Monday, June 20, 2011


Haldane Martin

Haldane Martin is the owner/ director/ designer of contemporary furniture design company HALDANE MARTIN, established in 2002, based in Cape Town. Up to today the Haldane Martin collection consists of 50 interesting and innovative furniture pieces all designed by Haldane Martin and manufactured by his excellent team of craftsmen. Everything from the marketing to quality control, the assembly to the sales, the logistics to the outsourcing are managed by a hardworking team at the Haldane Martin studio in Woodstock Cape Town, making it a completely independent design company.

The furniture designed and produced by Haldane Martin and his team has been recognized worldwide and has been exhibited in New York, Madrid, London, Paris, Oslo, Copenhagen, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town and has been featured not only in local press but also in international design publications. Haldane has won many awards, including the prestigious SABS DISA award for Zulu Mama 2007 and the Real Simple SA – Green Innovation Award in 2008.

"As a contemporary designer I try to meet the needs of the whole human being by designing furniture that is simultaneously meaningful for the spirit, beautiful for the soul, and nurturing for the body.”

Haldane designs with the aim to meet the needs of the whole human being. Spirit, soul and body. He believes that our environments and objects that we come across or use every day are necessary in reflecting our inner intelligence and wisdom as human beings. He believes that discovering intelligence in things that surround us brings light to the human spirit and he does this by personifying objects, as a way to express himself as a creative human being and making use of our shared cultural history, bringing meaning to his work. Haldane believes that it is an artist’s soul that touches the world and that we as individuals should take responsibility for our inner life and soul life. He spends his time studying architecture, music, art and nature in order to develop his intellect on beauty, as he believes that we can be easier at peace with ourselves when beauty is present in our lives. Further, Haldane aims to nurture the physical body by exploring principals of lifestyle and ergonomics and seeks to understand the principals of natural systems of the earth and encourage their application in our human systems.

As a designer, Haldane pays a great interest and makes use of beneficial natural resources from South Africa and uses them in his design in a contemporary way, he believes this sets him apart as a designer as he is not only using imported goods and is adding value to our natural resources as well as creating many job opportunities and therefore helping our high unemployment rates.

Further, Haldane Martin believes in ‘designing with a conscience’. He explains that living in South Africa, being surrounded every day by poverty, crime, pain, suffering and violence, there is no way one can not design with a conscience. All of his work has an interesting story behind it and either helps create job opportunities or creates recognition for the less fortunate and the skills and techniques they may use.

Zulu Mama is a chair that Haldane designed in 2007, and here we can see the many principals he believes in coming through. He was inspired by his own inner search for a mother archetype, something he feels is lacking in our western culture. Haldane wanted to create a ‘cafĂ© chair’ that embodied this mother archetype. He began collecting South African indigenous coil baskets as he felt it was relevant to what he wanted to communicate and that they had the perfect form, they were nurturing symbolizing gathering and collecting, being a very feminine gesture.

Haldane used this shape and concept of the basket as the seat of his chair. To further his the depth of the project he traveled to Limpopo and met with a young lady named Esther who was taught the traditional weaving techniques by her mother. Transcending all language and cultural barriers they worked together, bringing together indigenous weaving techniques and western design principals, Haldane explains this as being one of the highlights of his career.  From this Haldane decided to use recycled plastic from his factories in house waste instead of the original reed as it was more durable.

 Zulu Mama is an integration of first world technology as well as indigenous craft, something he explains as an unique opportunity as most countries do not have both realities living side by side and his intention as a designer was to weave these two realities into one product. Zulu Mama proved to be a very big success for Haldane and was used in a game lodge in Namibia as well as displayed in the Maison D’Object in Paris where it received great compliments. I think a lot of the success that came from this chair was because of the design process Haldane embarked on. Really showing an interest in indigenous techniques, working with people who are not ever exposed to the fast rush of modern technology we deal with every day, creating job opportunities and making an effort to use recycled materials when manufacturing.

Another one of Haldane’s designs that shares a similar concept is the Riempie range. Haldane was inspired by early Cape Dutch furniture and sees the nostalgic riempie chair as a celebration of our western heritage. Once again he has incorporated traditional techniques with contemporary techniques, mixing the two and creating modern design that still possesses a feeling of nostalgia. For the body/ frame of the chair he has used the traditional joinery in solid Kiaat timber and  combined it with simplified lines and contemporary proportions. 

For the woven seat Haldane learned the traditional craft of Malaysian hand caning weaving, but instead of using this in its traditional form he enlarged the weave/ pattern and used bright colors instead of neutral ones. This changed the whole feel of the chair and instead of evoking purely nostalgic emotions it also adds excitement and incredible liveliness to the product. 

We can find similarity with this design and Zulu Mama, in both Haldane has married indigenous and traditional crafts and techniques with contemporary design principals, creating products which are lively and exciting in our modern world but still possess some kind of nostalgic feeling.

The Fiela Feather Arc Light is another one of Haldanes products where he uses our natural indigenous resources from South Africa, and once again combines them with contemporary design. The light was designed to create an angelic ambiance over dining and lounge spaces, having an impact on a person’s entire being, body, spirit and soul. The feathers that form the diffuser of the light were sourced at an ostrich farm in Oudshoorn, the same town that gave birth to the heart-warming book “Fiela se Kind”, hence the name of the light. The soft feathers are arranged in a spherical flower petal pattern and give the energy saving CFL lamps a warm natural glow. The arc light frame is made from recycled stainless steel and reconstituted stone and gives special honor to the archetypal Arco light by Achille Castiglioni.

By assessing the techniques, materials and design principals that Haldane Martin uses in his designs it is clear that he is conscious and aware of his ‘carbon footprint’ on the earth. He tries, as much as possible, to avoid having to import goods or materials and use only natural resources, this also promoting our local produce and techniques. He makes an effort in involving traditional techniques, learning and working with people that may be less fortunate or that simply live in cultures that don’t understand the use and importance of modern technology, and therefore educating and exposing them. He is concerned on touching on human emotions. This is evident in all three pieces assessed, the mother archetype in Zulu Mama, the angelic calming ambience created by the Fiela Feather Light and the nostalgic yet exciting energy the Riempie range brings across.

Haldane Martin markets himself via his showrooms both in Cape Town and Johannesburg where he has regular sales, he is also involved in the Design Indaba Expo every year as well as the Eco Design Expo in Helsinki, Finland. He also promotes himself via his talks, which he gives regularly at various design conferences. His products are available online for purchase through selected international and local retailers.

I find great inspiration in the work of Haldane Martin; I am intrigued by how he incorporates the traditional techniques with modern design principals, creating furniture that provokes all kinds of emotion. 

VISI Magazine, 2004 
Design In Formation, Issue 13

Monday, June 13, 2011


Some of my collectables that i hope to incorporate into my range...will post pic of stones soon! 


These are two of my latest pieces for my 10 piece range.. My theme for my final range is based on creating a greater appreciation and recognition for geometric structures that people most often view as cold, isolating and impersonal. I aim to do this by combining them with natural/ found objects, forcing people to view them in a different way and be able to notice the potential they may have. Bridging the gap between geometric and natural, and creating a successful marriage between the two.

Ceramic ring. 925 Silver. Found ceramic. 2011

Cherokee Lovers. US coins, 925 Silver. Brooch. 2011

say crazy?