From established design houses to emerging studios, the new year at Always Welcome brings with it the next crop of designers joining our stable. We caught up with Ananta Studio recently to find out more about the exciting newcomers' origins, and their approach to design.
South African design abounds with success stories founded on the foundation of family. From couples like Dokter and Misses, Okra, Douglas and Company, Inland Collective and others, to siblings like MONN Carpets, or mother and daughters like Sett & Beat — it's all about family values.
Founded by sisters Viveka and Rucita Vassen, Ananta is a multi-disciplinary design studio driven by a mission to uplift through creativity, and economically empower the craft communities they work with. Re-imagining traditional techniques, they design collectable pieces that, ‘play with the FUN in fun-ctional,’ they say, creating pieces filled with colour, pattern, joy, celebration and community.
We sat down with them in Cape Town to learn more about their new brand, and their approach to their designs - recently launched at Always Welcome Heritage House in Cape Town.
Ananta is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘infinite’ and ‘endless’. It reflects how we feel about creativity, design and all the exciting possibilities that lie ahead of us. It speaks to the circular concept of creation - no beginning or end. It also makes us conscious of our design process, ensuring we create FUN-ctional art pieces that are loved for a lifetime and beyond.
We were drawn to the familial sound and depth of the ancient Sanskrit language in naming our brand and pieces - for us the perfect way to honour our Indian heritage in all that we create with our African makers and craft communities.
How did you start making your pieces?
During lockdown we realised our ultimate dream was to establish a design studio that allowed us the freedom to explore all sorts of creative projects across design disciplines. It was equally important for us to build an impact business that economically empowers under-resourced communities and positively contributes to the environment and a more conscious world.
We felt there was an untapped potential in local craft techniques and started reimagining them into FUN-ctional art pieces. Driven by our purpose to use our creativity to uplift humanity, we set out to find craft communities we could work with. The beaders at Monkeybiz were the perfect match to bring our first collection to life with their beautiful beadwork skills.
What does design mean to you?
To us, design means making magic! It’s what gets us excited and gives us thrills! It allows us to bring life to all the ideas in our imagination and spread joy, fun, colour and celebration to people and spaces.
Design is also our channel to create a visual language that represents our African and Indian identity, our cross-over of cultures, where we fit in and how we can leave our mark. By working with under-resourced communities, design is a powerful way for us to empower other artists and uplift them economically, which brings so much more joy and meaning to what we do. We are so happy to be able to do all of this through the wondrous and magical world of Ananta.
What inspires your creative process?
The richness of cultures. We’re inspired by our homeland Africa and ancestral land India, and their traditional craft techniques, vibrant colours, bold patterns and textures. We’re also excited by exploring new possibilities, reinventing the traditional and giving it a fresh perspective, with an element of surprise.
Tell us a bit about your partnership with Monkeybiz?
Monkeybiz is a Non-Profit Organisation and economic upliftment project dedicated to reviving the traditional craft of African beadwork. They employ bead artists in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, giving them a platform to express their artistic talents and empowering women to become financially independent.
Our love of beads, and all kinds of embellishment, really, comes from our vibrant Indian heritage. As young children, we grew up wearing beaded punjabis and gagri choris to the temple, weddings and cultural festivals. For us, beads represent celebration, they excite us and inspire us to create bright and beautiful things.
We had a vision of creating 'fun-ctional' beaded pieces but as an unknown design studio it was a challenge finding beaders who were willing to work with us. We finally found Monkeybiz and instantly clicked with their team. They believed in our vision and became our first cheerleaders, guiding us and teaching us about the subtleties and wonders of beadwork.
We’ve created a great partnership with them that allows us to design pieces which their talented bead artists bring to life for us. Monkeybiz has become our dream team and extended family.
What's at the top of your Always Welcome shopping wishlist?
Boa Chair in apple green - by Dokter and Misses
Purple Rainz Table Lamp - by Joe Paine
Bean Stool - by Neimil
Pom Pom glass cup and carafe - by House of Harhaz
Check out the Ananta range of lighting and home accessories at Always Welcome Heritage House located in the Cape Town CBD. Located at 108 Shortmarket Street Cape Town, with ample parking alongside it, it's the perfect spot to explore the work of over 40 local design studios under a single roof, and put your dreamhouse together in a single space.