Jadesola Folawiyo is a product designer who makes home ware using materials like ceramic, glass and metal, which have their origins in traditional artisanal craft. She likes the qualities of individuality and the hand made feel they give to the finished products. She hopes to contribute to preserving traditional craftsmanship for the next generation through contemporary re-interpretation. Jadesola Folawiyo is widely known for her collection of metal lampshades. She has recently been named among 50 celebrated designers who are creating sophisticated and innovative products and interiors. In this interview, she shares with Oliver Enwonwu, her inspiration and plans for the future…
Renowned painter and sculptor Demas Nwoko was for many decades, a solitary voice on the design scape in Nigeria. Recently, there have been several emerging talents in this discipline like Ifeanyi Oganwu, Yinka Ilori and yourself. What do you think is responsible for this development?
Since the time of Demas Nwoko in the 1960s the global design industry has grown and become more prevalent in many societies. It is more widely studied in academia, practiced as a profession and considered by other industries as a tool that can add value to our communities, generate jobs and consequently add to the growth of our economy. As the design industry grows globally, many more creative individuals are using it as a means of creative expression and a channel to support the economic development of their countries. Like Demas Nwoko, Dieter Rams a German designer born in 1932, was also a solitary design voice in his country. Now, Germany’s design industry is globally renowned, steeped in a strong history of good quality manufacturing and Dieter Rams “less is more” philosophy.
Each year a new fleet of designers emerge from Germany onto the global platform. The emerging design talent in Nigeria can be assigned to the global development of the design industry as a whole. As German designers now stand on the shoulders of Dieter Rams, we stand on the shoulders of the likes of Demas Nwoko and the many craftsmen that produce beautiful and intricate works throughout our country.
The aim now, as I see it, is to build on ourn global presence in the design industry. You hear people talk about Italian, British, Japanese and American design, even South African design is praised globally. I look forward to a time when people in Australia will be talking about Nigerian design. Let us be known for much more than the corruption story, since we are so much more than that. We have a lot to harness and to offer that other countries do not have. That makes us unique; namely our skill in storytelling through objects. It is now for the emerging; both home and abroad to pave the way for forthcoming generations to ensure they have strong shoulders to stand on in expressing their creative voices to the world.
Despite this, you and several of your contemporaries were educated, as well as work outside Nigeria and the African continent. Does this stem from the quality of educational programmes for design or the availability of opportunities for designers here in Nigeria?
The design sector is an emerging market in Nigeria and so we still have a long way to go to match the standard of education and opportunities provided by other countries with more established industries. Take the Japanese and Oriental community for instance, they made up 40% of my product design class at my university in London. They aim to learn what is known as one of the longest standing product design courses (it has been running for over 70 years) then go back to use their knowledge to develop their own country. Marrying the knowledge of the diaspora with the knowledge of home-based designers will enable us to strengthen our education and creative industries.
In 2012, I was invited by the British Council to give a talk on design and traditional crafts and progression after university, to the graduating class of the Faculty of Art and Design, European University in Skopje, Macedonia. I have also taken time out of my working schedule to partner with the Design Musuem in London on their educational programme for secondary schools; various designers give their time to visit 2-3 schools a week over a 4-week period to present their work, run a workshop and inspire, as well as educate the youths about design. I would like to see this happening in Nigeria with the support of government, local businesses and museums. If the educational and work opportunities are currently lacking, we must do something to change the situation ourselves. Nigeria’s next top designer could be presently schooling for instance, at Our Lady of Apostles Private School in Yaba. By making sure that our art and design courses are stable, appealing and have the right infrastructure and support, we will be more likely to recognize and unlock our children’s God given potential. I do have to say that many people might state that we first need to ensure we have more basic facilities like 24-hour electricity for everyone (not just those that can pay for it) before we look at course structures.