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combining design with endurance at The Tool Room

Georgia East

Conceptualised after blacksmith, sculptor and artist Conrad Hicks required a set of pans for home use, The Tool Room came into being as a small range sold at Cape Town’s Oranjezicht City Farm market by son Leo and daughter Frieda as a way to learn about the business and make some extra income.

Since joining forces with his father, Leo and Conrad have changed the original design of the pans slightly to something more aesthetically pleasing and efficient. Leo creates other implements too, such as copper spoons, ladles and bowls. He has also recently finished a jewellery course at the Ruth Prowse School in Woodstock, which swiftly made him realise how much he enjoys creating small, precise items of art. This delicateness, learnt through the jewellery course, has been implemented in most of Leo’s designs for the kitchen implements that are part of the Tool Room.

Using an approach of 'If you use beautiful tools, you make beautiful things', Conrad decided to develop kitchen implements so as to bring functional art into people’s homes. Leo describes working alongside his father as a learning experience and the range of skillets, roasting pans, cutlery and other cookware created in the forge are testament to the unique understanding of functional design and unbridled creativity present in the Hicks family.

Each Tool Room implement is made to last: The pans are made of mild steel with a simple care process that makes owning one all the more desirable. Not dissimilar to the cleaning and seasoning necessary with cast iron, The Tool Room pans have a stamp in the centre that directs cooks to avoid using soap or washing liquid on their pan, but to rather clean it using only hot water and a sponge. Oil can be rubbed on to the pan as it will act as a temporary non-stick layer. The oil acts as a barrier, preventing corrosion and making for easy cleaning each time the pan is used. (Another advantage of mild steel is that if you don’t use soap then you will not have to season the pan as regularly.)

Working out of the old Bijou Theatre in Observatory, an Art Deco monument that now houses a collection of creative spaces, Conrad’s studio and forge is a veritable anthology of metalworking memorabilia. Having grown up in and around the Bijou, Leo cites the building as being an inspiration to his work. What Conrad has created out of the old theatre is also to be admired, with the personality and history of the Bijou prevalent in each piece created in the forge.

Expansion is on the horizon for The Tool Room with their product range increasing to include knives, spatulas and chopping boards to be sold at the market and also showcased in a select few stores.

The Tool Room has a stall at the Oranjezicht City Farm Market every Saturday. The Bijou showroom is also open weekly from 8 until 12 and viewings can also be arranged via info@blacksmith.co.za. Visit The Bijou, 178 Lower Main Rd, Observatory, Cape Town