Handmade With Love― Dor+Kie

Handmade With Love― Dor+Kie

In the realm of artisanal craftsmanship, the dynamic duo behind Dor+Kie Objects, Diana and Andre, share an enchanting journey that intertwines love, creativity, and a profound respect for materials. Raised in a family steeped in the arts, Diana's path led her to the intricate world of jewelry design, choosing wood as her canvas for its organic allure. Meanwhile, Andre's woodworking journey evolved from school to becoming an agent for designers before uniting their skills in Dor+Kie. Together, they craft pieces that marry minimalist aesthetics with the dance of traditional techniques, creating a unique synergy in their artisanal offerings. This husband-and-wife team navigated the transition from personal partnership to professional collaboration, weaving a narrative that seamlessly blends their backgrounds in industrial and jewelry design. Their commitment to quality craftsmanship, sustainable practices, and a delicate balance between tradition and innovation propels Dor+Kie Objects into a realm where functional art flourishes. As they continue to explore the boundless possibilities of artisanal design, Diana and Andre aspire to infuse everyday objects with inspiration and meaning, creating pieces that resonate with both tactile pleasure and visual delight.

This interview below was completed by Diana and Andre, Co-Founders of Dor+Kie Objects.


kanju: How did your journeys as artisans begin, and what inspired you to embark on this creative path?

Diana: My family is filled with creatives, artists, writers, graphic designers etc, so as a child I was always surrounded with adults that chose creativity as a life occupation. I had to choose between studying fine art or applying my interest in art to a more practical occupation. I choose jewellery design, because I liked the intricate scale that’s required to make jewellery and I really wanted to learn a new hand-skill (metal smithing) that I can apply in a more commercial setting (if needs be) or fully delve into the art side of the field (contemporary jewellery).

Andre: My woodworking background started in primary and high-school folded into furniture making and industrial design in my 20s. For most of my 30’s I was an agent for designers and makers/artists for [object house] and also part time teaching at the Industrial Design department at CPUT (where we both studied in our respected fields), before joining Dor+Kie permanently. For me inspiration flows from the fact that every Dor+Kie out there in the world has been made almost exclusively by our two pairs of hands.

kanju: How would you describe your design and personal style aesthetic?

Diana: Although my pieces come across as very sculptural and bold in scale, I do see myself and my work as minimalist in style.  I feel that wood is such a beautiful and organic material that really shines through in minimalist shape. I want the eye to pick up the general shape of the object, and then focus in on the wood and the tactile feedback of the wood when you interact with the piece.

Andre: Our aesthetic feels to me like it is a function of the process through which we create and manufacture, they go hand in hand. There is what can only be described as a dance  and conversation that transpires between us through the objects. I mean this very literally, we exchange roles manufacture between us as the objects get made, we speak to each other through the process of creating our pieces, a language by sculpting together.
kanju: It’s such a special part of the story that you are a husband and wife team! How did your creative partnership come about? Did it evolve from your personal partnership, or did you work together first? We love a good love story, and when that marries with a collective creative passion, we just can’t help but want to hear how it all began.

    Diana: We both studied at the same University, but in different fields. We started dating and moved in together after our studies, and at our first house we shared a workshop but it’s only in the last few years that we started working as a team. Although in the past we would constantly help each other with designs and consulting each other in our respected fields (mine in jewellery and Andre in Industrial design/ furniture design). My love for working with wood started with Andre, since his part of the workshop always had pieces of wood lying around, and I just oneway decided to include a beautiful piece of off-cut Imbuia from one of his projects into a silver bangle I had to make as a project, and I loved the experience of working and carving the wood so much, that the rest is history.


    kanju: Whether it’s a heritage find or specific finish, is there a detail in your designs you consider a favorite?

    Diana: Probably the most obvious aspect of our pieces, the “faceted” shape.  The best way to acquire the faceted shape is hand-cutting the wood with a fine Japanese saw and sanding the piece to a very fine finish, while trying to keep the edge crisp and not rounded.

    kanju: Could you share a pivotal moment or experience that led you to establish Dor+Kie Objects?

    Diana: I always wanted to try and do my own thing, and after working for other jewellers and working in retail for a few years, I’ve decided to take the plunge and started my own studio.  After I’ve done a few projects in wood and found my feet with the Faceted Wood aesthetic, and rebranded my studio to Dor + Kie Objects.   I felt that making jewellery from solid wood will be a unique feature in the competitive Design Industry in Cape Town.  As a creative in Cape Town it can be daunting trying to do your own thing and start a business. The competition is really tough, the creative industry is very competitive and the talent is immense.


