An effort to be in shape

Lunetta Bartz of Maker, a new design shop on the Jan Smuts Avenue art strip in Parkwood, says she recently invited six designers, including architects and artists, to create work in response to the rather mysterious word “unshape”.

Initially this writer thought the word didn’t really exist. But upon further inquiry I discovered that, well, it does. To unshape, according to any number of online dictionaries (and indeed according to the Collins Concise) is to “deprive of shape, or of proper shape; to disorder, confound and derange”.

Bartz says: “The word came to my mind when I first saw Japanese designer Naoki Hirakoso’s Slitta lounge chair and footstool nearly two years ago.
Inspired, I started experimenting with non-uniform and non-geometric shapes.”

Today Bartz owns furniture by Hirakoso and, because of her admiration for everything he does, she has established a working relationship with him. Hirakoso’s Slitta lounge chairs and footstool form part of Maker’s upcoming Unshape exhibition, set to open on May 25. Although the Slitta range will be on show, Bartz says the purchases will have to be done on an order basis.

Hirakoso was born in Tokyo in 1974 and worked at Tokyo’s Living Design Centre for two years, from 2000 to 2002, before moving to Milan, where he established a workshop in 2004. Today Hirakoso is back in Tokyo and was named one of the world’s top designers in the prestigious D&EAD Global Award Annual in 2007.

And although Hirakoso will headline the Unshape collection, Bartz has commissioned some of South Africa’s most respected designers to turn the normal laws of design on their heads.

Johannesburg’s Dokter and Misses (Adriaan Hugo and Katy Taplin), normally found at their studio at 44 Stanley Avenue, Milpark, have created a collection of large-scale modular chimney pots called “vlasses” that come complete with “skinny” stoneware drinking glasses.

Koop Design (Richard Stretton) has made a “twisted terrace chair” in which timber is cut to achieve maximum slenderness and strength and Cape Town-based artist Gabrielle Goliath has created a “nappy cluster”, subtitled “the non-disposable disposable”, which is, in fact, a chandelier of resin-cast nappies.

Other designers include BD Studio (Bryan Dunstan), the Gregor Jenkin Studio and Bartz herself.

The word out is that Unshape is the new shape.

At Maker, 142 Jan Smuts Avenue, Johannesburg, from May 25. Tel: 011 447 6680

Matthew Krouse

Matthew Krouse

Matthew Krouse is the arts editor of the Mail & Guardian, a position he has held since 1999. He has edited two anthologies: Positions (Steidl, Jacana Media 2010) about artists engaging with politics in South Africa today, and The Invisible Ghetto (GMP, 1994) a compilation of creative writing about gender. His essays have appeared in collected works about arts and culture here and abroad. He has worked in the theatre for over a decade as an actor, writer and senior publicist at the Market Theatre. Read more from Matthew Krouse

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