Collab results in fascinating fabrics

9 October 2020

TUT Art students are resilient and their resourcefulness during an uncertain time for the creative industries are certainly paying off. One such a student is Soshanguve born and raised, Neo Makondo (26), a Fine & Studio Arts student, who, during the lockdown, took a chance and approached a Cape Town-based textiles company with his unique designs. The initiative resulted in some of the most fascinating woven fabrics.

Neo Makondo, an up-and-coming Textile Designer and student at the Faculty of the Arts & Design’s Department of Fine & Studio Arts.

Neo says during the lockdown he was working on his design book as part of an assignment and realised how strong one of them will look like a weaved fabric for an outdoor setting or interior decor. “So, I went on Instagram searching for weaving companies that I could possibly approach and came upon Cedarbrook, a company that designs and weaves upholstery fabrics.”

Neo shared images of his designs/virtual diary, coupled with a bio of himself, to Cedarbrook. The company saw huge potential in his work and immediately proposed a collaboration to weave four of his designs for free, and manufacture prototypes of chairs sporting his designs, to present as part of his final-year evaluation.

“I was super excited, considering that it was my first attempt at finding the right platform for my work, and to become known as a surface designer,” says Neo.

Asked about the designs, Neo says: “The designs I chose for weaving are inspired by African contemporary art, reflecting different ethnic groups based in Africa. One of the basic elements found in African art is the resemblance to a human figure to convey certain ideas. For this series, I chose The Bodi (or Me'en) people who live in the Omo-Turkana Basin, in the lowlands, East of the Omo river. I’m hugely inspired by the patterns on their face/body painting techniques, the texture of their scarification (also known as body modification), and an unusual ceremony of the tribe, called the Ka’el, known as the holiday of the fat men,” he adds.

He plans to supply the new fabrics to interior design companies to decorate modern furniture for spaces, like outdoor lounge settings, restaurants, and offices. He also envisages to collaborate more with high-end fashion designers and participate in art exhibitions.

Cedarbrook is pleased with its newly-found collaboration. “It has been an uplifting experience to work with Neo, enabling us to have first-hand exposure to the fantastic talents which abound in our country.”

“As a multi-faceted Textile Designer, I have a keen eye for detail and have a huge passion for working with fabrics, colour, patterns, prints, paint, paper-based designs, and other tangible tactile surfaces. I mainly work by manually using ink, pigments and colours, to come up with ideas or initial sketches, which I develop into designs, and later transfer onto fabric, mostly through silkscreen printing.”

For now, Neo focuses on completing his studies and opening a design studio, once he obtains his qualification.

“I chose TUT because it was very close to home and it offers the best, advanced theoretical and practical education in the Arts,” he concludes.

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Cedarbrook, a Cape Town-based textiles company saw huge potential in Neo’s designs and, during the lockdown, proposed a collaboration to weave four of his designs for free, and manufacture prototypes of chairs sporting his designs, to present as part of his final-year evaluation.

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