clay, bake cookies for course-goers or anything else.

Plans are in the pipeline to start a social group, Friends of the Studio Joy, which can also be joined by artists.

Anyone who will be interested in attending the workshops must phone Mel on 0825525909 or Johnson on 0715621312 or send an email to mellowe@mweb.co.za.

Largest chocolate bunny - world record set by Harry Johnson for Duracell

From World Records Academy, 20 March 2010.

World Record Chocolate Bunny by sculptor Harry Johnson

Photo: The world's Largest chocolate bunny took over one month of planning to create, and was sculptured out of chocolate blocks in a matter of three days by the fastest sculptor in the world - South Africa's own Harry Johnson.

SANDTON CITY, South Africa -- The sculptured Easter bunny made by artist Harry Johnson, 51, an exact replica of the well-known and loved Duracell® Bunny officially came in at 3.82 metres tall (12 feet, 5 inches) and weighed more than 3 tons (2721 kilos) - setting the new world record for the Largest chocolate bunny.

The previous Guinness world record for the Largest chocolate bunny was held by Brazil with 2.8 tonnes.

Well-known around the world for being able to sculpt portraits of people within a matter of three hours compared to the average time of one to two months, Johnson was excited by the challenge of working with chocolate.

"This was the first time I have ever worked with chocolate," he remarked. "I would do it again in a heartbeat. Having worked with so many different materials, I was truly amazed as to what you can actually do with chocolate. In-fact the creation of the Duracell® chocolate bunny has inspired me to create an exciting new range of chocolate sculptures of famous people and icons."

"In order to carve a sculpture entirely out of three tons of chocolate and to ensure that the sculpture was secure and stable from both a strength and technical perspective due to its height, I created a steel structure to place inside the chocolate bunny using a powder coat, which we blasted clean in order to meet health regulations," Johnson stated.

Mark Fruhauf is one of the four assistants that worked with Johnson on the world's Largest chocolate bunny.

"To actually do it here was a process of literally physically making bricks up of melted chocolate, 6.5 kilogramme bricks, heating them up, putting them togather so we can make it look like a robot bunny, first stages, because of the whole bricking system, plastering and then chipping started or the sculpting started," he said.

"At the moment I don't like chocolate at all, after that sweetness and working so intimately with chocolate for three days and that smell, no. I've got to say have a chocolate lying on my desk and I don't want to touch it. As nice as chocolate is, no way," said co-creator Mark Fruhauf.

The world's Largest chocolate bunny was sculptured and stored within a Perspex 'housing' structure which had a cooling system to keep the temperature of the bunny at 18° Celcius.

"By creating and storing the bunny in this structure we ensured that the three tons of chocolate were kept from melting for a long period of time, but it also met with the stringent health regulations which we have adhered to throughout the entire process of developing the bunny," commented Jason Frichol, Fore Good's Group Brand Strategist, brand custodians of Duracell® South Africa.

Even organiser Jason Frichol said: "So, we wanted to do the first in South Africa. We have talented people here. "The sculptor who did this, the logistics, it took such a big team and we almost thought it was impossible, and you know when South Africans put their heads together with the passion and determination on the wave of the World Cup 2010, it does me proud and does my heart warm."

The world's Largest chocolate bunny will be broken down in a weeks time and about 250 underprivileged children will have a chance to have a taste of the world's Largest chocolate bunny.