The day I moved to Plettenberg Bay, a massive storm pulled in.
Within minutes of arriving at my accommodation, hail began to belt down onto the lawns of the garden. Initial fascination and delight turned into something a bit more nervous, as a light drizzle soon became a slurry of fast-pouring rain that beat against the window panes and seeped under the door frames. I pulled the dog’s blanket to the doors to mop up the spill. Phew. Leaking averted.
Little did I know that around the corner water was gushing in at landslide speed. The ruler-thick space between door and floor a veritable disaster zone. The landing was filling up so fast I did not have time to think or plan. Water jetted down the passage into the bathroom, flooding the bedrooms.
Phone buzzes. “Our power’s gone at no.13.”
Relief. I still have that.
Pop! The lights go out. Nevermind.
At least I still have a fire.
Whoosh! Extinguished by a jet of water down the chimney.
Thunder set in, rattling the walls. The glass doors and windows now at peril of splintering.
Outside, the Bluegums groaned under the onslaught.
Crash! A gangly ancient gum soars from the sky and crashes through the boundary wall.
An entire deftly created aquaponics centre, destroyed.
Electric fencing dangling.
Telephone lines unspooled as from a cassette tape.
Now in pitch darkness I waded down the passageway, in ankle-deep water and with flickering torch in hand.
The force of the storm was enough to put the whole of Nature’s Valley out of power for a week.
And for 3 days thereafter I lived with a frog. Vanishing and reappearing until finally he was escorted out at the end of a golf club.
When I returned to work on the Monday, the first conversations were all about the storm – each of us comparing notes. I relayed to agasp colleagues about my flooded digs and new pet frog.
And then Tessa showed us a clip of Stu microwaving a cone of yarn. Our fibres were also not immune to the forces of nature.
Which got me thinking. That we’re all not really as impenetrable, invincible or safe-guarded as we think. And that ultimately the facts remain – we’re stuck here, on a spinning rock, in an unknowable universe, at the mercy of the elements.
And then there’s Covid. Another reminder of our fragility.
Like many, I naively thought it would blow over.
An initial 3-week lockdown and poof, that’d be it.
No need to cancel birthday parties or future plans.
But the reality is we’re now living with it. Coasting between undulations of panic and relief.
Compliments of Covid-19, global crises, and accompanying issues of supply, quickly made their way into many of our homes. Remember the news broadcasts of those early days – bare shelves and barely a bread loaf in sight? Not to mention the great toilet paper shortage of 2020.
But fluctuations like these come and go – dependent on an interconnected set of factors we sometimes forget about when almost all of which we need is often a click away.
And the same goes for Mungo. Not impervious to change or catastrophe.
Mungo uses natural fibres. Flax, cotton, and now increasingly organic cotton – grown in fields, tilled by humans, and in some cases, picked by hand. This creates room for exposure and error. A bout of pestilence, a particularly bad storm, an enduring drought, might impact a yield. And in turn an entire dependent supply chain. No yarn? No product.
Compounded by these kinds of issues, a global shipping crisis entered the mix.
In our office a newsletter circulated. The subject line: ‘Waiting for Something? Same’. Comments about a new denim line from a well-known fashion retailer only to be restocked months later.
And then it was our turn. Unforeseen and endless delays on a shipment of stock we’d sent to the EU. Our new website, based in Rotterdam, awaited a top-up for close to 3 months. And, well, there wasn’t much we could do about it.
And then there’s the Mungo Mill. Looms and weaving machines, some century-old, all operated by hand. Threads warped and woven and cut and sewn by real people – not industrial-scale automations. And there too is room for error.
But here’s the golden thread.
Sometimes error makes way for ingenuity, and constraints lead to creativity.
That’s how we landed up with the Folly Beach Towel. There was a mistake on the warp for the Vrou Vrou. And not just a few threads breaking loose. We’re talking 400 meters of fabric warped incorrectly. So our designer had to think quickly. Realising we didn’t yet have a multi-colour towel on our range, pivoted the product from the Vrou to the Folly.
Many Mungo moons ago, Stuart was designing a doula blanket. He’d picked a bamboo cotton fibre blend – soft, lightweight, good for sensitive skin. But there were sizing issues. The cloth kept shrinking and in the end, well… it didn’t work out. But not all hope was lost. (And of course waste not, want not). Silky, soft and light, the cloth was in fact perfectly pitched for apparel. And so it took on new life; evolving into our beloved Bamboo Scarf.
Craig also recently came to me with another scarf story. When working on a design on our Hattie loom, he accidentally sent through a blank shuttle (the bit that shoots the weft yarns across the warp). Although the scarf now had an obvious hole in it, he carried on undeterred. By continuing to send through a blank shuttle, created a scarf with an unintentionally inventive design.
But that’s not even the last scarf story that comes to mind…
When designing the Linen Scarf, we had to work within the constraints of our Ruti looms. Built for speed instead of flexibility, our Rutis aren’t able to produce intricate designs. Working within those confines we played with the colours in the weft. By loading the yarn-carrying pirns onto the loom at random, we wound up with a product that is truly one of a kind – each metre of cloth bearing the creative hand of the weaver.
All of which leads me to believe that’s there’s space to play within the obscurity. And importance in not only being earnest, but adaptable.
Because even though that storm shook things up around town, living with a frog sure was a good story to tell.
The truth is that life doesn’t always go to plan. And sometimes our best intentions are just that, intentions.
Planning and prepping and projecting only take us so far.
We aren’t impervious to change. Nothing is.
Through these muddied waters perhaps one thing remains clear –
That nothing really goes to plan.
Embrace it (if you can).