100 World Class South Africans: Gregor Jenkin

2013-05-29 12:00

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Creating future classics

Gregor Jenkin calls himself ‘a glorified welder’.

It’s not true but it does point to the characteristic modesty of this bolt-maker turned industrial designer whose creations have been lauded by the international art world.

His signature Cape Table – a rolled steel, profile-cut adaptation of the antique Cape Regency-style turned leg – remains a top seller at the Conran shop in London.

He has won prestigious awards, including the Johnnie Walker Celebrating Strides award (2009), been the subject of a Discovery documentary and was the first South African invited to exhibit at Design Miami (2011), a marketplace for weighty collectors.

Jenkin describes his work as ‘narrative furniture’; occasionally political, often humorous, always deeply thoughtful.

His relationship with urban landscapes explains why, for example, the M1 between Joburg and Pretoria is now a Jenkin original designer bench, or why a clutch of tables designed to stand like a herd of wildebeest makes a metaphorical and technically advanced statement on SA’s migrant-labour population.

He might deplore the insistence on labelling his work ‘SA Design’, yet paradoxically it’s Jenkin’s work which most heavily references iconic South African objects – a silo cabinet, turned legs, wildebeest – that’s landed us a seat (…and a table… and a cupboard) international centre-front.

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