Makers of Stuff is a small design studio run by founding member Antonia (conceptual design and manufacture), Olivia (technical design and manufacture) and Gail (finances) who focus on handmade products which are local to Johannesburg and eco-friendly.
To see how it’s all done, we paid a visit to their studio/office space and workshop in Sandhurst and we also spoke to the MoS team about the origins of the studio and what they’ve been up to since.
When, and how, did Makers of Stuff start?
The name Makers of Stuff was born out of Antonia’s graphic design company, which was called “Designer of Stuff”. In November 2011 we launched the studio. It was a natural progression once the jobs evolved from design only, to delivering a physical product of the designs. We realised that there was a definite need for quality design and manufacturing of bespoke items. Plus there needed to be more hands on deck to help, hence more makers, which led to collaborations with other designers and makers in various fields and this led to forming Makers of Stuff.
What sorts of things fall under the umbrella of “stuff” that you make?
The name suits our company as we do not work in a specific field. We design and manufacture projects that range from large to small lighting installations, complete furniture ranges to single furniture pieces. We can design the interior of a space, and then manufacture, source or collaborate to produce all the pieces for the project. We love the diverse nature of the projects we tackle.
How would you describe your aesthetic or style?
Our aesthetic and style is guided by certain criteria. We focus on providing design that is sustainable and that can fit the pocket of the client, and we believe in building strong relationships with local craftsmen, suppliers and experts in their particular fields as the final design can only be improved by their knowledge and participation in the project. We also focus on using local raw materials wherever possible.
Tell us about your furniture range and the inspiration behind it?
Our furniture range is called +PLUS. It grew out of a project we worked on with friends of ours, the Architects of Justice. They approached us to design a custom furniture system that is to be used in their new micro-seed library buildings. The library structure is designed to be flatpack and all the parts are delivered to site on one truck, then assembled.
Our furniture had to be designed in a manner that it could be included in the one truck delivery, then assembled on site. These sites are located all over South Africa, often in rural areas, therefore transport costs were an important element to the brief. Logistically there were a number of design considerations that influenced the design, it had to be easy to transport, easy to assemble, as well as functional, durable and fun.
We sourced the best materials so that we could give the kids something that would last. We designed a flat pack, slot together system that is held together by the minimum of fixings, so anyone with a screwdriver could put it together. And we focused on providing something beautiful and fun for the kids. We offered the design work for free, as our contribution towards the development of this project.
What other things influence or inspire the work you do?
One of the things that often influences us is when we visit suppliers we will tour their studios, factories, workshops. We want to see what they do. We never know when we can incorporate something into a project, but the more knowledge we have allows us to approach a project from various aspects to find solutions. We also love to cross purpose materials or use materials in an unexpected manner.
What are some of the mediums you most enjoy working with? Why?
This is difficult to pin down. Currently we use a lot of natural materials. Wood, Metals (including Brass, Copper, steel and Aluminium), Ceramic etc… However we are open to any materials, but as stated we do consider the sustainability of a material and whether we can source it locally and if there is a local craftsman who we can collaborate with. We try to factor in the lifespan of the materials used in our designs. Can they be recycled? If they degrade will they harm the environment? What processes will the material go through to make it finish it? Will these harm the ability to recycle the material in future?
Additionaly, and this is something that we find very challenging, we try to use material in a new way. The CLOUD light is made out of one flat piece of material. And the material has never been used in this manner.
You’ve said that your “only real aim is to do good work and try to have as much fun as possible” – how do you ensure that the process remains enjoyable?
This is a hard one. We try to balance the occasional stress with the payoff. We are both highly opinionated regarding various issues so there can be some rather loud ‘discussions’ but we both know that this will push us to produce the best work. There are times when the enjoyment levels are low, but it’s often balanced by the payoff of delivering an excellent product.
What are the most rewarding aspects of what you do?
It is very rewarding to design a product that is unique, beautiful and functional. We also love meeting new people, playing with new materials, or combining materials in new ways. We’ve got a laundry list of stuff we really want to make.
Where can people see or purchase your products?
Our products can be viewed on our website. At the moment we do not have a shop front, but we can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 073 480 6965 to discuss a specific project or any of our products.
We stock two of our products in Modernist in Parkhurst and are in the process of adding more to their shelves. We are currently looking at stocking some of our products at outlets/showrooms in Cape Town and Durban.
We also write a ‘non-blog‘ documenting some of our projects, outings, things that inspire us etc.