    "It would make more sense for some people to have everything machined and have each product the same, but we feel the pieces would lose a lot of their soul." - Diana, Co-founder of Dor+Kie [o]bjects

    kanju: It’s clear that you are both so passionate and knowledgeable about wood. Do you have favorite woods that you work with? How do you select the woods that you work with? Which are your favorite woods for different designs?

    Diana: Yes, and yes!  We both love wood!  I can’t pick an overall favourite.  We prefer working in hard woods, since it’s more durable and hand finish better than softer woods.  I think my favourite dark wood would be Imbuia, it’s rich in colour like chocolate and a beautiful luster (it also has a strong smell).  And then good quality Knysna Yellowwood, it’s indigenous to South Africa and has a beautiful buttery colour.

    Andre: I am biased towards the feedback through the tools we use to shape the wood. Cherry and Walnut are lovely to work with and both have distinct colour palettes not shared withy many other timber types, Walnut looks like chocolate to me and Cherry builds a gorgeous patina over time.

    kanju: What role do African design and lifestyle play in your business?

    Diana: What I love about African design, is it’s truly functional, In the case of jewellery design, we don’t just have a tradition of wearing jewellery as adornment, the jewellery also has a strong link to rituals, societal status, religion . And this tradition of adding function to an object is also present in modern African design.  Even the decorative aspects of a design adds a deeper meaning to an object. 

    kanju: What traditional techniques or materials do you incorporate into your craft, and how do you fuse them with contemporary design?

    Diana: We use traditional hand carving tools and hand craftsman ship, but I feel our pieces look modern, due to the faceted aesthetic. I use a combination of a cold joining jewellery techniques and wood inlay techniques to join the metal facets to the wood, so even though the techniques aren’t modern, the overall look of the piece is modern.


    kanju: In the realm of artisanal design, how do you strike a balance between preserving tradition and embracing innovation?

    Diana: We use traditional Japanese handsaws, but in a very untraditional way.  It’s the only tool that works really well in creating the perfect cut and angle of each facet we make, but it’s really not the “correct” way of using these beautiful saws.  We try and keep the tradition of hand carving wood alive, by creating objects that have a modern atheistic.  We take pride in the fact that so much of our labour and hand skill goes into each of our pieces.  It would make more sense for some people to have everything machined and have each product the same, but we feel the pieces would lose a lot of their soul.


    kanju: Dor+Kie [o]bjects is a testament to the synergy between different design disciplines. How do your individual backgrounds in Industrial Design and Jewelry Design influence your collaborative process?

    Diana: Through years of collaborating with Andre, the scale of my work has changed. For Andre it’s his perception of how precious a small piece of wood can be. There is a lot of wastage of wood in the commercial furniture industry, most of our pieces are made from off cuts (the end bits of wood that gets discarded in a commercial furniture workshop). Now we both feel so precious of the smallest piece of wood! My first pieces in wood was really small, but now I carve big pieces which evolved the design from jewellery to everyday home objects.


    kanju: Tell us about a particularly challenging project you undertook and how you overcame obstacles to create a stunning piece of functional art.

    Diana: The biggest challenge was trying to incorporate metal into our wooden objects. Joining wood and metal is tricky, and the final method was developed through a lot of trial and errors.


    kanju: As artisans and business owners, what values and principles guide your creative decisions and shape your brand's identity?

    Diana: Quality of manufacture/craftsmanship is key.  Although from a business aspect, time is also important. If it’s up to Andre he’ll spend triple the amount of time on the final surface finish of a piece than the whole rat of the manufacture process! But the tactile interaction is the first feedback you get while interacting with our pieces, so the first touch is very important.  The eye picks up wood, but when you touch it, it must feel smooth and lovely to touch. So our wish is that people associate good craftsmanship with our brand while using our pieces.


    kanju: How do you find inspiration for your designs, and are there specific cultural or artistic influences that play a significant role in your work?

    Diana: Inspiration is tricky, sometimes it just happens and other times it’s elusive. Most of our pieces are inspired by interacting with everyday objects and trying to create that same object but a version that’s more enjoyable to use and interact with and also visually more beautiful.


    kanju: Owning an artisanal business requires both creative and entrepreneurial skills. What advice would you give to aspiring artisans who are considering starting their own ventures?

