Avatar photo

By Hein Kaiser


From chatterbox to hermit – and Mark Collett likes it that way

Collett finds joy in the tactile experience of his craft, he loves the direct engagement with the materials and the tangible outcomes of his labour.

Five years ago, Mark Collett had had enough of his boss, his job, and being on the road.

The former Kempton Park-based sales representative swapped his jacket and tie for a dustcoat.

“I always enjoyed woodwork, from school days, where it was part of our curriculum,” said Collett.

But while he was on the road as a parts sales representative it left him with little time to pursue it.

ALSO READ: Flying with the stars: Ananke Swanepoel’s glamorous career in private jet service

The catalyst for change came from an unlikely corner.

Collett’s line manager was, as he said, not “kosher”. He quit and didn’t see a way forward to doing the same thing again.

“I figured that since I’ve always loved woodwork, I’m going to switch to working for myself, and give it a go,” saidd Collett.

Mark’s life of solitude

Give him a piece of wood and he can transform it into almost anything, whether it’s artisan festive season decorations through to mini noughts and crosses sets, wine-stand side tables and, well, almost whatever you can imagine.

During the day, he’s in his workshop creating while his family is at work.

“It’s a life of solitude, and I like it that way now. When I was a sales rep I saw people all day, talked all day. Now I am left with my thoughts, I don’t have to make conversation. It’s wonderful,” he said.

READ MORE: Karan Beef: The success story behind SA’s leading beef producer

Duke, a miniature dachshund, is Collett’s assistant. The canine doesn’t leave his side and is one of several rescue dogs his family adopted.

“At one stage we also ran a cat rescue service from home,” said Collett, “and we had about 30 cats wandering around with the dogs.”

Today, he and his wife Jenny regularly feed stray cats in the streets of Kempton Park.

“We love animals, they are in many cases better than people, kinder and more loyal,” he said.

Kempton Park / Mark Collett
Mark Collett’s creations range from serviette holders to decorative pieces. Picture: Hein Kaiser

Super wife

Jenny spends her weekdays as an assistant financial manager for a large company. She is also his muse and contributes to the creative and business side of his venture.

“Jenny researches ideas and designs online, then sifts through them to see what the public might want. Then I make them,” Collett said.

And when you meet the pair at one of the many markets where they sell his goods over weekends, Jenny sells and promotes.

She’s also the decorator and painter of a range of Christmas decorations that the couple makes throughout the year.

READ MORE: Bernard Brandt’s world in focus: From concept to capture his images are carefully calibrated

Collett finds joy in the tactile experience of his craft, he loves the direct engagement with the materials and the tangible outcomes of his labour.

“It’s more working with my hands than anything else,” he said.

He’s his own boss, and he doesn’t have to go to the office or hit the road under the purview of someone else.

“I’ve got nobody to report to. And your thoughts are basically your own.”

He cherishes the freedom to create according to his own standards. And he can do that all, from home.

“My wife has often said that I have become a hermit,” he said. “But I like it this way.”

Read more on these topics

animals Kempton Park