Meet the Maker

Xandre Kriel's designs are complex maths equations in furniture form

The Cape designer is versatile in his materials and precise in his calculations creating unique pieces that have a sculptural quality

07 June 2020 - 00:00 By Tracy Lynn Chemaly
Xandre working on Antenna Studio Chair.
Xandre working on Antenna Studio Chair.
Image: Supplied

Cape Town designer Xandre Kriel calls himself a "complete introvert", explaining how furniture-making, scribbling with ink and playing with clay offer some of the better ways in which he's able to communicate and express himself.

Having let go of his studio space and cumbersome machinery, this avid surfer and mountain-runner favours pristine settings on the Cape Peninsula as his outdoor workspaces.

"I have an old Landcruiser with my hand tools in it," he says, explaining how he will stop at a scenic spot, take out some sheets of steel, and manipulate, shape and refine them for a few hours. It's a material the self-taught designer has been embracing for a while, after 10 years of working solely with wood.

Vos Altar table in steel and Zimbabwean teak.
Vos Altar table in steel and Zimbabwean teak.
Image: Supplied

The Vos Altar table, available via collectable design gallery Southern Guild, shows Kriel's affinity for combining steel with other materials in his quest to portray the perfect balance between form and material. He's fashioned tabletops of granite, teak, marble and bronze to top the mild-steel legs of this provocative table named after his grandfather Andries Vos.

"That old toppie used to accumulate any little piece of metal because he believed you could use anything to make anything," Kriel says of the man who ignited his interest in making. "I get the boer maak 'n plan mentality from him."

In the Techno Loafer chair Kriel has combined waxed steel with the rubber of a conveyor belt to create what he once described as "a machine for sitting".

"These are materials I grew up with in Ashton, where there was an industrial canning factory with all this surplus stuff standing around. It left such an impression."

Kriel has interpreted this youthful recollection into a design that underscores the honesty of the conveyer belt used for the seat.

As with everything he creates ("anything from a 6m table to a dustbin"), Kriel's process stems from a unique understanding of numbers and his translation of calculations into furniture pieces.

"It's the golden thread through all my work," he says. "It's my interpretation of how things work in a mathematical world, and a three-dimensional way of applying these equations I play with."

This thread has been sewn through all of Kriel's pieces, including his most recognisable, the Samoosa coffee table, as well as beds, side tables, shelves and stools. And it is currently being applied to three different pieces of furniture, employing one shape in three varying scales.

Samoosa table sculpture in marine-grade stainless steel.
Samoosa table sculpture in marine-grade stainless steel.
Image: Supplied

Kriel credits the outcome of his work to his ability to maintain a conscious presence through the process, likening it to nature. "What makes every tree unique is the environment that it's in," he says.

"Whenever I design, I'm in a specific mindset or psychological state that will contribute to how my designs look. I like to look after the general wellbeing of my brain so that the answers I get are what I asked for. I really enjoy the interaction of thinking, working with your hands, and then having something tactile in front of you."

• Follow Xandre Kriel on Instagram: @xandrekriel