Marisa Fick-Jordan: The wonder of Zulu wire art
June 6, 2007
In this short, image-packed talk, Marisa Fick-Jordan talks about how a village of traditional Zulu wire weavers built a worldwide market for their dazzling work.Marisa Fick-Jordan
- Craft artist, product designer
South African product designer Marisa Fick-Jordan works with Zulu wire artists to develop a sustainable, worldwide market for their bold and shimmering work. Full bio
Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
The decorative use of wire in southern Africa
dates back hundreds of years.
But modernization actually brought communication
and a whole new material, in the form of telephone wire.
Rural to urban migration meant that newfound industrial materials
started to replace hard-to-come-by natural grasses.
So, here you can see the change
from use -- starting to use contemporary materials.
These pieces date back from the '40s to the late '50s.
In the '90s, my interest and passion for transitional art forms
led me to a new form,
which came from a squatter camp outside Durban.
And I got the opportunity to start working with this community
at that point, and started developing, really,
and mentoring them in terms of scale, in terms of the design.
And the project soon grew from five to 50 weavers in about a year.
Soon we had outgrown the scrap yards, what they could provide,
so we coerced a wire manufacturer to help us,
and not only to supply the materials on bobbins,
but to produce to our color specifications.
At the same time, I was thinking, well,
there's lots of possibility here to produce contemporary products,
away from the ethnic, a little bit more contemporary.
So I developed a whole range around -- mass-produced range --
that obviously fitted into a much higher-end decor market
that could be exported and also service our local market.
We started experimenting, as you can see, in terms of shapes,
forms. The scale became very important,
and it's become our pet project. It's successful,
it's been running for 12 years. And we supply the Conran shops,
and Donna Karan, and so it's kind of great.
This is our group, our main group of weavers.
They come on a weekly basis to Durban.
They all have bank accounts.
They've all moved back to the rural area where they came from.
It's a weekly turnaround of production.
This is the community that I originally showed you the slide of.
And that's also modernized today,
and it's supporting work for 300 weavers.
And the rest says it all.
Thank you very much.
- Craft artist, product designer
South African product designer Marisa Fick-Jordan works with Zulu wire artists to develop a sustainable, worldwide market for their bold and shimmering work.Why you should listen
Marisa Fick-Jordan is the co-author of Wired, the authoritative work on Zulu wire art. Using castoff telephone wire -- those plastic-coated copper strands you sometimes find outside switching boxes -- practitioners of this art create tightly woven pieces with bold patterning and fields of shimmering color.
Working with these talented African artists, Fick-Jordan has brought this art to the world, developing products and building a distribution network for a worldwide market. The end result: a traditional art form is preserved and developed -- and a village of weavers can earn a living through their art.
The original video is available on TED.com