This interview with Frauke Stegman by Lin Murray was published in Issue 72 as part of the ELLE Decoration Design Showcase series.

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Internationally acclaimed Cape Town-based graphic designer Frauke Stegmann sees creative potential in even the most ordinary…

CLAIM TO FAME

She’s widely known in South Africa for her delicate, reconstituted porcelain pieces, and in Cape Town for Birds Boutique Café, yet Frauke Stegmann’s work has a global following. Her list of previous and current clients is enviable, from Miu Miu, Design Museum and the Campana brothers, to maverick UK designer Peter Saville, Wallpaper, global fashion and design company Eley Kishimoto, fashion designer Peter Jensen, award-winning fashion website SHOWStudio and Pulp frontman, Jarvis Cocker.

WHAT

‘Some people think I’m a product designer; I’m not. I do what I like to call “subjective inquiries” into my immediate environment. I look around me, and, like an independent journalist or a writer, I gather and curate information on something that I find relevant, and this determines the subject matter of a potential project. I follow the idea of the “designer as author” – where you create not only the project itself, but also its content. A great example of this is Dutch designer Christien Meindertsma’s ‘Pig 05049’ where she documented her lengthy research into what happens to a pig’s remains after the slaughterhouse.’

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HOW IT ALL BEGAN

‘After finishing school in Windhoek, Namibia, I went travelling. I took my portfolio – which was bigger than my backpack – with me, and ended up studying communication design in Mainz, Germany. After that I went to London where I did my Masters in communication, art and design at the Royal College of Art and gained experience working for Prada and Miu Miu before branching out as a freelancer for five years. I then relocated to Cape Town. I still have clients based in Europe, but I also do self-commissioned work – it’s important to me that I remain independent.’

DESIGN PHILOSOPHY

‘My work is very influenced by the craft movement that emerged during the late 1990s and early 2000s. At the time there was a strong feeling that digital technology was increasingly dominating the creation and production of graphic design, resulting in a “flat” superficiality. A growing number of designers started looking to the physical act of making, thus “craft” – the act, not the aesthetic – became a way of bringing back a type of depth and tactility to printed matter, and incorporating a sense of the handmade into new technology.

I also adhere to the broader DIY movement, which encourages individuals to produce goods themselves, thereby protesting corporate exploitative labour and environmental practices while empowering individuals to become producers rather than just consumers. These days companies have to consider green and social issues, so maybe one day it will become possible again to do work with a clean conscience for multinational corporations.’

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INSPIRATION

‘My inspiration comes from… everything around me – there’s potential and opportunity for innumerable projects right on my doorstep. Right now, that’s basically the streets, whether it’s the things I find there, or the thoughts I have while walking, a library, people… It’s very open.’

ACHIEVEMENTS

‘Being named one of 40 best new global designers by i-D magazine; included as one of 100 graphic designers from around the world in Area 2 [Phaidon]; featured in global arts publication Creative Review as one of 10 women designers from around the world to watch; nominated by Peter Saville as one of 20 stars from the new generation of graphic designers for British Design and Art Direction’s The Graphics Book/D&AD [Rotovision]; featured in Graphic Design’s New Global Generation by Mike Dorrian and Liz Farrelly [Laurence King Publishing)].’

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Text: Lin Murray     Production: Laureen Rossouw      Photographs: Jac de Villiers