Writer Lee Suckling talks to a fellow Kiwi creative who has reinvented one of their nation’s iconic animals.
Jenny Keate thrives on using materials in surprising ways. “Originality is important to me, and it’s easier to be original when you avoid using materials in ways we are familiar with,” says the Auckland-raised object designer who now lives in Ngaio, Wellington.
Jenny first started working in design a decade ago, but she originally had trouble taking her concepts to market. “I made a series of fibreglass lamps (Lily, Noodle and Bud), which I had some success with, but I kept running into difficulties when it came to commercialising my ideas,” she says, noting this was remedied after completing a BDes (hons) in Industrial Design in 2008.
Jenny’s latest product is the Luminant – a cross between a luminaire and a ruminant (pictured above). “My starting point was a desire to design a lamp that used wool in an entirely new way. I settled on the hooked merino because not only did it remind me of my favourite alpine plant – the vegetable sheep – it looked fantastic with light shining through it,” she says. Jenny worked through a range of possible designs for this material, finally deciding that the best use for it was to channel the vegetable sheep’s namesake.
Even though she believes it to be “a bit of a cliché”, Jenny finds all of her inspiration in nature. She spends much of time in the outdoors, musing potential new designs while on hiking trips to the likes of the Nelson Lakes. “There is nothing more inspiring to me than the crazy, sculptural alpine plants you come across once you get above the bush line.”