“Creatively we’re pretty much on the same page and we design together with either of us taking the lead depending on the project. We have clearly defined roles centred on our strengths so as to maximise productivity and avoid stepping on each other’s toes.”
INTERVIEW: RICK DE LA RAY
PHOTOGRAPHY: PIETER VOSLOO (Portrait)
Your work seems to be a fine line between design and functional art. Where do you feel the line is drawn between art and design, do you feel they co exist on one platform or should they be categorized as two separate entities?
Our business is separated into two distinct lines; they are standard products and limited-edition work. Both sides of the business are equally rewarding and important to us. The biggest difference is in how and why they are produced. We separate the two because the markets are different; people buy standard products for different reasons to why they buy limited-edition work and we approach the manufacture of the two lines very differently.
How does it work with the powder coat color chart on your website, can a client completely choose their own color way including mixing and matching with the african patterns or do you help to advise them on what you feel works best with a certain product?
The powder coat colour chart on our website applies to our standard product range. If a product is powder coated one can pick a colour from the chart and we’ll make it for them. Offering limited customisation on standard products makes it possible for clients to enjoy being able to be somewhat involved in the production, the work becomes more personal for them but doesn’t affect the price of the product. We enjoy it because we get to play and produce the same product in different colours over time.
If a client was to commission a limited-edition hand-painted piece they would advise us on what colours they would prefer and we would design a special piece just for them. We use paint on these pieces and so the colour choice is not limited to the powder coat chart.
You both came from similar yet opposite backgrounds. What do you feel brought the desire forward for you two to collaborate together?
We trained in different design fields; Katy in Graphic Design and Adriaan in Industrial Design so our work is often about the interplay between 2 and 3 dimensions. New projects are often centred on a new production process or material or a client’s brief. Since we’re always together, collaborations happen whenever and wherever.
Working collaboratively allows us to use our individual strengths to reach our ultimate goal. We are able to support one another and can achieve more together than individually. We share the highs and the lows. Sure, there are frustrations but having a partner in crime far outweighs the odd rough patch we might have to go through.
You are a husband and wife team. How did you meet and what are the difficulties that you find with working together
We were introduced by a mutual friend in 2003 while at university and started sharing ideas about the projects we were working on. Our first collaboration was a range of cardboard handbags where Adriaan designed the forms and Katy applied screen printed graphics to the exterior. We made it official when we started the business in 2007.
Difficulties arise when we’re under pressure, we’re both tired and we’re both stressed out – but generally it’s all good.
Creatively we’re pretty much on the same page and we design together with either of us taking the lead depending on the project. We have clearly defined roles centred on our strengths so as to maximise productivity and avoid stepping on each other’s toes. Adriaan resolves products technically so that they are production-ready and manages the production team while Katy heads up sales, marketing, and general paper-pushing.
Where do you feel your work was first noticed and what led to the final breakthrough that led to your work being noticed on an international platform?
Back in 2007 there were no physical or online platforms for new, small-run, batch-produced products so we opened a store in order to sell and promote our work – 16 square meters at 44 Stanley, Millpark. This helped to make the work accessible; the local press wrote about us and the international press tours during the 2010 World Cup led to international press exposure.
The real international breakthrough happened when Southern Guild showed our work overseas in early 2013. The work was incredibly graphic – almost loud; it received a great deal of attention. That year and all through 2014 the Kassena server and LALA Shwantla were shown in Dubai, Basel, New York, Miami and London. In March 2015 we showed Kassena Town on a group show, Grains of Paradise, at R & Company in New York. The show was a collaboration between the gallery and Southern Guild.
You have some very interesting names for some of your pieces. How do you go about naming them?
They come from all over: colleagues, friends, suppliers, places, production methods, materials, feelings. There aren’t any rules.
Your company moved into the Braamfontein area quite a few years before it became what it is now. What made you decide to start your business there and did you expect it to grow into what it is now?
At that time Braamfontein was exactly what we needed. Affordable space that was accessible to the public. Up until then we had been manufacturing out of our garden flat in Brixton and we needed space to grow. Did we expect it to become what it is now? It was really quiet back in 2009, we hosted events to get people to come to us – over time the potential of the area became clear. Its location is ideal, urban development was on the rise with areas like Maboneng starting up and when the Neighbourgoods market opened, it blew up.
Where do the concepts for the patterns and design for your popular kassena series come from and how much did you adapt it to your current range?
The Kassena series takes its inspiration from the intricately painted adobe homes of the Kassena people of northern Ghana and Burkina Faso. It started with the Kassena server – based on a basic Kassena structure with a single window. Over the years we experimented with colour and later form: a tall cupboard, a bench and a cabinet-light combo for KASSENA TOWN.
For the most recent Kassena – Brick Juice we inverted the pallet using Walnut instead of Ash and developed our own Kassena pattern drawing iconography from our personal lives: brick walls, fried eggs, palm trees and padlocks.
Your work ethic seems to have been making only one of the bigger pieces at a time, do you still work like that at the moment?
Producing our limited-edition work is labour- and time-intensive and so we produce one, or a few at a time. Each piece is unique – a labour of love; some are commissions where clients can choose colour and so it makes sense to produce them over time rather than all in one go.
Whose idea was it to take on the “controversial” task of making such an art piece of the common south african braai? – does Adriaan fire up one of those bad boys in the backyard on weekends…?
Katy can’t take credit for that – it was a collaboration between Adriaan and artist Zander Blom. It’s become a well-travelled piece and hopefully we can make a braai on it when it gets back to Jo’burg.
Do you manufacture some of the more popular pieces in advance or is it strictly on an order only basis?
Yes. We manufacture in small batches and try to keep stock of the best-sellers from our standard range. We also offer the option to customise colours and finishes of certain products so that clients can have the best of both worlds: instant gratification or personal customisation.
How big is your team and workspace at the moment, what would be a typical day at the office?
Ten people in total. The design team is the two of us plus a junior designer; one full-time and one part-time person in sales and five in the workshop.
Up until now we’ve had the luxury of the design studio, manufacture and sales department being under one roof in Braamfontein. It did a lot to integrate the company and built a team that understood one another’s roles. It’s great that we could do it for so long but our production team needs more space and Braamfontein is getting busy making manufacture more difficult. We have just moved our production workshop to bigger premises in Jeppestown while the showroom remains in Braamfontein. It’s going to be a learning curve but ultimately for the best
Who represents you at the moment internationally and what plans do you have for the company in the near future?
We sell our standard product directly to the public while Southern Guild represents our limited-edition work.
INFO : www.dokterandmisses.com
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