After seeing his furniture piece ‘Dream Cabinet’ exhibited at the Southern Guild’s ‘A New Wave’ show, we just had to catch up with designer Micah Donnoli to find out more about his creative processes, inspiration and what he has planned next…

Micah, would you like to introduce yourself?
I was born and raised in Pietermaritzburg, and after matriculating I moved to Cape Town to pursue a degree in Industrial Design which inevitably lead to my recent completion of a Masters in Design with a focus on participatory design methods being utilised in urban environments structured by complex social divisions. I found my grounding by exploring and finding a keen curiosity in the little details and quirks of things, namely nature. Currently I’ve been exercising my interest in furniture which has seen me create things with a closer connection to my in fondness of the natural environment. However, most of my design career has been about the ‘golden’ ideas of clients (and mine) and looking for opportunities that help me grow as a creative thinker.


What does ‘being creative’ mean to you?
For me it is about making the most, with the least. Like many kids, I was a big fan of the original series MacGyver. I think the ridiculous Hollywood style of achieving something against all odds, through the questionable application materials, permeated to some impressionable layer of my mind that made me realise what kind of creative I wanted to be. In essence, creativity comes from keeping that ‘kid’ alive in oneself.

Can you describe the time when you first realised that creating was something you absolutely had to do?
With the answer above in mind, having the satisfaction of coming to a solution where, essentially, you’re blindingly hoping something is going stick; is incredibly satisfying. I think it comes from years of trying to find ways of making things easier, and helping people from simple to more intricate tasks. With many projects I’ve done, I had absolutely no idea of how I was going to succeed. But that was the beauty of it: learning as you go, and applying what you know.

What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
I try to exercise my brain as often as I can, and I find the best way to do this is to challenge it with things foreign to it, reminding myself that the ‘learning’ is never done. Small methods of mindfulness go a long way for me, as it is so easy to become preoccupied with nonsense.

What’s your favourite thing you’ve ever created?
I really couldn’t pin it on one thing. Every product and projects serves a unique experience. However, I think a highlight for me was developing (and still developing) a product called the ‘Phuza Pump’ which is a manual water filtering device that aims to curb waterborne diseases in at risk areas.

Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
Without out a doubt: film.

What three words best describe your body of work?

Unusual, natural and considered

What’s your advice to other creative folks?
That there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, only ‘passion’. You can’t teach creativity, you can only learn it through doing. And it helps to have an open mind that can take criticism and support others at the same time.

You are also very involved in the music scene locally and bringing international acts to South Africa. Can you tell us about that?
A couple friends and I started an event called Psych Night in 2012, which basically came from us being fed up with the local music scene and we made a party that we wanted go to. It has gradually grown into an eventing company that has hosted four tours for international bands and many local shows. We are finally staging our first outdoor festival early this November called Endless Daze.

What have you accomplished that you are most proud of in your life?
My masters was a helluva pain for me to finish, but eventually knuckling down and completing it against all my frustrations, was a really good feeling. The Phuza Pump also found its way into the top 10 in South Africa for the National Innovation Awards and was recognised as a World Design Capital project. More recently, my furniture piece Dream Cabinet was exhibited at the Southern Guild’s ‘A New Wave’ show, amongst a stack of brilliant local work.

What is your favorite tool or accessory in your studio right now, the go-to product that you most frequently turn to?
As cliche as it sounds, it always was and always will be: a pen/pencil and paper.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever gotten?
“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.”

Professionally, what is your goal?
I am at a juncture where I am looking to find experience and work inspiration overseas, that I want to bring back to South Africa and invest into starting my own full-fledged design consultancy. That, and my own cafe; so it’ll really be my office.

Images courtesy of Micah Donnoli

Follow Micah on Instagram @micah_donnoli 

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