‘Craft is not a product, it’s a process’ – with these few words, Erica Elk effected a shift in the mind of every one of us doing a tour of the Cape Craft and Design Institute this week. You could hear the light bulb switch. It’s a verb, not a noun, silly. For how long has it been assumed that clever-with-their-hands people have been producing ‘craft’ (read crochet, felting, woodwork, macrame, beading……) when what they’ve really been doing is creating a bag or a bowl, or whatever, using a ‘craft’ as a means to an end.
And the ‘means’ at CCDI are legion. I remember when they started back in 2001 – humble, seemingly worthy beginnings – well 12 years on, they’re an industrial zone and creative force to be factored in – with a sound Design Strategy up their sleeve to get unemployed hands in business and bring the ‘maker and the market together’.
Could be that’s why both Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and WC Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism Alan Winde were on the tour. With the two of them in the lead, we snaked our way like a curious mamba through corridors and studio-cubicles witnessing people and technology buzzing, whirring and showing off their skillfully crafted wares. My best was watching the Premier pose for a pic at an automated sewing machine! Crafty move Ms Zille!
But with the World Design Capital year round the corner for Cape Town, and according to the CCDI’s website, around 40,000 South Africans already crafting to contribute R2 billion to the economy – maybe we should all get our shoulders to the design wheel…..