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On the CUSP series: Kevin Frankental and Fanie van Zyl collaborate to celebrate South African craft

Co-founder of Lemon, a design studio that aims to craft work that lasts and work with our immensely talented craft industry

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By Piet Smedy | October 21, 2022 | Art

Co founder of Lemon Studio, Kevin Frankental shares his ethos for design and why the relationship between form and function matters. He explains, 'I do not want to design for design's sake. I want to put things out into the world that are aesthetically beautiful, have a function and are made to last. It is a fine line because there is a commercial aspect to it. I love the quote, "It is easy to be different but difficult to be better". I often think about that.’

Kevin further share, ‘I am a bit of an idealist in the sense that I think many things were better "before". My inspiration generally comes from the past and has a sense of nostalgia. I want to honour great work be it architecture, design or art - and try to modernise it in a tasteful, respectful manner. That is good design.’

A close-up of the marble piece, Image: Karl Rogers

‘For me, functional design is about the making. I love factories and manufacturing techniques. You can view something on a screen or you can 3-D print it, but it is never the same as going into a factory and working with a brilliant craftsman who has been doing it for years. Unfortunately, it is a dying art form, and I think the role of a good designer is to ensure their pieces are created in a way that allows people to work as much as possible with their hands. This is what keeps the industry going; this is where the real magic happens.’

And of course, we can’t look at design without sustainability in mind, Kevin states, ‘Design also involves looking at sustainability in a different way. Buying something that you are going to love and care for is important - something you can hand down. For me, that is better than buying something that can be recycled. I have been working with marble for the last six or seven years. I like that it comes as a big block from the earth. In South Africa, it is generally cut into slabs of 20mm or 30mm material. This puts a certain limit on what is possible, and I like to challenge myself within those limitations. A big part of this work is to showcase how good South African craftsmen are. They deserve our support. I think the debate between what is and is not art always becomes a pretentious one. I think it is relatively simple. Does the piece move you? Did you feel something when you saw it? Did it ask a question? Did it surprise you? That is art for me. Forget what the academics and critics say. That is generally designed to make you spend more money.’

With CUSP, it was great to have a platform where you can design with very few boundaries. For this type of exhibition, you can be a bit selfish and design something you really want to make and the commercial aspects can be ignored. I find this pushes creativity and I keep coming back to this when designing new pieces.

'It was great collaborating with Fanie van Zyl, who is technically skilled and taught me a fortune during the process. Having a manufacturer as good as The Dialogue Room, who were also passionate about the project, helped.'

This article originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of House and Garden SA