the wonki ware success story
'For me, House and Leisure is about great design stories and celebrating designers that are creating these exceptionally well. We are committed to supporting local design and Di Marshall’s offering from Wonki Ware is a great example of the evolution of the local design industry.' Tiaan Nagel, Editor of House and Leisure
As a brand, we at HL are passionate about local design and especially love hearing success stories that highlight innovation within the South African design industry today. We were delighted to award Di Marshall with the Object That Moves Award 2015/2016 on Saturday 23 July at the Southern Guild Design Foundation Awards. The accolade pays tribute to Di's success story – how she grew a small company in George into the thriving business it is today, and in the process became one of South Africa's leading ceramicists. Di has also positively impacted her community by increasing job opportunities within her business and by promoting social upliftment.
Wonki Ware has fast become a household name – whether it's a salad dish or intricately laced snack bowls, these products are much loved by many. We sat down with Di to gain further insight into her brand and its admirable journey.
Your business has grown significantly over the last 15 years. How have you managed this?
We have grown organically, so it has been step by step – a gradual process. As our business has grown we have bought one kiln at a time and have slowly built up to our current staff complement of 80 employees.
Your products are beautiful and uniquely crafted. Can you talk us through your design process?
I am constantly looking at new shapes and making new patterns. Wonki Ware is all about pattern, so we are always developing our range. We have created a style that is uniquely ours and it does take years of consistency to achieve this.
Ceramic trends are forever changing. What is your approach to staying relevant and in demand?
We have created a classic product that is timeless and vibrant. Developing our variety of shapes and patterns has given us the opportunity to be ahead of most trends, especially with colour. And we can adapt to what is on trend for any given individual retailer.
What is your advice for young entrepreneurs just starting out in the design field?
There are many fantastic ideas and many original designs, but the secret is to make sure that the design can easily be taught to other artisans to build up a production that can deliver on orders and be as efficient as possible with time and materials. The other biggest component is cash flow – one has to have access to money in order to grow the business as demand increases. Often there is no cash for growth and this is the downfall of many production concepts.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
My biggest inspiration is the people of South Africa and seeing a true democracy developing against all odds, especially in the art world. We are setting the trends in South Africa in design and art on a global platform and I have been blessed to live in this fantastic time of development and exploration in our country.
For more information and to see Di's work, visit wonkiware.co.za.