Jill Heyes never realised how much Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote was going to mean to her until she arrived in South Africa. She and her husband Charlie moved here from the security of England in 1996 because of his work. On arrival in Hout Bay, Jill was horrified by the overwhelming poverty and apparent hopelessness in the local informal settlement of Imizamo Yethu. Whilst trying to think of a way to help the community, Jill was approached by a local township resident named Thelma, asked Jill to teach her a hand craft skill and so began what was later to become Original T-Bag Designs. One person quickly became two, then two became three as curiosity and a will to learn emerged from within the settlement. After some unsuccessful attempts to make and sell paper mache products, the tea concept was created in 2000 with our first product, namely a greeting card. New product ideas incorporating the tea bag theme sprang forward.

As sales increased, Jill decided to give the project her full time commitment in order for it to develop further, using her own money to maintain the project. In 2002 she gave up her teaching post to turn it into a self-supporting business. With the help of other experienced crafters the ladies were trained to become skilled and talented artists. From humble beginnings Original T-Bag Designs has grown into a sustainable business which employs 20 crafters from Imizamo Yethu Township and supports their extended families throughout South Africa. Both International and local tourists visit our Hout Bay workshop to enjoy a tour during which they meet the artists who produce our unique works of art. Jill Heyes, now affectionately known as ‘The T-Bag Lady’, along with her T-Bag team, has created a working environment where people have gained far more than employment. As each tea leaf is crucial to a perfect brew, so each individual at Original T-Bag Designs is central to a business that has become a family.

Our People