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Johan & Lene Botha - Woltemade

30th Jan 2014

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MmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmWoltemade are a husband-and-wife team who met in a bar while they were both studying design. A joint passion to innovate and ‘restyle’ the standard patterns of daily lives, by enhancing and not dominating, led Johan and Lene Botha to pursue a dream together as designers. They wanted to launch a studio that made furniture that would be valued as an investment, through use of materials, detailed design, geometric shapes and natural, organic proportions, and have the longevity to be passed onto future generations. Their work focuses on lighting, clocks and tables using materials such as hand-blown glass, copper, granite, oak and leather to create some of the most unique and beautifully bespoke design pieces.

Before Woltemade, Johan was head of design at KND Naval Design, working on commercial and leisure boats, while Lene was involved in residential architecture and interior design. Johan says that starting up their own company has been one of the highlights of his career. “Being able to build a range of furniture that fulfils our passion is incredibly rewarding, while knowing that our creations complement interiors around the world, whether in New York, Tokyo, London or Europe, is hugely gratifying.”

Despite Woltemade being established worldwide, the pair still considered Cape Town as the city in which to start their company, with their sunny design studio enviably positioned at the foot of Table Mountain. “There is such a huge support network here from consumers, suppliers, the media and other experienced designers. South Africa is perfect from a production point of view because hand-crafted production on a small scale is relatively affordable and accessible. International shipment is unfortunately expensive, however, and our new range will be designed to ensure that customers invest in furniture, not logistics.”

In terms of South Africa’s influence on Woltemade, Johan and Lene believe their design heritage is more eclectic, influenced by Chinese neighbours, European Huguenots and African refugees, rather than any patriotic design methodology. “We have a diversity to our work which we think guides Woltemade into the niche market it has,” says Johan. 2014 will see exciting projects and opportunities for the studio. The pair are currently concentrating on fitting out two beautiful houses in South Africa, the opening of their Cape Town showroom and setting up a distribution network in the US and UK, while also finalising their new furniture range to be launched mid-2014. Keep your eye on this one, Woltemade is set to go far.

What does design mean to you?
Johan: Design is a lifestyle that explores various avenues to create beautiful, functional solutions to add value to the user whether in function or aesthetics.

Did any particular designer, architect or artist influence you both?
Johan: Konstantin Grcic, Mark Rothko, Rem Koolhaas & The National.

Describe the design concept behind Woltemade.
Johan: Woltemade is a design family that would like to create items to enhance and not dominate interiors locally & internationally. During our design cycle we experiment with different solid materials and play with the structural proportions to give the item a unique character. Woltemade Studio would like to be known to create furniture that is a valued investment in terms of materials and highlighted by detailed design that can be passed on to generations to follow.

Describe your place of work.
Johan: A small sunny studio at the foot of Table Mountain.

Which of your own designs are you most proud of?
Johan: A Lamp

What iconic piece of design are you envious of or wish you had designed yourself?
Johan: Hippo Water Roller

Where else in the world could you live in terms of inspiring design?
Johan: Barcelona, Paris

What design trends can you foresee?
Johan: Design that encourages the consumer to participate either in design or production. The construction of a product to be simplified where emphasis is placed on the beauty of the final product and less focus on innovation. I think we will see the next phase of the 'start-up craft design trend' which will be produced with the same finishes we have seen in the last two years (brass, cork, oak, black) but styled similar to items in mass production.

Does your work ever bring you to London?
Lene: I had a three-month internship at Conran & Partners a couple of years ago, but we are in discussions with a UK distributor, so hopefully you will see us soon...

What do you think of London as a design city?
Johan: London is one of the richest design capitals in terms of design heritage and is situated a couple of hours away from all the major design cities around the world.

What inspires you daily?
Johan: A flat white!