The Dwell 24: Mash.T Design Studio
Johannesburg designer Thabisa Mjo couldn’t have predicted where her work would end up. After graduating with a film production design degree in 2013, she decided to put her knowledge of lighting, construction, and storytelling into “the real world,” as she puts it. The result was her first lighting collection, Tutu, which uses a colorful pleated shade to recall the fabrics of a traditional xibelani skirt worn by South African Xitsonga women.
In 2015, Mjo impulsively entered the luminaries into the Nando restaurant chain’s talent search for young designers and won the chance to create a lighting design that is now used in restaurants around the world. Mjo has since found fans in more rarefied circles as well. The Louvre Museum of Decorative Arts has integrated two of his works, a Tutu luminaire and the Mjojo cabinet, in its permanent collection
Read the full Q&A below to learn more about Mjo’s approach to design.
Hometown: Johannesburg, South Africa
Describe what you do in 140 characters. Lighting and furniture.
What’s the last thing you designed? Two tables including the Flute Table, which is made of terrazzo, and the Bright Bable, which is woven from a grass called the ilala palm.
Do you have a daily creative ritual? Breathe in deeply, breathe out deeply, and constantly remind myself to just be an observer as I go through my day
How to procrastinate? When I have an idea for a product, I see it clearly in my head, but it will take me weeks to put it on paper. I guess there is always the question of how to translate it on paper and make sure it is as good on paper as it is in my head.
What everyday object would you like to redraw? Why? Sneakers for me because I wear sneakers every day. A well-made sneaker is one of those things that always makes me think “I wish I had thought about it”.
Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? Oki Sato, Peter Mabeo, Bibi Seck and Beauty Ngxongo.
Which skill would you most like to learn? The balance between something beautiful but strikingly simple. And execution – how to do it right.
What is your most precious possession? I don’t know if I have one.
What is your first memory of meeting design? My first memory of design really came in the form of fashion. I remember I was five or six and showing up to school in a huge pink satin baby ballerina dress and everyone looking at me like I was weird.
Which contemporary design trend do you despise? I don’t like the very idea of trends per se. I think they keep us from being authentic because we might, even on a subconscious level, still try to do something in order to accommodate whatever is trending. It is limiting.
Complete this statement: Any design must … be functional and invoke something in us
What’s in your dream home? A sculpture by James Turrell.