After high school, I studied fine art at the University of Cape Town, majoring in sculpture in 1999.
In my final year, I simply sat in my basement studio and fiddled with off-cut printers card, staples and masking tape.
I thus developed a very playful and experimental way of dealing with simple materials and basically found the work process that I still employ today – the process of trial and error.
After graduating, I used this work process and the paper-skills I’d developed for myself to earn money, trying out plastic sheets instead of paper and eventually designing a system for making pleated lampshades from folded die-cut panels of polypropylene.
A small range of other lights and giftware followed for an art/design store called Bread and Butter, and my business was born (kind of accidentally). These products were designed to be easily produced - alone (in my backyard as such).
In 2004, having grown the range fairly substantially, I exhibited this work at the inaugural Design Indaba Expo. It was the first time I’d been exposed to an international buying audience, and I was informed that the work didn’t look African or South African enough for their markets’ needs.
This led to a very conscious decision to try and figure out what a South African product was, or how to represent my feelings for SA through design.
I began to play with our most typical local craft material – galvanized steel wire – and developed the beginnings of a range called ‘strength in numbers’ which was all about the act of binding wire units together to form stronger and more functional wholes. Again, I was making modular structures, and the experience I’d gained making the earlier paper geometric systems was invaluable in this new pursuit.
Around the same time, I met a wire artist called Richard Mandongwe. He was selling incredible flowers made from old plastic bottles and wire. The history of re-use as a typical SA mode of production was immediately inspiring. I had found a new voice.
By working with Richard, adding his wire skills and an amazing new material (bottle-plastic) to my structural knowledge and play, giving rise to a range of re-purposed post-consumer plastic waste products.
I called the range ‘other people’s rubbish’. It was intended as a possible form of future upliftment for a country in desperate need of employment opportunities, and as a way to promote the idea of recycling to a very unaware South African public. There was also much discussion around the idea of a national identity through design at this time, and the possibility of inventing my own craft/design mythology for our new democracy was a real possibility, and it appealed to me. I realized that by using the right materials and knowledge - wire and plastic - combined with typically South African skills and contemporary design, a new aesthetic could be created which really spoke to the then-current South African situation. This was in 2004, and later the same year
I registered my name as my company. Heath Nash was officially reborn (as a brand).