Woodie’s creations

Elrisha Ochurus, Magareth Nuru-Khom, Emanuela Kaxuxuena, John Nanghonda

The Windhoek Waldorf School, like many Waldorf schools worldwide, is going through an existential crisis due to COVID-19. It is all the more gratifying, then, when initiatives are taken in such times and something new can emerge, as the student company “Woodie’s Creations” shows. The students took the trouble to write an article about their company in German.

At the beginning of the Coronavirus lockdown, after a few boring days in front of the TV and the smartphone, I, Elrisha, met my friend Magareth, who was going through the same thing as me. We thought about what we could do that would be useful and maybe earn some money. Because our craft teacher, Erich Kunderer, is usually to be found in the school workshop, we called him and agreed on times when we could work there.

We started making elaborate brushes, a job we could do quite independently because we already knew about it from the craft lessons in class 7 and 8. After a few days and some finished table brushes, we got an offer to sell our products at the well-known Windhoek Green Market (picture 1). The following Saturday we went there, continued working, and felt people’s interest in what we were doing. We sold some and decided on the spot to continue with it.

In the following weeks, as more and more requests came in, we needed support; Emanuela and John joined us. We decided to start our own company because we realised that there was much more to do than just make things. We bought tools and materials and obtained quotes for that from companies. Customers asked for flyers and business cards so we also became creative in this area and printed the material in copy shops. We looked for structures to manage our finances ourselves. In the meantime, we contacted companies that might support us as sponsors.

We realised that the customers’ wishes are what move us forward the most: they come up with ideas and we NEVER say no! This challenges us to explore and try out new things – if necessary, our craft teacher has to bail us out. More and more people come to look over our shoulders and help us with our work. In addition, we look after the visitors’ children with games, clay modelling and handicrafts.

The pupil company of the Windhoek Waldorf School meanwhile consists of ten pupils from classes 6 to 11, with one pupil from outside already taking part. Regularly in the afternoon, outside lesson time, we divide all the work among ourselves and carry out the orders. Some of our projects are supported by the “normal” craft lessons with the crafts teacher, whereby we are aware that they should also benefit from our income, be it by sharing our tools and materials, or by giving them jewellery prepared by us as a gift.

Sometimes we have the feeling that we are growing more and more together with the world: tourists from overseas buy products from us, we order machines and materials from South Africa or Europe. And what we particularly like is the fact that more and more people in Namibia are taking notice of us and helping us to make this a success story.

Klaus von Ludwiger is a tourist guide and almost without work at this time; he supports a kindergarten in Katutura township. He watched us at work, told us about the situation there and that half of the children had to stay at home because there was not enough space. So we came up with the idea of constructing a new building for the children with some other pupils from upper school (pictures 2 and 3).

Michael Pohl never misses a Green Market and brings things for us to sell. He comes to school every Wednesday afternoon to help us. He is also a guide and knows Namibia and its rich culture. He shows us traditional craft techniques and supports us in our efforts to keep the artistic aspects of craft work alive as much as possible. His wife Elke did a bookbinding course with us.

We are in contact with a Namibian company that sells beard products and would like us to make beard brushes. A leather craftsman at the Green Market makes leather covers for our saws and knives. A health products seller regularly orders face brushes from us. The Krumhuk biodynamic farm now sells our vegetable brushes at their stall. In the meantime, Namibian artists also come to have artistic motifs burned into their own products by us. Lee, a young artisan from Zimbabwe, brings us works of art made of wire, which we also include in our programme. Every now and then he comes to our workshop with his brother to carve animals with us.

A very special personality we met at the Green Market is Baker Lu, actually KandiLu Aron, a young Namibian woman who sells homemade biscuits. We are fascinated by her energy, her hands-on manner, which we have been able to experience several times now when she helps out in the workshop, and her positively refreshing attitude towards life. Meanwhile she has come to our school to give us a “motivation talk”; that was really great. She has created her own business idea: “bake and dance”. We want to participate in it and are very excited about it. It moves us a lot because we think this is exactly what we young Namibians love, because we love to dance so much, but we also see the need for meaningful work. The combination of fun and work – who knows, maybe it will be “carve and dance...” for us.

The course is free for us because we are building a Cookie Launcher – our hit for break time – for Baker Lu, which is a large box with a small gate in the middle through which wooden “cookies” are shot to the opposite side with the help of a taut rubber band (picture 4).

This is our product range, including many things that we did not even know existed and that were brought to us by customers (everything is handmade of natural products from the region as far as possible, with high standards of quality and artistically individual designs): beard brushes, shoe shine brushes, face brushes, cosmetic brushes, hair brushes, hand brushes, body brushes, vegetable brushes, brooms, table brooms (picture 5), cutting boards with burnt-in motifs, doll’s houses, weaving looms, knitting dolly, table football, Cookie Launcher, wooden spoons and forks, toy cars, bird houses, candle holders, wooden boxes, wooden benches, wooden bowls, arm, ear and neck jewellery, saws, knives, various arithmetic games, repair of wooden furniture and Tippy Taps (picture 6).

When the coronavirus reached Namibia, hygiene measures became one of the predominant issues. In an arid country where there is often no running water, how can one demand that everyone should wash their hands regularly everywhere, at all times and even with as little water as possible? The solution is the Tippy Tap , a simple construction, unfamiliar to us, but common in remote rural areas of Namibia, which is anchored in the ground. We developed a portable version, made of recycled materials, with a garden hose to water specific plants with the service water. We also built a paper dispenser. We use it in our school, and we have sold many others to private individuals, kindergartens and other schools. It is a really water-saving solution.

Heartfelt thanks to our school, to our craft teacher, Erich Kunderer, and to Nicola Brodie from the school office, who make so much space available for the horizon of our thinking, feeling and doing, and to all those who become aware of us and accompany us positively. For us, this is a great opportunity to discover our own potential. Until now, we had little idea of what talents lie hidden in ourselves and in fellow pupils. We are happy to be perceived “out there” as young people committed to the development of Namibia and thus to be able to counteract the prejudice – “they can’t do anything, they don’t want to”. And we are happy that we are good ambassadors for our Waldorf school. We grow with all this and realise that we can sell what we do with our hands sincerely and convincingly.