A woman working on colourfully patterned paper cut-outs.

Design details with Johanna Jelinek at Indaba in South Africa

Johanna Jelinek has just come home from an intensive week in Cape Town where she worked on several different projects, at the same time. One of these was a furniture repair kit, we asked her to explain a little more.

The furniture repair kit stems from the African ritual of taking care of furniture. “In Africa, they don’t throw things away so easily like people do in Sweden,” she says. If it’s only a small repair required, then this kit will prolong the life of products. 

The repair kit is made with Studio Propolis, a husband and wife design team based in Nairobi, and consists of metal fittings, textiles and gaffer tape. A practical idea with decorative expression. If you have a hole in your sofa, you can sew or iron on a patch; if the table is wobbly – you can attach a beautiful metal fitting to stabilise it. The decorative elements of the metal fittings will “bring a deeper meaning to furniture in people’s homes” says Johanna, “letting it change over time.”

The kit is part of a design collaboration; IKEA has invited twelve designers based in Africa to work with four in-house IKEA designers. All the projects are responding to the theme of modern rituals.

A hand holding a pen next to a small, patterned metal profile placed on a plywood surface.

A practical idea with decorative expression. Metal fitting from the furniture repair kit developed during Design Indaba.

A pattern-cut metal profile being fastened on a wooden frame with hammer and thin nails.

The other collaboration that Johanna has been busy with is with South African designers Renee Rossouw and Sindiso Khumalo. Renee and Sindiso worked individually on patterns which they merged together. Johanna describes them as “modern but you can really feel Africa in them.”

One of the patterns is cubistic with circles, triangles and squares, in the other you can see a human figure and elephant; merging the two to create repeating patterns results in a more advanced pattern. Johanna remarks that they are modern, yet traditional. They have not decided on the final colours yet, but are hoping that they will be used for cushions, metre fabric and wallpaper.

A woman holding up a piece of fabric with a colourful pattern print.
Mixed effort. Renee Rossouw's and Sindiso Khumalo's prints have been combined to make a repeating pattern.

When we ask about the challenges of the project, Johanna is rather gushing, saying how easy it has been to develop their ideas. “We have become a little family in the IKEA house” during Design Indaba she says. Sometimes the house was full with visitors and sometimes it was quiet and very concentrated. 

The IKEA house was in the main plaza at Design Indaba giving the general public, a somewhat design interested crowd, the opportunity to be part of the design process. Johanna has never worked in this way before. She describes how some visitors took up a place around their working table and came with their own ideas, becoming part of the discussion for twenty minutes or so. Other guests stood back and just observed. 

Sketches tapes a wooden surface.

“As a designer, you don’t switch jobs very often,” says Johanna. So with this kind of project, it’s an opportunity for the designers to develop and keep moving forwards. Johanna appreciates this kind of collaborative project as a complement to developing the base IKEA range – where she works with fewer designers, over a much longer period of time, planning products that will be in the range for many years to come.   

Johanna is hoping that this collaboration will continue at the 2017 Democratic Design Days in Älmhult in June.

Two women talking to each other, standing by a wall covered in prints and sketches.
Johanna Jelinek and Renee Rossouw discussing the endless possibilities of designing prints at Design Indaba in Cape Town.

Johanna Jelinek from Sweden has been working for IKEA since 2002. She is driven by function and aesthetics in combination and looks for deeper meaning and a clear context in design and loves to inspire people around the world to live more sustainable lives.

STUDIO PROPOLIS is a Nairobi-based design workshop set up by husband and wife team Naeem Biviji and Bethan Rayner in 2005. Their work combines a formal education as architects with an informal training as furniture makers. They are passionate about making things and work with different materials across disciplines and scales. The relationship between locally available materials and their own craft culture informs how they make and design. Their workshop forms the core of their studio practice.

Renee Rossouw from South Africa is an artist and architect who explores a variety of different projects, from patterns and products, to murals and art.

Sindiso Khumalo from South Africa works with several NGO’s to develop sustainable textiles and has developed a complex graphic language that draws on her Zulu and Ndebele heritage.

Design Indaba has become a respected institution in the global creative landscape, based on the foundation of their annual Festival that has attracted and showcased the world’s brightest talent since 1995. Today it comprised of a world-renowned Conference, an online publication, a Social DoTank and an annual Festival of Creativity. In 22 years, the Design Indaba Conference has grown to become one of the world’s leading design events, hosting more than 55 speakers and over 5000 delegates annually.