Grafting a great future

2007-11-23 00:00

Cape Town design student Cara Judd once spent a night in jail after being nabbed for an illegal graffiti stint in the leafy suburbs of the Mother City.

But now her passion for graffiti has landed her a prestigious design prize that will see her being mentored by the internationally-renowned designer Sebastian Conran.

Judd (21), a student at Cape Town’s Design Time School of Interior Design, won the recent Elle Decoration Solve 2007 competition for her shelving design called Drip. She was chosen from 160 student entries as the winner. The award means that her winning storage product will be sold in selected Woolworths stores and she will also enjoy a one-month internship at the London design firm Conran and Partners under the personal mentorship of director Sebastian Conran.

Conran is the international judge of the competition.

“I was inspired by graffiti, where artists often use drips in their pieces as an aesthetic or as a technique to cover up unwanted drips of spray paint,” Judd said in an interview with The Witness.

Explaining her creation, Judd said: “The Drip is a shelf which effectively ‘drips’ three times. Soft cover magazines and papers can be stored in each of the three drips — and there is space to store other things on top of it.

The talented young artist, who intends making a career of product design, hopes to take up her internship during London’s summer months. “I am hoping to go in September so that I can attend the 100 Percent Design Expo,” she said. “London is such a design capital that just seeing all the new things in the shops and galleries will be a learning experience for me.”

Judd, who grew up in Crawford, Cape Town got into graffiti as a teen. “For me it was artistic expression. There was such a rush to it. There was definitely a bit of rebellion involved. I did a graffiti course at the Frank Joubert Art School and it was great to meet other artists. It kept me going, because other people were interested in the same thing that I was. We would make dates to meet and paint walls together. I have done it legally and illegally and both are exciting. It is such a release. It moves me and it feels great. You are doing art in a public space, for yourself, firstly — but other people get to see it.”

Judd recalls how being caught by the police one night while doing graffiti with some friends was a turning point in her graffiti career. “I ended up spending the night in jail,” she said.

Her night in jail upset her family — and she decided that she was going to personally make amends to the people whose walls she had painted on.

“I asked them whether I could go and repaint their walls — and I went out and fixed it all up,” she said. She relates, movingly, how her grandparents travelled many kilometres to come and help her do the repair work.

“They just wanted to show their support for me and to let me know that they still loved me. I realised that it is not worth doing graffiti illegally. It is also not fair to destroy people’s houses. It is much more rewarding to do things legally. I know that graffiti artists want to get as many tags, throw-ups or pieces as they can. But I now only do legal graffiti. I never thought that I would still be doing it — and that it would continue to inspire me as it has,” she said.

Asked what trends she thinks will afffect design in the future, Judd said: “Life has become so overcrowded. People are highly stressed. I think there is a new move towards creating innovative design pieces with a strong hint of the organic and the natural.”

Judd made her prototype design from a foam core and covered it with a high-gloss fibreglass coating used in surfboard technology. Woolworths made a perspex prototype for the award ceremony in Johannesburg. The final product will be developed and manufactured by the Woolworths team and sold in selected stores.

Functionality, practicality and commercial viability were key criteria this year for judges Conran, Roos, Paul Duncan (head of homeware design for Woolworths) and former Elle Decoration International Design Awards winners Frauke Stegmann and Gregor Jenkin. Roos commended Judd on her “sculptural” design and said: “The designer has played with the effect of gravity on materials and has given us not only a pleasing organic shape, but also a witty touch.”

Asked what her design philosophy is, Judd had this to say: “To never be shy of what inspires me. Never believe people will not accept an idea because of where it comes from or what you believe.”

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