The Dwell 24: Keith Henning

The South African designer’s interpretations of everyday objects are both ironic and cheeky, in the best possible way.

"When you’re on Instagram, you’re like, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God," Cape Town ceramist Keith Henning says in a conversation about his work and the pressures in gay culture to display a "flawless" body online. That drive for perfection partly inspired his collection of glistening columns capped with ceramic interpretations of dumbbells, lipstick tubes, and, of course, butt plugs.

The works have a winking irony but also a sophistication. Unlike the gloppy earthenware that has been in vogue recently, Henning’s pieces are crisp, evoking the human body not via thumbprints but flesh-tone glazes paired with earthy greens. The sleek works look machine-made, but they’re formed by hand and fired in Henning’s studio. "Sometimes I can’t breathe from the dust," he says. "Slowly killing myself for the love of beauty." That’s a sentiment any Instagram user can identify with.

The Dwell 24: Keith Henning - Photo 1 of 1 -

Read the full Q&A with Keith Henning below.

Hometown: Cape Town

Describe what you make in 140 characters... Totem-like Ceramic sculptures made of porcelain and stoneware.

What's the last thing you designed? Ceramic sculptures.

Do you have a daily creative ritual? Wake up, go for a swim in the sea. Work. Break for workout/gym. Work again.

How do you procrastinate? I spend a lot of time daydreaming and overthinking whatever I am working on.

What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why? I would like to design my own custom pair of trainers. I tend to wear my workout sneakers throughout my work day. I struggle to find trainers that I like and fit my lifestyle.

Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? My hero would be Ettore Sottsass. He architecture and sculptural work has been a huge source of inspiration in my ceramic work.

What skill would you most like to learn? I would like to learn how to create film. I have always been interested in video art and cinema.

What is your most treasured possession? My hearing aids.

What's your earliest memory of an encounter with design? The house I grew up in had archways in the living room. When I was a child I was very intrigued by them. This was most likely my first memory of a designed space.

What contemporary design trend do you despise? I would say the bohemian design aesthetic is a trend that I don’t care for.

Finish this statement: All design should... Be personal and authentic person to the person who designed it.

What’s in your dream house? An in-house spa with a heated swimming pool.

How can the design world be more inclusive? Diversify design influences: Broaden the sources of inspiration and references used in design to include diverse cultural, historical, and global influences. Avoid appropriating or misrepresenting other cultures and acknowledge and credit the origins of inspiration.

What do you wish non-designers understood about the design industry? I wish that non designers understood the determination and perseverance it takes to design anything successfully.

You can learn more about Keith Henning on Instagram.

View the 2023 Dwell 24!

Top Image: Courtesy Keith Henning

Head back to the September/October 2023 issue homepage

Jack Balderrama Morley
Dwell Managing Editor
Jack Balderrama Morley is the managing editor of Dwell. Their book, Dream Facades, about reality TV and architecture, comes out in 2026. They have a graduate degree in architecture.


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