First establishing a name for himself at South Africa’s 2004 Design Indaba, when South African arts and crafts was still a largely curio-based sector, Heath Nash was challenged by customers to create a product that would reflect his South African roots. This led Heath to create luminous and playful lamp sculptures out of recycled plastic product and wire for a line aptly called Other People’s Rubbish, featured in HAND/EYE Magazine’s 01/Africa issue. The collection established him as an innovator in the design world and Heath went on to be a guest artist in the UK, Finland, Japan and, most recently, Sweden.
After seven plus years of making and selling his beautiful plastic lampshades, Heath’s workshop in the Woodstock section of Cape Town is now a self-sustaining operation - a dream for any artist, and a compelling bit of evidence that one of the most exciting areas of contemporary design right now is learning how to coax artisans to innovate.
During a recent stint working with Zimbabwean weavers who make traditional natural fiber products, Heath encouraged them to creatively expand, to weave something different. Similarly, on a recent collaboration with glass blowers in Swaziland, he developed stunning prototypes for glass vases within vases – a simple design whose very simplicity demanded outside-the-box thinking. Heath is clearly passionate about this process of helping to harness the often incredible production capacity, skill, and urge to succeed of these craftsmen and women.
Having spent much time abroad, Heath has a keen understanding of the potential of growing and cross-pollinating artisans and their respective crafts with a hit of design. There is tremendous potential in being able to work intuitively with artists globally and show them how to innovate and develop their own craft.
On a more personal level, the artist in Heath would like to return to sculpture.
He recently spent time in Finland in the tiny village of Fiskars sculpting out of ice. This prompted him to want to further explore the effect of climate change by using weather as a means of production. One particular project involved sculpting petal-like forms out of ice and spraying them with water and blue ink to create layers of transparency and translucency, and then observing how light and heat affected what he had crafted. Similarly, he would like to explore working in a place that is very dry – observing the effects of wind and sun on simple forms made of inherently natural materials.
Being free to create purely based on creative stamina, with no regard whatsoever for the marketplace, is where Heath Nash’s mind is at the moment. He’s also angling for an invitation to the United States. No one has asked yet.
Film producer and connoisseur Natascha Tillmanns lives and works in New York, with several visits a year to her Cape Town roots. For more about Heath Nash, see www.heathnash.com.