21 May 2021
COLLECTIBLE: What do you think collectible design brings compared to other more massively produced pieces?
Jan Ernst de Wet: The role of collectible design in an age where algorithms and machines dictate consumerist spending is to safeguard and celebrate the uniqueness of craftmanship, the creator's intellectual capacity, and the ability to transform sketch to object. Every piece reflects a bit of the designer/creator. It is engaging with the thought process and material every time - a bit like meditating.
“The role of collectible design in an age where algorithms and machines dictate consumerist spending is to safeguard and celebrate the uniqueness of craftmanship, the creator's intellectual capacity, and the ability to transform sketch to object.”
C: How would you describe the boundary between functional art and collectible design? Where do you situate your practice between those two?
JEDW: The ideas of what constitutes functional art and collectible design are a bit open-ended. I think the universal theme is conveying a message and differentiating between the two is only shifting that emphasis.
Storytelling is central to my work. It comments on places I've experienced and the ways of the people that live there. Because of my architectural background, incorporating function is particularly important to me. The idea of users physically interacting with the work excites me and adds a pragmatic layer.
C: Can you talk about a new piece or a collection that you release for COLLECTIBLE SALON?
JEDW: Nature is the central theme of my designs. One of the pieces being shown at the fair is the Veld Candelabra. It was inspired by a safari in Madikwe and the termite mounds scattered around the veld. I wanted to interpret the monolithic structure in an item that would transport the user in Paris to a moment in Africa. The process was physically engaging with the termite mound - looking at structure, scale, proportion, and texture and abstracting that into a domestic scale object.
C: What are the key questions you ask yourself before starting to conceptualise a new piece?
JEDW: I value the journey as much as the destination. When I start a new piece or a body of work, I need to have a clear vision that will drive the piece/collection and that will aid in the storytelling and form-making. With functional art, as with architecture, there are 3 ideas I consider. The first is to look at the context – understanding the milieu fuels ideas inspire form and aid in practical considerations. The second idea is more pragmatic and deals with function. This includes material constraints, ergonomics, and studio/kiln limitations. Finally, it is thinking about a philosophical approach. What is the message I want to get across? How am I responding to the times?
About Jan Ernst De Wet
Jan Ernst (Born in 1990 in Kroonstad, South Africa) is a multidisciplinary functional designer based in Cape Town, South Africa. Drawing from nature as inspiration, Jan Ernst creates elegant and alluring ceramic designs that delicately balance form and function.
For him, ceramics is linked to exploration, experimentation and finding equilibrium in composition, structure and materiality. With an educational background in architecture, Ernst’s main medium is clay, through which he brings to life gracefully gorgeous organic designs.