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The story behind craftsmanship: Meet the Balvenie Makers Class of 2023

The story behind craftsmanship: Meet the Balvenie Makers Class of 2023

Nigeria’s interior design and architectural landscape have been witnessing a renaissance, with an array of innovative structures that blend modernity with traditional elements.

Creating meaningful spaces From the restoration of iconic landmarks and cultural centres to the conception of even the modest abodes, the architectural and design space has become an inspiring arena for imaginative designers and architects, crafting spaces that hold profound meaning.

This community is deeply in sync with The Balvenie’s dedication to excellence and their genuine appreciation for the “Art of Making.”

Through its Makers campaign, the Balvenie set out to celebrate the craft makers across various industries: skilled artisans who pursue nothing short of perfection. At the epicentre of the Balvenie Makers Project lies a profound appreciation for the true value and process of creating, shining a spotlight on dedicated makers who pour their hearts into their work and consistently push the boundaries of creativity.

Tola Akerele and Obida Obioha, both renowned for their talents and expertise in the industry, formed the dynamic duo for the brand’s latest edition of the campaign. With visionary perspectives and profound knowledge in their fields, they delved into the project with unwavering dedication and a commitment to bringing forth designs that would not only reflect the brand’s core values but also push the boundaries of artistic expression.

Tola Akerele, a celebrated interior designer, terms her design philosophy as Afro-modern aesthetics—an eclectic yet mindful blend of traditional African principles with contemporary perspectives.

Drawing inspiration from various sub-regions, regions, and continents, her designs transcend conventional boundaries, evoking deep emotional connections with those who experience them.

“The range of artistic forms, approaches, and motivations within sub-regional, regional, and continental history deeply influences my work. There’s always more to discover, always more than one way to consider a challenge. Visually and conceptually, African design has always been very complex and innovative,” she revealed.

As a champion of African design, she believes in infusing African creativity and innovation. Her works, as evident in Bogobiri, Ebony Life Place, Orchid Hotel, and Pit Stop—to list a few, showcase the dynamic interplay between cultural heritage and contemporary expression, embracing complexity and innovation in every project she undertakes. With every design, she continues to redefine the landscape of interior design.

Her work serves as an invitation to celebrate the richness of African artistry, leaving an indelible mark on the industry and inspiring aspiring designers to create spaces that exude elegance, and authenticity above all else.

Tola Akerele’s commissioned piece for the project was the Sinmi chaise. “Sinmi,” derived from the Yoruba word for rest or relaxation, provides an ideal atmosphere of serenity.

The fusion of traditional craftsmanship and contemporary aesthetics led Tola to use rich mahogany for the main frame. Describing the leather upholstery, she said “It symbolizes durability, tradition, adaptability, and strength.

The chaise showcases the timeless allure of hand-carved wooden frames, which bore etchings that illustrate the human labour and artistry poured into its creation.”

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The central theme of craftsmanship resonates profoundly with her, and she shares this commitment to quality when approaching her projects. “I prioritize quality when choosing furniture, and this value is embedded in the production process from the beginning. The Balvenie brand mirrors this keenness for quality alongside passion, dedication, and determination. As a result, I have contributed by approaching each process with a deep knowledge of the intended values and an excitement to share some of my many ideas,” said Ms Akerele.

Obida Obioha, on the other hand, is a visionary product and interior designer, known for his minimalistic design aesthetics that emanates a sense of magic and seamless wonder. “Creativity for me means crafting magic – subtle, seamless magic. As a Maker, this is the essence of my craft. It goes beyond simply designing and creating; to me, it means taking a blank canvas and transforming it into a masterpiece that evokes emotions and captivates the senses” he explained.

As the creative director of O’DA Interior Design, Obida has earned a remarkable reputation for infusing beauty into his projects by skillfully blending African aesthetics with contemporary elements in his designs. Culture plays a profound role in shaping Obida Obioha’s creative process. Having grown up in a culturally rich environment, he draws inspiration from the colours, patterns, and stories of his heritage.

“Incorporating cultural elements into my designs is not just a nod to tradition; it’s a way of preserving and celebrating the rich heritage of my roots. By infusing my creations with cultural significance, I hope to spark conversations and bridge the gap between the past and the present,” he said.

For the campaign, Obida ventured into pottery-making, which resulted in a trio of stunning pieces. Inspired by the graceful movement of whiskey pouring, his designs featured a midnight blue surface adorned with delicate white speckles, evoking the serene experience of savouring whiskey under the night sky.

The organic and twisting shapes of the pottery mirror the curious dance of whiskey as it flows, with each carefully crafted curve and contour which exudes his dedication to infusing authenticity and artistry into his pieces.

The three perfectly crafted pottery designs showcased the evolution of the creative process, highlighting the progression and refinement from ideation to completion. Speaking on his project, Obida enthused, “I am deeply inspired by the richness and beauty of African culture, and I wanted to infuse those elements into my contemporary design pieces.”

He further described his making process, stating, “Each stage of the pottery-making allowed me to explore and experiment with different techniques, textures, and forms. The first two prototypes represented the initial exploration and evolution of the design, while the final stage showcased the culmination of craftsmanship and attention to detail.

“This display underscores the transformative nature of creativity, where ideas are shaped and refined into works of art. I am honoured to have been a part of The Balvenie Makers Project and to have the opportunity to showcase my passion for infusing African culture into contemporary design.”

Both commissioned pieces took centre stage at the Makers event hosted by The Balvenie. The spotlight on the designs of these two incredible Makers ignited a newfound appreciation for craftsmen in Nigeria. Their collaboration with The Balvenie not only amplified their artistic voices but also set a global stage for the country’s exceptional design talents.