With a big-picture view on the impact of design – in several of its manifestations – Studio Lloyd’s staff talks to habitat about hero materials, the importance of working together as a team, going with the flow via turning points, the idea of bringing meaning and emotional connection to inanimate objects, and of moving design from an object to an experience.
‘Our dream is to create unique and extraordinary custom handcrafted designs,’ says Ashlee Lloyd, Studio Lloyd‘s Founder & Creative Director. Ashlee is a 3-dimensional product and lighting designer. A textile lover and electric fanatic. Her vision is to create arrestingly functional and exclusive pieces that engage one’s emotions and senses. Each creation is delicately made with sublime attention to detail. She allows each fixture to develop organically and combines juxtaposing, luxuriously high-quality materials. The result is a culmination of functionality and true individuality.
She adds: ‘Good design is honest, vulnerable and future proof. It’s well thought through, serves a purpose and is built to last. The time of throw away culture is over. We design beautiful, purposeful objects which can be used for many future years. Sustainability ‘alone’ is not enough. Regenerative and resilient products, made within a regenerative and resilient culture – is the way forward.’
Studio Lloyd’s most recent output – the Sayari Luxury Outdoor Collection – is not only a culmination of their prolific sixth year in business, but it is also their dream come true and is soulfully related to improving the world through design. The South African Lighting & Furniture design atelier’s collection is yet another example of their talent and dedication to synthesising the team’s creativity and the South African culture.
This outdoor furniture is a contemporary ode to the African continent and to handcrafted designs. The entire organic collection makes use of a newly introduced material: the Eucalyptus Globulus alien species wood, which is being actively removed to protect the local biodiversity system. Instead of using traditional shapes and patterns, Sayari (Swahili for ‘Planet’) dedicates its physical expression very intimately to the honour of living on the place we call home.
The elegantly simple yet eye-catching Maoni Daybed is versatile in its use and pairs with the uniquely shaped, but functional Kimondo Side Table with round marble inlay.
This novel approach to outdoor seating lies in the use of organic shapes and a simple but elegant combination of materials. The signature crochet detailing adds familiarity and affiliation to the importance of local handcraft. The culmination of all design aspects communicates the idea to ‘do good’. Design should not only focus on looking good, it should ‘be good for people and the environment’. Available in various washable outdoor fabric colours and wood stains.
Anne Halbedel (Director of Operations & Communication): ‘Our dream has always been to release our own outdoor furniture collection. We knew we had a compelling idea and materials that suit the outdoor market. We’ve finally reached that point where we launch this dream of ours. It’s been a wild ride with a long learning curve.
Anne studied International Leisure Management with a focus on production management at NHTV in Breda, The Netherlands. In 2015 she met Ashlee and they became friends during an internship in Project Management, Operational Management and Marketing in Cape Town. Anne moved to Cape Town to work in film and event production in 2017. A couple of months before the pandemic hit, Ashlee asked her to join her business and to run her operations. Anne joined Studio Lloyd in May 2020 and became a director of the company in 2021.
Louise Roberts (Textile Manager): ‘I dream for the studio to grow continuously, and for us to expand our team and employ more people. The world needs to know about us and the work we do. The handcrafting space in SA is vital for local prosperity and should be carried in an international direction. Anyone can manufacture and export, but when something is added to a product by hand, it will always have the individual aspect to it that gives a tangible and personal note of gratitude, a ‘we thank you for your order’ gesture of love to each piece.’
About those learning curves, Anne recounts: ‘In 2021 we planned to attend a trade show in the Middle East and worked towards this for a full year. We designed and manufactured an exclusive custom light sculpture specifically for the show and had it flown there. We planned to present this piece as an introduction to our brand but unfortunately this country experienced political unrest in that week and we were unable to go.
‘Our piece made it, but we didn’t.
‘After all the effort, the disappointment was acute.
‘Cue the opportunity for growth and the gift of the lessons learnt through the challenge: We’ve a much better understanding of trade shows; we have a lot of leads now for import and export to various countries; our May 2022 trade show in Dubai has been a lot easier to navigate.’
Moral of the story: If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
Ashlee about the importance of the team: ‘Even though the art of crochet is a single-person job, our light sculptures and ottomans need a team to finalise each design. It’s important for us to have a good atmosphere in our studio where everyone feels comfortable and understood. When you’re designing large design pieces, you are only as good as your team that surrounds you.’
‘We pride ourselves on the material we use and our crochet technique. For all our products, we use Solid Braid Multifilament Polypropylene (MFP) rope. The rope is soft to the touch and flexible, floats in water and is resistant to rot, mildew, and UV light. It is one of our favourite and most used materials, especially for our light sculptures. It is all-weather durable and – due to the UV light protection – does not fade in colour. High quality products for indoor and outdoor use, they survive desert, tropical, oceanic climates. Our sculptures are unique, and our work is recognised all over the world.’
What were the major influences for the first Studio Lloyd collection? Was this recent outdoor luxury collection a vision from the beginning or did it evolve into a luxury outdoor brand spontaneously?