    Diana: Self discipline is key.  It’s important to keep a balance.  Yes our business feels like a part of me, and in the beginning I struggled to create a balance between the work and life. 

    Andre: When times get tough think of your work as your salvation.

    There is a lot of wastage of wood in the commercial furniture industry, most of our pieces are made from off cuts (the end bits of wood that gets discarded in a commercial furniture workshop).


    kanju: Sustainability and ethical practices are gaining prominence in the creative industry. How does Dor+Kie [o]bjects integrate these values into its craftsmanship and business operations?

    Diana: We source all our material from reputable, vetted and sustainable sources on the one hand. On the other our manufacturing process are mostly human powered, testament to this is how little we are affected by the power cuts we currently experiencing in South Africa.

    kanju: Collaborations often lead to exciting possibilities. Are there any memorable collaborations that have enriched your artistic journey together?

    Diana: Years ago we collaborated with a very talented young local furniture designer, Laurie van Heerden from WIID Design. We made a Cabinet of Curiosities for an art exhibition in Cape Town. It was the first project where we explored our faceted jewellery in large scale and creating complimentary objects to the jewellery. It was very freeing working on larger scale and influenced our later pieces of homeware.

    kanju: Dor+Kie [o]bjects' creations seamlessly blend art with functionality. Could you share a favorite design that perfectly embodies this fusion and the inspiration behind it?

    Diana: My favourite is the Faceted Wood Candle and Incense holder with Brass Petal centre.  It’s the one product that fuses my background in metal working (for jewellery) and woodworking into one. The Brass holder part contrasts the wood in shape and finish.  The Brass has a polished finish and is organic in shape in contracts with the geometric faceted shape of the wood base.

    Andre: My favourite object is our Little Monster teething ring. It's fun to make and very utilitarian. Toddlers seem to like using it, the “mouth’ is the perfect size opening for them have a grip and it has many functions, like being a pendant or scarf-ring. It's an object that is more than it seems at first, it is very appropriable.

    kanju: Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for the future of Dor+Kie [o]bjects, and how do you envision continuing to push the boundaries of artisanal design?

    Diana: We would love to keep exploring everyday objects in the home as inspiration for our pieces.

    Andre: We have so many things we still want to do and explore, Im looking forward to the journey. Also exploring new technologies available and also researching old technologies and techniques, but applied in a new/modern way.

    kanju: Any tips for couples that are interested in starting their own business together?

    Diana: Allocate tasks!  Each individual will have a strong suit and a weakness, so figure out who is best at what and allocate your daily tasks with this information at hand. It makes overall organising your workload and just running a smooth operation so much easier. We each have a specific task in each process of our products, and the day to day operation of the business.

    Andre: Total honesty is key! Being self-employed is stressful, so being supportive of each other and having an open dialogue is important.

    kanju: What does living well mean to you?

    Diana: Loving what you do everyday, and striking a balance between the things you love doing and things you hate doing.

    Andre: Having agency over our lives and future, being able to do this whilst using our hands all day feels like a huge blessing. Our cooperative existence labouring together as a team everyday for years feel as good as it sounds, all the more because overtime we are creating something of value, which is very rewarding.

    kanju: Could you share a heartwarming customer experience that highlights the emotional connection people feel when they purchase and receive your handmade products?

    Diana: Andre recently started working on new Salad Spoon designs and the first interaction with a customer was so beautiful. The customer was a tourist visiting from the USA and his mother bought a pair of hand carved wooden spoons years ago from Zimbabwe, which she gifted to each of her children. So he wanted to keep the tradition going by bringing back hand carved wooden spoons from Africa when he visits.

    Andre: Spontaneous interaction between children and Tumi blocks at trade fairs.  Seeing a child engrossed in deep concentration trying to solve a puzzle feels very rewarding. We have had a few instances where parents left their kids with us at our stand while the parents browse neighbouring stalls. Getting that feedback, of knowing that all the stars have aligned and our idea actually works, we can see it happening for real, that’s a great feeling, its visceral and deeply satisfying.
    The journey of Dor+Kie [o]bjects as artisans reflects a captivating fusion of personal narratives, shared creativity, and a commitment to craftsmanship. Follow along with their journey @dorandkieobjects or at dorandkie.co.za and or shop our curated collection of their artworks here.