Wiid Design: Portuguese cork in South African design

Traditional handcrafting with avant-garde techniques

Wiid Design: My concepts come from a conceptual and artistic environment, an angle on various topics of contemporary culture, with a focus on traditional handcrafting in combination with avant-garde techniques. By combining handcrafting and specialist techniques, we transform materials into life-enriching and durable objet d’art.

I appreciate the craftsmanship and always focus on quality and detail, it is very important to incorporate sustainable materials and hand-made elements in all my work. My studio has become well-known for its innovative use of cork in high-end product design, architecture and large-scale production manufacturing. We have pushed the boundaries of this material to achieve a number of world “firsts” – including the world’s largest cork pendant light and cork cabinet, both of which have been exhibited by Southern Guild.

It is an amazing adventure to design and manufacture new products; it truly is an exciting experience to go through the different processes from start to finish, especially when you can see, touch and experience the end result.

Origins and Influences

Wiid Design: I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1987, where I have opted for a hands-on approach to formally studying design. Growing up in Cape Town have most definitely influenced my way of thinking and also sparked my polymathic approach to design and manufacturing. 

I apprenticed at a bronze casting foundry as well as to a carpenter for three years, and from around 2009 to 2013 I worked closely with leading South African sculptor Wim Botha as his assistant. During this time I started designing and manufacturing my own ceramics and furniture and collaborating with fellow creatives. These influences allowed me to explore different techniques and materials, it also became important for me to include African details such as carving and hand-made elements into my work.

Working closely with cork

Wiid Design: Our African Cork Stools are based on traditional wooden African cork stools & headrests made with Portuguese cork. We have been working closely with the largest cork suppliers in the world, where we import large quantities of high-quality cork in various grades. 

Cape Town and specifically the Western Cape is well known for its excellent wines and the main focus for Amorim Cork is to supply wine farms with high-quality cork closures. Cork is one of the most sustainable natural materials in the world.

Cork is the bark of the cork oak (Quercus Suber L.), which means that it is 100% natural plant tissue, the cork bark is harvested every nine years, without any tree being felled or damaged during the process. It is estimated that every year cork oak forests retain up to 14 million tonnes of CO2, a sizeable contribution for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the main cause of climate change. Cork is lightweight, waterproof, elastic and compressible and is a slow combustion material that is highly resistant to wear and tear, therefore making the product highly durable. In addition, cork is fully biodegradable, renewable, recyclable, reusable and can circulate continuously in the economy.

Cork is also naturally hypo-allergenic and contains Suberin, this is a waxy substance that occurs in the bark of the cork tree, which repels wood rot as well as insects/pests, so mildew and mold have no place to nest.

About the future of design

Wiid Design: Overall I think design studios and architects are forced to face the fact that our world is polluted and natural materials are overexploited. Therefore, Design has to be sustainable and products must be durable enough to withstand generations…

Handmade and craft elements in South African design also brings forth a rawness and energy, these elements are then refined, making it world class. – Hence the current focus on South African design. Artists and designers are also focusing on traditional methods in combination with technology, therefore creating something new and original.

Interview with Wiid Design

Featured Photo/Second Photo: Justin Patrick | Third Photo: Kanju Interiors.