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March 7, 2013
Southern African designers showcase their wares at Cape Town's annual Design Indaba Expo.
Africa Reinvented by Keri Muller for Simple Intrigue
Africa Reinvented by Keri Muller for Simple Intrigue and Cape Craft and Design Institute-Considering the high cost of books in South Africa, it's surprising how many are dumped into recycling bins. "There's no resale value for a Geoffrey Archer book from the 1980s," says Keri Muller, adding that she goes weekly to a used bookshop to fish out paperbacks that would otherwise be pulped. She looks for books from the 70s and 80s—classics as well as pulp fiction—that have yellowed into a similar palette.

Muller tried folding the pages into various shapes, but says that the iconic continent is the one that resonates.

"With Europe, you don't know where it starts and ends," says Muller. "Africa has a definite shape." Photo by: Eric Miller

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Textile tiles by Ronel Jordaan
Textile tiles by Ronel Jordaan-Cape Town winters are no joke. The temperature doesn't actually drop to the freezing point, but houses typically have poor insulation, and central heating is rare. Ronel Jordaan's new wool and cement tiles will be a remarkably cozy solution to radiant heat, although she says that they're working out a few details before installing them as flooring quite yet. For now, she's installing a wall of the tiles in a client's new house to give them the warm fuzzies.
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Textile tile by Ronel Jordaan
A bright yellow and gray textile tile by Jordaan.
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Textile tile by Ronel Jordaan
The Zebra textile tile by Jordaan.
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Stratflex Skin by Wintec Innovation
Stratflex Skin (single and double seater) by Wintec Innovation-The East London company's founder, Al Stratford, began working as a builder straight out of high school. Decades later, his practical experience earned him the right to take the qualifying exams (which he passed) to become a licensed architect. He's applied his know-how to develop these chairs out of plywood and local salinga wood. Skin ships flat--but all in one piece, with unique bendy bits that provide texture and color as well as stability once assembled.
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Stratflex Skin by Wintec Innovation
Wintec Innovations won the 2013 Design Indaba Expo Innovation Award.
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Wood and Carbon Bike by David Stubbs
Wood and Carbon Bike by David Stubbs-Last year, Dave Stubbs caught onto the idea of making a bike for his three-year-old. Inspired by wooden bicycles he saw online, he's since built three bikes by hand (and is now working on a fourth, a mountain bike with 29-inch wheels).

Bicycles need to be both flexible and rugged. "People forget how strong wood is," says Stubbs, who works with carbon fiber and wood at his surfboard company. "Straight wood would be quite heavy."

Instead, he used carbon fiber, bamboo, ash, and purple heart wood after consulting with an engineer to determine where the main stresses would be.

Stubbs' bike was a finalist in Design Indaba's Most Beautiful Object in South Africa 2013. He says he gets a lot of attention riding the wooden bike to work. He's sure to turn a lot more heads riding it at the Cape Argus Cycle Tour, a 67-mile bike race with more than 30,000 entrants, this weekend.

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Nkwana range by Homewood
Nkwana range by Homewood-What with all the DIY upcycled shipping palettes fitted with wheels to become tables, the downcycling versions are inevitable. Homewood's version is part of its new Nkwana line, which also includes a palette-inspired couch and a system of 16 modules for watching Wii, plasma, and other skinny screens.

Woods used include Zimbabwean teak, kiaat from Zambia and Mozambique (the different climates yield contrasting colors), and African mahogany.

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Slice cutting board by Snapp Design
Slice cutting board by Jonathan Fundudis and David Holgreaves for Snapp Design-The Johannesburg-based team at Snapp Design set out to make a cutting board that both functioned better in the kitchen and that looked good enough for a coveted countertop resting place.

Their solution rests on wedges on both the top and underside of the board. It elevates the look of an ordinary bamboo board while also making it easy to scoop cut foods.

Fundudis acknowledges the strong movement of design in craft in South Africa. "We look at the industrial processes in a very specific aesthetic which is not African by nature. Which is challenging locally, but does set us apart from our competitors," says Jonathan Fundudis. "In our case, beauty is in simplicity."

Slice was a finalist for Design Indaba's Most Beautiful Object in South Africa 2013 and was nominated for the German Design Award 2013.

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Sugarbird note card by The Letterpress Company
Sugarbird note card by The Letterpress Company-Letterpress stationary hasn't quite had the revival in South Africa as in the US, but the Letterpress Company's creative director Gitanjali Maharaj says that the demand for note cards continues unabated.

"We only use imagery of flora and fauna that's endemic to the area. It's all about reflecting where we're based. We don't want the imagery to be clichéd," says Maharaj.

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Letterpress cards by The Letterpress Company
To push the public's idea of what letterpress printing can look like, this year they displayed large fantasy animal prints by local artist Donna Solovei on archival-quality bamboo paper. They were a big hit with teenagers on Friday, when students visit the Design Indaba Expo en masse.

Adults continue to prefer more realistic designs, such as the new Sugarbird cards. The Letterpress Company's bestseller for the past few years is a set of six cards of indigenous trees of South Africa (seen here).

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Shweshwe tablet cover by Libi
Shweshwe tablet cover by Libi for Cape Craft and Design Institute-Libi wasn't the only one showing technology bags made from local textiles at the Expo, but theirs both looked and felt the best. The handmade tablet covers feature high-end versions of traditional shweshwe fabric from South Africa's Eastern Cape, as well as ones in nubbly soft raw silk or mohair. Photo by: Eric Miller
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Smile Lamp by MOS
Smile and Cloud lamps by Makers of Stuff-Makers of Stuff (MOS) is a new design consultancy in Johannesburg run by three women who proclaim that they're not designers. Inspired by the shapes of clouds and the Cheshire Cat's smile, Antonia Morgado seems enthralled with the process. "You get so involved, you stop seeing what you've created," she says. "It takes a long time to look back." Seen here, the Smile.
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Cloud Lamp by MOS
Morgado says that sourcing sustainable materials was a challenge. Like most bamboo products designed in South Africa, theirs comes from China. She speculates that with foreign interest, it would make more sense to email spec sheets to manufacture the Cloud (seen here) where it would be purchased rather than shipping it from South Africa.
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Lamps by MOS
"When you buy something from us, I want you to keep it forever, because that's how long it's going to last."
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Africa Reinvented by Keri Muller for Simple Intrigue
Africa Reinvented by Keri Muller for Simple Intrigue and Cape Craft and Design Institute-Considering the high cost of books in South Africa, it's surprising how many are dumped into recycling bins. "There's no resale value for a Geoffrey Archer book from the 1980s," says Keri Muller, adding that she goes weekly to a used bookshop to fish out paperbacks that would otherwise be pulped. She looks for books from the 70s and 80s—classics as well as pulp fiction—that have yellowed into a similar palette.

Muller tried folding the pages into various shapes, but says that the iconic continent is the one that resonates.

"With Europe, you don't know where it starts and ends," says Muller. "Africa has a definite shape." Photo by: Eric Miller

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