Laurie Wiid van Heerden is an anomaly. At only 28 years old the prolific South African designer has already picked up numerous local awards and collaborated with artists such as Lionel Smit and local design peers Ceramic Matters. Under the umbrella of local design platform Southern Guild, Laurie has exhibited his covetable creations at international fairs such as 100% Design in London, Design Days Dubai, DesignMiami and Design Basel. What’s more, he didn’t graduate with a degree in any discipline or even attempt attendance at a tertiary institution.
‘Some things you can only learn through time, hard work and a hands-on approach,’ he says with a confidence beyond his years.
Opting for a practical application of his innate creativity as opposed to a theoretical one, Laurie went from being a high school student with a love for ‘thing-making’ to embarking on consecutive apprenticeships to some of South Africa’s design and art-world heavyweights.
‘Otto [du Plessis] and Charles [Haupt] from Bronze Age provided me with the opportunity to learn about bronze-casting, mould-making, sawmilling, sculpting and project management. Working with Wim Botha was more of a personal journey on which I learned specialised practical skills and also essential life skills,’ he says. With mentors of this calibre it was inevitable that he would follow in their footsteps, as a design star but also as a successful entrepreneur, who today – barely out of his twenties – is at the helm of his own industrial and product design company, Wiid Design.
It all comes together in Laurie’s workshop/studio/showroom in Observatory, which opened 18 months ago. The space is exceptionally orderly, and if the adage of ‘the state of a person’s workspace is a reflection of what goes on in their mind’ is anything to go by, then Laurie again goes against the grain of what a highly creative individual is thought to be. He is unbelievably organised, a quality that has stood him in good stead to run the business and admin side of Wiid Design – again a highly unusual feat for a successful creative, but one that comes intuitively to Laurie and is all part of his daily grind. ‘There is no secret, I would say: perhaps hard work, determination and keeping a balance for sanity’s sake,’ he says, not to mention keeping things neat and tidy, which follows through to his home space just up the road.
How did you go about curating your home?
I curate randomly by mixing different objects, art and furniture. Even from a young age, I always loved antique shops, vintage markets and dealers, nurseries and interesting shops. I tend to stay away from commercial shopping, I prefer bespoke pieces and I absolutely love to trade with fellow designers and artists.
Bespoke pieces? Sounds like quality is pretty crucial…
It’s highly important for me to always have quality pieces in my home, no matter what they are. One of my obsessions is to buy antiques and restore them myself, which is relatively easy with my studio just around the corner and essential before bringing it into my personal space – everything must be perfect.
And is that how things are at the studio?
It’s also neat and clean, and gives off that ‘laboratory/museum’ feel. I think one of the main styling or curating factors would probably be that it’s constantly changing.
I mix a lot of natural materials such as large timber benches or antique cabinets with more recent cork pieces and ceramics. This would then be integrated with the actual building, for example, blending it with the epoxy floors, black facade and white interior walls.
What do you look forward to most when arriving at your studio in the morning?
Designing new work and knowing that I have the freedom of creating what I want, when I want. Also working with great people and an awesome team in a beautiful, stimulating environment.
What about when you get home at the end of the day?
Generally I work quite late and when I come home I usually play with my cats, water my plants and have a beer or a glass of wine. When I am not visiting friends and family over the weekend, I redecorate my home by moving paintings or furniture around – this happens quite often.
Tell us about some of your favourite collectables in your home.
I would have to choose the small William Kentridge ink drawing, which he drew for me when I stayed in an artist residency in Simon’s Town. Also, my Wim Botha ink drawings, which he gave to me for assisting him on various projects and exhibitions. The hand-carved and sculpted Ceramic Matters plates depicting almost biblical figures wrestling with creatures. And I must mention my tortoise shell and antique walking stick collections, which I would never trade or sell.
What’s the best part about living and working in Obs?
Observatory is a strange but very interesting place. There are quite a lot of students here, small businesses and also residential houses. I love the youthful energy and that it’s always been a very creative and busy little suburb, especially with Lower Main Road’s vibey restaurants. One can also find beautiful old Victorian houses here and, most importantly, roads with lots of trees.
Originally published in HL May 2016