For Joe Paine trend is a very dirty word. He has always been somewhat of a rebel in the local contemporary design scene; slightly elusive, somewhat mysterious and ever ready to bulk at any stereotypical idea of what you think an industrial designer should be or do. A practice that started when he studied at what was then the Wits Technicon in the shadow of Ponte in Johannesburg.

Joe Paine in his studio workshop
Joe Paine in his studio workshop

“I didn’t like the way they taught,” he recalls. “It didn’t really agree with my way of understanding design. It was very industrial design and I would find it quite boring. You sit there and sketch the whole time without interrogating function or anything really, anything that is somewhat cerebral in terms of design.”

After finishing at Wits Tech with what he describes on his website as excelling in the subject of "computer literacy",  he did what all freshly minted young adults do, go into the work place to figure out what he was going to do with his life. He figured out very quickly that typical industrial design work wasn’t it — to this day the very mention of plastic injection molding makes his face contort a little. However, in his spare time, he and a friend from university days, other local design hero and half of Dokter and Misses, Adriaan Hugo, were playing around making various products together and it was this play that sparked the beginning of what Joe does today; making furniture with more accessible design using accessible processes.

“We made a few things, not very many, a table and a light and something like that. But for me it was like, this is it, you can actually do whatever you want, this is an infinite universe.”

Part of his universe would go on to become quite green as he found what he calls a “semi-niche” in planters. In between his custom design work and fascination with tables he spent years investigating the world of plant vessels and successfully created the Design Indaba's “Most Beautiful Object in South Africa” nominated Forrester Hanging Planter, the Tower Planter and his more recent collaborative work with Lemon Studio, The Standing Living Wall.

Kreep planter
Kreep planter

Even today if you think of Joe’s work you may immediately recall his infamous Elle Decor International Design Award-winning Kreep Planter, which almost 10 years on, still looks as striking and beautiful as ever. Even though Joe insists that aesthetics is not the first thing he starts with, but rather something that evolves through his investigation of the function of the object.

I challenge him on the classic modernist idea that form follows function. "Yeah, I guess, that clichéd old saying. It's true but I don’t want to use it. I try to transcend it slightly because for me it’s also about how people interact with something. It’s the aesthetic within the use; it’s the emotional connection rather than a visual connection."

And sometimes for Joe the emotional connection that he draws from his own work upon completion comes from a very unlikely place: 90s daytime soap operas. 

Marlena 'posssessed' from Days of our Lives
Marlena 'posssessed' from Days of our Lives

“I’m a big soap opera fan. I used to watch Days of our Lives, Young and the Restless and Bold and the Beautiful. Those are the Top 3. It’s a theme that I use with a few products, my favourite being the Marlena Candle Holder.”

Wrapped in glass, the Marlena Candle Holder “levitates” through the use of opposable high quality magnets. As the candle burns and looses density so it starts to slowly lift up, looking as though it is possessed, just like red-eyed Marlena from Days of our Lives in the 90s in what remain arguably the best storyline in daytime soap opera history.

Marlena candle holders
Marlena candle holders

But Marlena is not alone in Joe’s ode to SABC’s bygone American afternoon television delights, The Forrester planter is named after Ridge Forrester’s jaw line; there were t-shirts of Nikki and Victor Newman’s classic embrace from Young and The Restless — which Joe insists is the best show, or at least the most high quality one — and his up-coming range, The Santa Barbara, which pays homage to arches in the opening sequence of, you guessed it, Santa Barbara.

You will soon be able to see all of this and more in April at his new showroom in Braamfontein. He promises that the space will be personal; filled with new and exciting things, a few parties and many plants. But most importantly it’ll be fun.

“It has to be fun, I’m only in it for the fun. Otherwise, what’s the point?”


To snap up the Marlena candle holder and more visit joepaine.com and find out about his showroom opening by liking 'Product by Joe Paine' on Facebook

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