Mariette du Plessis, partner at Adams & Adams, says she went to Design Indaba 2012 not quite knowing what to expect - however the incredible creative talents of South Africa exceeded her expectations.
"Before the Design Indaba I started noting nervous tweets flying around amongst the Emerging Creatives, preparing their stands and making sure they had enough stock! The Emerging Creatives is an initiative by the Department of Arts and Culture to give selected young and upcoming designers an opportunity to showcase their work free of charge at Design Indaba. What an opportunity, and what talent amongst this young group!"
Du Plessis says, "I found it so interesting to meet the young designers and hear about their inspirations. Many of them are still studying, but have already launched their own businesses - incredible!"
Songezo Baleni, a student whose highly-intricate jewellery won him his national design colours at the Indaba Expo and whose work captured the attention of all who attended, is already one of South Africa's most talented entrepreneurs.
Du Plessis says she was blown away by Baleni's talent and his original designs. Baleni explains: "The place of my youth was the green hills of Ntsikeni Village, Umzimkhulu, KwaZulu Natal. I learned my craft as a child. Sitting in the sun during our holidays, we would practise weaving and braiding techniques, or competing with each other to make grass skipping ropes. In 1993 while attending a boarding school called Fairview, my friend Katiso Mdlazi showed me how to transition from using grass to creating a woven brass ring out of an old primus stove's pressure pipe, and that inspired me to use the weaving technique for other jewellery items. Today my work is more than just weaving and braiding with brass. It's now characterised by the use of beautiful precious stones and metals such as platinum, which I believe when used together with the rough techniques of my weaving, braiding and twisting really complement one another.
"I must say that the encouragement I received from local and international visitors at the Indaba was awesome. I made friends, met fellow jewellers and generally inhaled the creativity around me. I will most certainly be back next year."
Songezo was also nominated for a PLAT Award in 2011 - this for a tourmaline and platinum ring he created and named "love knot to last a lifetime". "May this be the first of many awards for me," says this young designer. His dream for the future is to find his place among the world's top jewellery designers. "And my designs will be driven all the way by my heritage"
"I was really moved by Songezo's stories of the inspiration for his designs," says Du Plessis. Adams & Adams intends to assist Baleni with the protection of his trade mark and signature designs.
Du Plessis says, "My firm became involved as an associate sponsor of Design Indaba, because we are truly passionate about assisting young designers, like Songezo Baleni, with the protection of their intellectual property. We are encouraging young designers to realise the value of their creations and to protect their rights. Not all young designers can afford to register their brands and designs when they start out, but we can tell them about their common law rights and the registration process and costs so that they can plan for that further down the line.
"Every designer can and should use the TM symbol with their brand s to alert the public to his rights in the name. I also encourage designers to keep a record of their drawings and date them. Even if you cannot yet afford to register a design or your design does not meet the requirements of the Design Act, you will enjoy copyright protection in the drawings of your design, if they are original. Copyright protection is especially relevant for once-off designs. An aesthetic design can be registered in terms of the Design Act if it is intended to be multiplied by an industrial process and the intention is to protect the appearance of the design. The catch here is that the design or at least the elements that you want to protect must be new, with reference to the state of the art and, in South Africa, the design application must be filed within six months from when the design was released to the public. Designs can be registered in many different categories and can cover lighting, furniture, jewellery, watch faces, packaging, wine labels etc. In some instances there may be an overlap with other forms of intellectual property such as trade marks and copyright and it is best to seek advice."
Adams & Adams is committed to assist young South African designers and all the 2012 Emerging Creatives are welcome to contact them. They offer a free initial consultation to explain the different forms of intellectual property and to advise you on your options.