Inspiring 11 innovation The aim of the Cape Craft & Design Institute is to raise design awareness and the love of the local, says Erica Elk
What is the Cape Craft & Design Institute? We’re a facilitating institution established by the provincial government to develop the sustainability of the craft and design sector. We’re in our tenth year and have been on a steep learning and growth curve – alongside the sector itself. We provide support to over 1500 creative enterprises on our database, through our three core programmes: enterprise development and training; market access; and creativity, design and innovation. We also reach out into rural areas and spend a great deal of energy on promoting the sector through our Handmade Cape brand, to increase consumer awareness and the love of the local.
What has been the key success of the CCDI in the last year? Without a doubt our visual awareness and creativity workshops which are aimed at stimulating and developing craft producers’ appreciation for visual triggers in their environment, and building knowledge not just skill. It includes an ongoing series of monthly lectures by creative professionals, who share their creative processes and ways of working. We’ve hosted photographer Yasser Booley, artists Paul Edmunds, Nandipha Mntambo, Brett Murray and Roderick Sauls, and creative composer Jannes Hendricks (of the Blackheart Gang). The workshops incorporate a range of practices aimed at expanding individual creativity to stimulate the possibility of new products and/or processes. The workshop process itself is designed to challenge participants’ pre-existing ways of engaging with their materials, products and environment so as to generate new and interesting creative solutions. This exciting approach is far removed from an interventionist, 68
product development approach as the process aims to develop participants’ interpretive and conceptual skills. The immediate results are amazing – but the true test will be in the longer-term.
What is the role of the FabLab? The Fabrication Laboratory (or FabLab) is a high tech facility using open-source design software linked to digital desktop manufacturing technology. It promotes creative experimentation and enables prototyping. It has added huge value to the sector and is a very popular facility. But it has its limitations, specifically related to constraints on prototyping determined by the types of equipment available. We would like users to engage more critically with the available technology and also to find ways of engaging with the relationships between ‘new’ and ‘old’ technology. This year we’ll be expanding our functionality so that people will ultimately be able to work, through an assisted DIY process, from idea to a prototype, using a wider range of equipment and technology.
How does CCDI feel about the proposed design precinct in the East City? We’re great fans! We moved to the East City in 2006 because of ideas on the table then about focusing it as a creative district. Now there is a significant, near-critical mass, of businesses and organisations in the area to root the precinct. The CT Partnership has been working hard at getting key institutions behind it – now we just need a few catalytic projects to make it possible for great things to happen so our creative sectors can gain competitive advantages for the future. Erica Elk is Executive Director of the Cape Craft & Design Institute