06 Jun Young South Africa: Daniella Mooney
LCVH presents – is one part a PR and brand consultancy for niche accessory and lifestyle design brands, and one part a design showcase blog with a focus on contemporary African design and its relevance in the global market of product design. The aim behind both is to advocate the necessity for niche design from smaller pockets of the world, to prove wrong the preconceptions about the ‘typical African aesthetic’, and to contribute to a representation of African design that is truthful, authentic and engaging.
While in Cape Town recently, LCVH visited the studio of artist Daniella Mooney to chat about her space, her work and her plans for 2013. This is the result:
Daniella Mooney is a sculpture graduate from the Michaelis School of Art in Cape Town, who has enjoyed acclaim as both an artist and as a designer for her thoughtful and innovative use of natural materials. LCVH visited Mooney’s studio, pregnant with treetrunks and crystals (you’d happily mistake it for a Waldorf School workshop) in Cape Town’s East City.
How long have you been based in your studio; how many people work in this space?
The essence of your work in one sentence:
Daniella Mooney: I’d like to think it’s a little bit like that feeling you get when you’re excited by a magic trick even though you already know how it works.
How important are the creatives whom you share a space with?
Daniella Mooney: My studio mates are an extremely important part of my daily routine. It’s inspiring to bear witness to someone’s creative process: how they arrange their tools, scribbled notes, pin-boards, funny reminders. More significantly though – a studio mate is a second opinion, moral support, tea-time and cookie sharing, YouTube fails, and two (or eight) extra hands. Studio mates are pretty much invaluable.
How did you come to work with the materials that you use to create your aesthetic?
Daniella Mooney: I majored in Sculpture at Michaelis School of Fine Art, and did really well in a couple of woodworking projects. The artist Stuart Bird was my tutor, which was a great privilege. But if I were to hop out of my timeline and look back, the fact that my grandfather was a carpenter, my father a forester and my mother a healer and collector of fine crystals and stones, the materials I use make a bit more sense. I enjoy the hand-tools that go with working wood and stone. I have a small collection of outmoded gizmo’s and thingamajigs from my grandfather that I love having around my studio.
You are recognised as both a designer and an artist, but what do you see yourself as or is that irrelevant to you?
Daniella Mooney: I personally see myself as an artist. But yes, categories are boring. As a sculptor I definitely use design as a means to solve problems and build structures that are easy to assemble and transport, but I don’t think I design products.
Is there an significant difference between the two, or does it lie in the outcome of your intention to create, regardless of ‘category’?
Daniella Mooney: In 2012 I was approached by Southern Guild to submit a piece for their annual collection alongside other South African designers, jewellers, architects, and craftsmen. The broad brief was to create a functional item. Coming foremost from an artistic background, I created something that challenged the idea of ‘what is functional’ and so my end result became something purely sculptural. This was the first time I was asked to make something for a predominantly design-orientated exhibition, and luckily Southern Guild were keen to ‘synergize’ artists with their usual collective, creating a more varied show. I was interested in playing with the idea of the function of an object not being linked to its production value. So for me I guess that might be the difference between the two.
You mentioned that the beauty of the object that you are creating is a symptom of a process rather than the aim, but how do you set out to create an object without pre-empting its ‘look’?
Daniella Mooney: It was Buckminster Fuller who said that when he’s working on a problem, he doesn’t set out to create something that is beautiful, but if the solution is not beautiful then he knows there is something wrong. It’s a kind of thinking which I try to remind myself of. I don’t think there is a huge disparity between form, function and process when it comes to artists and designers. I think the main thing is that whatever it is you’re trying to create should be an answer to a question. It’s most important to ask relevant questions.
What’s coming up on your schedule for 2013?
Daniella Mooney: I’m collaborating on a small limited edition of sculptures for L’MAD, which is an independent arts-based production company run by Lucy MacGarry. I’m also creating a piece for this year’s Southern Guild collection in September. And then I have a solo exhibition at Whatiftheworld at the end of November.