This week saw the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand invaded by beautiful homeware for Decorex and 100% Design SA. From covetable furniture and kitchen creations to art, paint ranges, rugs, outdoor wares and so much more, visitors could peruse stands to their hearts’ content over five days, including today, so there’s still time to check it out.
Cruising through the exhibit myself, one thing quickly became clear – this year was all about upcycling and recycling. My favourite stands and the ones that felt the most relevant were those where designers had reshaped used materials into desirable goods. One such was Mo’s Crib, run by sisters Morongwe and Michelle Mokone.
“We’re all about recycling PVC [polyvinyl chloride] to create practical and functional items.
We have three product ranges – laundry baskets, planters and origami swan storage containers,” Michelle explained when I stopped to chat.
She is an agricultural economist who’s recently graduated with a master’s degree from a university in Switzerland. Morongwe was exhibiting their products in New York at the time of the interview.
I asked Michelle what she thought attracted New Yorkers to Mo’s Crib wares.
“African-made. Handmade. Recycled,” she said without missing a beat.
“Recycling is the gold and the diamonds of the future, and this is where the billionaires of the future will be made.”
No doubt the world’s gaze has turned to Africa for design inspiration, and there’s not a creative worth their salt who doesn’t have recycling or some sort of sustainability in mind when it comes to what they make.
Another stand that caught my eye was Western Cape designer Aretha Doyle’s Cool Tab accessories.
Made from collected cooldrink can tabs, her belts, handbags and fringed neck pieces are works of art.
“I have eight guys who collect the cans for me. They then take the tabs off the cans and bring them to me.
I also have three ladies whom I’ve taught to make the products,” she says.
Her background is in human resources, but she says at one point she collected cooldrink tabs for charity.
At the same time she came across Ghanaian artist and sculptor El Anatsui, and was so inspired by his epic recycled aluminium creations that she decided to make her own.
And finally there was a collection of pieces that takes upcycling to a new level. Johan Georg Stadler from Mossel Bay takes antique wares such as pocket watches, violins, lapel pins, coins, tobacco pipes, metronome parts and watch straps to make fantastical light fixtures that will blow your mind.
All of them have a back story and take months to create. He shows me a lamp that has a human-like figure holding a glass vial with a scroll inside.
“The letter in the glass vial is what my wife wrote to her late father,” he tells me. “She never got to say goodbye to him when he passed away and the letter is what she would have said to him. I’ve never read it, she’s the only one who knows what it says.”