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Mpho Vackier started her career as a process engineer in the mining industry. However, due to her inherent love for design, she got into studying and then practicing interior design with her brand The Urbanative. Her work is mainly inspired by the functional aspects of the mid-century European furniture design and with multi-hued geometric style of Ndebele textiles. She also uses a lot of steel and wood in creating her furniture pieces. We chatted with Vackier about her work inspirations and the making of her new collection for Design Indaba 2017.
Yes, I am a metallurgical engineer turned interior designer. I had always felt that I was a designer at heart, and seven years ago I made the leap of faith to quit my job as a metallurgist and study Interior Design. So I gave up the cushy job, and began studying full-time whilst being a mommy to a two year old, and a new wife.
Being creative or living a creative life has always been my goal. Being able to create amazing products and spaces that make people’s lives not only better but also prettier is my favorite thing.
The Urbanative is inspired by ethnic patterns and motifs from around the world; we constantly explore how global graphic cultural signifiers can be applied and reinterpreted to inspire new and modern product/surface/art designs that are relatable to the contemporary citizens. Our goal is to connect people back to their cultures as well as to connect them to various other cultures through the reinterpretation. We want to start a conversation and a connection through the products we design.
The brand also celebrates the individuality of clients by offering customizable furniture pieces that are truly defined by the owner and their needs. With a firm belief in the idea and the benefits of collaborative working relationships we work with a range of talented multidisciplinary professionals to offer inspired, imaginative and multifunctional design solutions.
I have always loved the simple elegance of mid-century European design. It is both gorgeous and functional. I believe that things shouldn’t just be pretty; they should serve a purpose and fulfill a function. So when I started studying I knew that I wanted to be part of a group of designers who created spaces/products/furniture that looked effortless and fulfilled chosen or various functions. I also knew that I wanted to create pieces that told you a story, or took you on an intriguing journey, and that’s where the inclusion of African Patterns and motifs comes in.
I am inspired by ethnic cultural graphics and motifs with, as well as by, classical mid-century furniture silhouettes. I love the visual tension created by contrasting elements/materials/ideas and the result thereof, hence I use wood vs. steel. I am also inspired by patterns in everything and I love translating those patterns into functional 3D products.
Our introductory range is inspired by cultural Ndebele lines and forms (especially inspired by the artistic works of Esther Mahlangu) whilst appealing to the contemporary clients.
One of my favourite pieces in the range is the Buhle console, which is visually striking and yet very simple. I love the contrast between the solid kiaat, the painted engineered timber, and the satin finish steelwork.
Everything for me begins with a pattern or a form, which informs the design. All of the pieces in this range were designed in the same way. The Buhle console was inspired by one of Esther Mahlangu’s iconic pieces. Thereafter, I played with the shapes, forms and lines, and abstracted and applied them to a fairly classic console/desk silhouette. I then explored a couple of materials. The juxtaposition of the African shapes and the classic modern silhouette and the contrasting materials created a visual tension. It resulted in the kiaat and the black-and-white painted engineered timber and steel.
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