Ashlee: ‘At the ‘The New Wave Collection’ showcase in 2016 by the Guild Gallery, I designed the first light sculpture called Molecular. This was to be the first of many lighting installations and the beginning of a new collection I wanted to explore. When I created Molecular in my mother’s garage as a student, I felt like the vision of my career path had acquired a new beginning.
‘A combination that perhaps had not been seen before in design, it was this very piece that caught the attention of media and the public and compelled me to create more like it. I knew I had just discovered something worth exploring. The results of crocheted textiles and lighting and the negative space it creates is still a major influence today.
‘Over the years I refined the method of the crochet technique and the mathematical formulas, which is evident in what we see today. To know your craft and attempt to excel in it requires a drive for self-discipline, and that attracts me.
‘The light installations have become much more intricate and have increased in scale as I have developed the technique better. Outdoor furniture has always been a direction I had in mind, however, it’s been a challenge to get to this point while running a business at the same time. You always have many ideas, but not enough resources to execute them. I can proudly say the time has arrived, and with team effort, these creations are possible.’
Does any outside activity or interest other than work in your life play a role in your personal development as a designer?
Ashlee: I’m studying 3D mapping for lighting events. I do that in my spare time. To see how lighting changes people’s moods and makes them feel welcome has been a fascinating journey. I’ve enjoyed learning the new software programs and then controlling the lighting in real time at the event. It’s really fun.
Do you have a design you would most like to be associated with in the long term?
Anne: We have our signature piece Amoeba right here in Cape Town at the Norval Foundation in Steenberg Estate. It is five metres in length and stretches over a 16-seater dining table in the Skotnes Restaurant. Locals know and love the piece and we’re proud to be associated with it. We have a piece called The Emerald’s Eye, which we have put a tremendous amount of thought into. But, the story of the piece is still open and will be told once it has found its true home.
What inspired you to become a designer?
Ashlee: ‘In my family, we were always working on a project, getting our hands dirty with various art materials or fixing things in the house together. I enjoyed Design at school and then chose to study Industrial Design. My parents are very creative. My father was an art student and mechanical engineer, and my mother was a restoration artist / art director and the two of them have taught me as much as they could about materials and processes. What I do every day is a true integration and marriage of what my parents mean to me. The technical/engineering aspect of the structural elements in the work, combined with an artistic flair and creativity – remind me of where I come from and who raised me. Studio Lloyd also stands for the creativity in my family, and I wanted to show my parents and the people around me that it’s possible to make a career out of that combination and that there is space for functional art.’
How do you keep coming up with new ideas?
Ashlee: ‘When exploring organic shapes, every turn and line creates a new design direction. I have a big sketch book that I keep all my design ideas in and often I’ll explore shapes I don’t think are possible to execute. The challenge is to turn those shapes and ideas into reality. ‘The creative process always starts with a pencil and a sketchbook. Allowing my mind to wander and explore shapes. I regularly consult with my Technical Engineer who supplies our structural framework, and we develop the possibilities of a vision together. If the vision is not achievable due to weight or material properties, we develop new ideas and ways of thinking. Industrial designers need to focus on product with meaning and materials that are long lasting.
Inspired by the microscopic organic shapes found in nature, cell structures and the endless possibilities of organic shapes, Ashlee finds inspiration in challenging designs and ideas that are unusual and possibly even a bit risky, especially ones that are not counter-balanced. She adds: ‘I like odd shapes and shapes that have been unexplored.’
‘When designing a light sculpture, there are many colours, materials and textures to choose from, so we offer an open conversation with our clients where we work together to develop the desired piece they are looking for. From there, we give the piece our own signature and our clients trust our decision making as this is a major part of our design process. We communicate every step of the way.’
Venues where Studio Lloyd products are exhibited:
- The Skotness Restaurant in Cape Town, South Africa (Light Sculpture)
- MFulawozi Game Reserve, Mthembu Lodge in Kwazulu- Natal, South Africa (Light Sculpture)
- SAN Beach, Beach Club, Dubai, UAE (Ottomans)
- The One Airbnb in Pezula Estate, Knysna, South Africa (Light Sculpture)
- North Island Resort, Seychelles (Light Sculptures)
- Mango House by Hilton Hotels, Seychelles (Custom Pendants, Wall Decor and Hammocks)
- Baptiste Rooftop Bar, Camps Bay, South Africa (Ottomans)
Does anything surprise you in the dynamic of the contemporary design consumer?
Ashlee: ‘People have started to see value in well-made and handmade products that tell a story and designs that are long-lasting. After the pandemic, I see there has been a shift in what people find important and most of all, what they like to surround themselves with. I wouldn’t say it’s surprising, I would say… it’s about time.’
Studio Lloyd (https://studiolloyd.com) creates striking, exclusive and inimitable designs and has received international acclaim for its innovative ideas for spaces. The design house works closely with their clientèle to develop beautiful works of art, crafted by hand for the residential, commercial and hospitality industry.
photography: Chelsea Pickering | Adriaan Louw | Claire Gunn