WORDS Robyn Alexander IMAGES Justin Patrick PRODUCTION Jeanine Botes and Carin Bester
It took a lot of time and experimenting to understand how cork really works,” says Laurie Wiid van Heerden, explaining his journey towards creating the wide range of unique contemporary cork products that his studio has designed to date. “To fully understand this unique material, I travelled to Portugal often, visiting cork factories and the beautiful cork forests. I quickly became aware of its wonderful properties and manufacturing capabilities, and realised I wanted to place my focus on cork and make it one of our core materials.”
When Laurie describes cork as “unique”, he’s not exaggerating: as he points out, this remarkable material is biodegradable, renewable, recyclable, reusable, lightweight, waterproof, elastic, compressible and resistant to wear and tear. It’s also immensely versatile. When using the material as a designer, however, he says it was vital to “push the limits and add value to it. We had to create awareness and push the boundaries to achieve a number of world ‘firsts’ – including the world’s largest cork pendant light and cork cabinet.”
The latest updates to Laurie’s portfolio include pieces such as stools and lampshades in super-bright colours. He explains that one of the key reasons for adding colour was to emphasise the unique texture of cork. The Spektrum Collection, first launched in 2018, includes the results of Wiid Studio’s experiments “with various paint techniques and pigments”, says Laurie.
“Cork is transformed by a coat of paint, keeping its unique texture and sustainable properties, but gaining an added element of durability and luxury,” he says. The colourful pieces are warm and bold, adding instant visual interest to a range of settings, including domestic spaces. And they can be customised in almost any colour.
Recent installations by Wiid Studio include a set of custom-designed cork and stone tables at La Petite Colombe restaurant in Franschhoek, and an installation of 22 cork pendants in a private home in Durban. “It’s always been an objective of mine to install large sculptural pieces in public spaces all around the world,” says Laurie. “A product such as our outdoor cork birdhouse is a good example of a piece that can be used in museums and parks.”