ON A dirt road with no name, at the top of magnificent Maitland Hill in Port Elizabeth, lives a woman with wild, dark hair, vivid blue eyes and a delightfully wicked sense of humour that one supposes must be quite legendary in the area.
Step into ceramicist and painter Lee Hensberg’s world and you’ll be instantly enchanted, not only by her imaginative creations but by her laid-back, in-love-with-life outlook.
Lee shares her vibrant and arty home with husband Gary, a businessman and part- time Nguni farmer, and their two boys, Dylan, 6, and Joel, 3.
They came across the 10-hectare property with its incredible ocean view about eight years ago and snapped it up. There was no house on it and so they initially built a nucleus of a home and then slowly but surely expanded the floor plan over time.
Thus the home has grown around their needs, with heaps of space for the kids and the family’s ever-growing collection of pets to run riot. Lee is a great animal lover, having hand-reared a lynx caught in a trap on the property and designing a range of ingenious rhino- handled mugs that have enabled her to raise funds for the Green Scorpions.
Her studio at home is crammed with her latest designs in preparation for an exhibition alongside Port Elizabeth painter Stephanie Liebetrau at the Ron Belling Gallery in Park Drive on November 8.
Her brand, Freakalee Ceramics, is increasingly in demand, with items from her range now stocked by several stores around the country and shipments being prepared for Australia.
Her work has also been featured in decor magazines like Home/Tuis.
Lee grew up in the Eastern Cape Highlands village of Rhodes, where her family owned the hotel, trading store and other businesses. “At one stage, while I was growing up, there were only nine people living in the village,” she chuckled.
Lee’s brother, Fred, still lives in Rhodes and is a well-known fly-fisherman and journalist.
She studied fine arts at Pretoria University and then at the former PE Technikon, followed by a year in Europe. For some years she pursued her art mainly in her spare time while working as a marketer for a firm of insurance brokers.
Seeing her unbridled creative output today it is strange to imagine her in any kind of dull, corporate role, but her experience in marketing has helped her promote her quirky brand.
Lee and Gary share a love of found items. Their home (and garage!) is filled with treasures scratched out in unlikely places, like the impressive hand-wrought light- fittings bought for a song at a local junkshop, vintage toys for their boys and eclectic pieces from Lee’s family home.