Bend It Forward

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Over ten years ago South African designer Marisa Frick-Jordaan literally wove together two of her apparently disparate passions : Socio-economic development and contemporary craft and design.  A BA Honors degree in Politics and Fine Arts at the University of Natal and a Fashion Design Diploma at Natal Technikon was followed by 6 months at the Cité Internationale des Arts, a residential arts cooperative in Paris, similar to London’s Cockpit Arts.

A long time interest in African art forms took her from a clothing line that incorporated Zulu beadwork to a telephone wire weaving project that blends traditional craft with avant-guard, award winning design.  Weaving is an ancient art around the world and in addition to the use of grasses, the decorative use of wire in Southern Africa dates back hundreds of years. Color coated copper telephone wire came with modernization and the rural to urban migration created access to these new industrial materials.

When she returned from Paris her search for transitional art forms brought her to a squatter camp outside Durban, and she began helping them develop the skills they already were using in terms of scale and design.  Her work mentoring in this community grew from five to 50 weavers in about a year.

Twelve years later the community now supports over 300 weavers, who have all moved back to the rural area they’d abandoned in their search for work.  They now all have bank accounts, and steady work that supports their families with weekly turn around production that supplies both a high-end export market as well as the local one.

In following her passions of social enterprise and design Frick-Jordaan has played an important role in taking a local art form and developing it in a way that now commands international attention.

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