Tom Goddard, the UK born CEO of luxury brand Avoova, tells Habitat about his passion for furniture design, appetite for creating quality pieces with an African twist – and working with ostrich eggshells.
Having no formal training in design, Goddard’s career was initially fuelled by his personal appreciation for well-made and designed products, from leather goods to fountain pens to decorative accessories, malt whisky and, of course, furniture.
‘There are examples of exquisite design in almost any field but my interest was more in creating a story and a brand around a local resource and culture,’ he explains.
This appreciation, along with his 25 years of experience in the luxury goods industry, influenced Goddard on his choice to become a furniture designer. He became involved with the Avoova brand after stopping off in Prince Albert in 2004 whilst visiting South Africa and was immediately struck by the work of a local artist, Gideon Engelbrecht, who was working with ostrich eggshell.
‘It reminded me of all the exotic decorative finishes I had admired overseas and how they have been applied to furniture and decorative accessories,’ he reminisces. He adds: ‘In SE Asia it is mother of pearl, shagreen and natural lacquers or maki-e lacquers in Japan.’ These materials are not only aesthetically pleasing but give one a sense of how skills, materials and cultures can be celebrated for their distinctive individuality, with a contemporary spin.’
Ostrich shell would be the South African equivalent. This material possesses all the properties that could add a new ‘craft’ and material to the world’s assortment, but with an African narrative and, even better, a Karoo provenance.
In collaboration with Engelbrecht, Goddard’s journey with Avoova commenced in 2005 when he relocated to South Africa to pursue this new enterprise. High-quality materials are sourced locally wherever possible and Avoova takes their suppliers’ environmental credentials into high consideration.
Ceramics are manufactured in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and metal work is sourced from Somerset West. Wild Olive African Artisans’ scented candles, as well as photo frames, are also manufactured in Cape Town. All eggshells used for their products are collected from Karoo farmers. And in their commitment to sustainability and eco-consciousness, only hatched eggshells are gathered.
Says Goddard: ‘For me, the most rewarding aspect of design is in new product development from concept through to realisation.’
Working with ostrich shell is painstaking and time-consuming. Subsequent to the cleaning process, and due to the convex shape, the shell is broken into small shards and placed with the exterior upwards on hardwearing cement. ‘We draw on processes used in marquetry and wood inlay; some aspects are similar to that for mosaics and others that are not so different to the application of gold leaf.’ Goddard explains.
This tough natural material creates a resilient surface, perfect for tabletops and counters. Avoova also occasionally incorporates metal inlays in pewter, copper, brass or sterling silver.
The Avoova designers draw inspiration from nature and many of their ranges are based predominantly on the Karoo. Their latest mirror collection is inspired by the fynbos, lit up by the bright Karoo night sky. The Tsitsikamma design was inspired by the intense desire to get away from the heat and dryness of a Karoo summer.
Their ranges evolve over time and, being handmade, there is room for expression and experimentation with individual examples, making each product a piece of art.
Avoova have ongoing collaborations with furniture designers and manufacturers in the Cape, including acclaimed furniture designer Andrew Dominic, amongst others. The jewellery range is handmade in collaboration with the legendary Schwartz Jewellery
Avoova has now acquired a purpose-built factory in Prince Albert. Their main offices are in Bree Street, Cape Town and there are four Avoova boutiques in the Cape.
Note: Visit the Avoova retail pod at Design Joburg, Featuring Rooms on View’s Design Corridor
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