Reproduced with kind permission of the American Hardwood Export Council
In the spirit of celebrating and promoting local design talent, Timber IQ Online has been sharing a series of posts on Future Heirlooms, a recent project based around exploring sustainable timber design using specially sourced carbon negative American hardwood. In Part 2 we examine the next three works by local designers.
Meterage: The Act of Measuring
By MashT Design Studio: Thabisa Mjo
Hand carved American red oak; ebony slow stain; water-based sealer
Thabisa Mjo, founder of MashT Design Studio, looked to Umbhaco materials and garments — the traditional dress worn by the Xhosa people of South Africa — for her interpretation of the Future Heirlooms brief. Her table, which was hand carved by Phillip Hollander (the cofounder of the Houtlander studio), is entitled Meterage: The Act of Measuring. In a literal sense the design approach considers measuring itself, asking how much fabric one needs to make the Umbhaco garment. But in another sense, and with an eye toward sustainable furniture production, asks what the measure is of an object itself as Phillip carves the wood to ‘reveal’ the Umbhaco hidden within the wood.
“In measuring which part is fitting to take or leave behind, it’s as though whatever is taken with you in the design process actually becomes the heirloom,” Mjo says. “The reason I designed a table subtly explains why I chose Umbhaco as my heirloom. Tables are utilitarian, and they’re diverse; round, oblong, square, for working, for eating, for displaying etc. So tables become objects we tend to gather around for fellowshipping and exchanging ideas with one another. Those ideas influence the stories we tell ourselves and each other and those stories inform what we consider worthy of being heirlooms in our lives and in our homes.”
By The Urbanative: Mpho Vackier
Charred American red oak; water-based sealer
Designed to form an extension of TheUrbanative’s 2018 African Crowns Collection, The Fulani Chair in American red oak was initially launched and manufactured in steel, and so Mpho Vackier, founder of the studio, set out to, “…simply have fun with the material aspect of the brief”, she says, and reimagine an already existing design. The lines of TheUrbanative’s Fulani chair design are inspired by the forms of the traditional Fulani braids and coiffures worn by the Fulani or Fula people, who make up the ethnic group in the Sahel and West Africa. The textures of the braided Fulani hairstyles further inspired the weaving detail and the ombre effect in the chair’s finishing, achieved by charring the timber in an ‘ombre’ effect and sealing the chair to preserve the wood.
“We aspire to be a brand that not only celebrates stories but one that respects the way in which we tell those stories,” says Vackier. “But I think more than anything the exploration of a new material is always exciting for me. My approach to most of my work is always guided by the chosen material, the properties and limits thereof, and letting the material have a say in the final piece. So using materials like American red oak that are truly sustainable is not only logical but very necessary for us to do justice to the authentic essence of those stories.”
By Kumsuka: Siyanda Mazibuko
Charred American red oak; ebony slow stain; water-based sealer
For Kumsuka founder Siyanda Mazibuko, whose previous design in thermally-modified American red oak for AHEC and Wallpaper Magazine’s Discovered project was recently exhibited at the Milan Triennial, the Future Heirlooms brief presented another opportunity to consider how good design can bring people together. Mazibuko’s new Ukhamba table takes inspiration from Zulu Ukhamba drinking vessels, that are shared between friends and family at Zulu gatherings. From their highly burnished surfaces to the actual firing process, the Ukhamba table has been charred and stained to bring the traditions of the vessels to life in the design of the furniture piece itself.
“As a designer it’s extremely important to me to create meaningful pieces that relate to people far beyond a functional piece of furniture, and this is the very backbone of this project,” Mazibuko says. “The thinking behind my table was to create an experience of gathering around Ukhamba and making something that allowed for sharing moments and creating memories. When families gather there is usually also more than one Ukhamba being shared, which informed the design of the two parts of the table, that separate from each other to be placed elsewhere in a space.”
Keep an eye out for Part 3, where we will continue to explore and celebrate these inspiring locally designed timber pieces.