ED­I­TOR’S LET­TER Ti­aan Nagel ex­plains the ideas be­hind our New Craft is­sue

House and Leisure (South Africa) - - Contents - – Ed­i­tor Fol­low me tiaan­nagel

I’m not sure what is about craft that piques my in­ter­est but I’m pre­oc­cu­pied with it, and while I know that de­sign­ers and cre­atives like me bandy the term around rather too read­ily these days – per­haps with­out con­sid­er­ing what it re­ally means – the fact re­mains that I’m ob­sessed with craft. It all started with long trips to the Kruger Na­tional Park as a kid, jour­neys that usu­ally took place in the Easter hol­i­days. Look­ing back now and knowing the lim­i­ta­tions of my own child’s tol­er­ance of long drives, I think that it was per­haps to of­fer me re­lief from the back seat that my par­ents would stop at all the road­side stalls. They would buy hand-carved wooden bowls, em­broi­dered cush­ion cov­ers, wo­ven ta­pes­tries and leather cutouts that ended up be­ing used as wall dec­o­ra­tions. Fast-for­ward to my life now, and those tra­di­tions have be­come an es­sen­tial part of our own road trips. Un­for­tu­nately for my young son Raf, rather than spend­ing two weeks just beach-bum­ming around KwaDukuza in KwaZulu-Natal last De­cem­ber, he had to put in some qual­ity time strapped to the car seat as his par­ents drove from one craft mar­ket to an­other. We did it all, from brows­ing the KZNSA Gallery shop to pick­ing up a few things from Dur­ban’s beach­front and even trekking to the Mid­lands to visit Ard­more Ceramic Art’s stu­dio to watch crafters paint those in­cred­i­ble pieces… Some might find the old-school charm of them a lit­tle kitsch, es­pe­cially if you only get to ex­pe­ri­ence them in cen­tre court in­stal­la­tions in shop­ping malls. But I’ve al­ways had a great ap­pre­ci­a­tion for these works – and you’ll see why in the calm stu­dio, where you can ob­serve each pain­ter’s de­tailed take on the item they’re dec­o­rat­ing.

We also saw the most beau­ti­ful bowls and ceramic ob­jects made by Andrew Wal­ford, bought pot­tery from Ian Glenny and ad­mired Andrew Early’s large wooden ves­sels. Raf touched a few bowls and looked at some pieces, but he was more ex­cited by the chick­ens on the werf, caused havoc with the grumpy dog at Ard­more and threw a tantrum when he couldn’t sit on the hob­bit-friendly fur­ni­ture at Glenny’s stu­dio in the rain.

I knew then that I wanted to do an is­sue of House and Leisure ded­i­cated to craft – but craft, although in­spired by tra­di­tional tech­niques, with a mod­ern take that lives along­side the dig­i­tal age. I’m not sure whether it’s the con­stant slid­ing on Instagram or my gen­eral ev­ery­day deal­ings with glass screens that made me think of an is­sue that em­braces these two seem­ingly ex­treme worlds, or whether moder­nity is sim­ply the con­text for craft in 2018.

What­ever the rea­son, I found the idea of the ex­tremes of a wo­ven bas­ket lined with clear heavy plas­tic new and in­ter­est­ing; I wanted a carved wooden foot­stool cov­ered in red lac­quer; tra­di­tional bead­work done in a con­tem­po­rary, strict kind of way like the jewellery pieces made by Joni Bren­ner in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the bead­ers at Marigold in Bu­l­awayo. I like the no­tion of tra­di­tional tech­niques in­spired by the fu­ture – a lo­cal ‘ back to the fu­ture’ story.

There are so many great, skilled ar­ti­sans in this coun­try: some are lucky and study at fancy con­cep­tual de­sign in­sti­tu­tions and make their own prod­ucts from so­phis­ti­cated ma­te­ri­als, while oth­ers who don’t get to sit in the front row at De­sign Ind­aba none­the­less make breath­tak­ing prod­ucts us­ing ma­te­ri­als around them – in­spired by per­sonal sto­ries, ex­pe­ri­ences and a need for in­come. As South Africans, craft, hand­i­work and mak­ing things from scratch is in our DNA: it’s part of our can-do spirit and in­forms a rich, tac­tile prod­uct of­fer­ing that’s seen as ex­cit­ing and in­ter­est­ing all over the world. I hope you en­joy see­ing the out­come of all these thoughts as much as we rev­elled in pro­duc­ing this beau­ti­ful is­sue.

PS We’ve kept it crafty through­out this is­sue but our four sec­tion open­ers this month are all fo­cused on the phe­nom­e­nal work of ceram­i­cist Zizipho Poswa of Imiso Ceram­ics, as fea­tured in GUILD’s re­mark­able exhibition of some of the very best in South African con­tem­po­rary de­sign, Ex­tra Or­di­nary, which ran from 14 Jan­uary to 18 April 2018. Visit south­ern­guild.co.za and imisoce­ram­ics.co.za for more in­for­ma­tion.

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