Lené Swartz – reaping rewards from playful experimentation

Lené Swartz

Lené Swartz has always been driven to express herself artistically, and while her career path has not been a straight one, her hard work and habit of consistent action has ultimately led to her dream job. Taking design as a high school subject allowed her to explore illustration, ceramics, fashion, jewellery and graphic design, for which she achieved a matric mark of 97%, specialising in ceramics. Concluding that Industrial Design might suit her, Lené set about enrolling at Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Her application was not successful, but she was offered a position in their yearlong Design Foundation Programme. This intensive course gave her a taste of many different disciplines, and luckily clarified that Industrial Design was definitely not the vocation for her. She found her sweet spot in Jewellery Design and Manufacture, and achieved her National Diploma (cum laude) in 2018, and her B.Tech (summa cum laude) in 2019. She credits the many teachers along the way who really encouraged her individual expression and she sees herself in that role later in life: “So many kids settle for a traditional job because they don’t know how to turn a hobby into a business venture and so we lose out on a lot of talented people”.

Lené Swartz

Lené views creation as therapy and enjoys spending all her free time practicing her craft, but her diligence has the additional benefit of replenishing her creative reserves to the extent that “in the evening before bed it takes me a few minutes to just get my head clear of all the ideas brewing”. She finds inspiration everywhere, her eye honed by constant looking. Perhaps influenced by her history with ceramics and her enjoyment in seeing the form evolve in her palms, Lené is a prolific experimenter. She tried her hand at the medium of cement for the PPC Imaginarium Awards in 2019, spending hours testing solutions to get the right colours and manufacturing right up until the evening before deadline. She had entered the PlatAfrica competition the year before with her first-ever piece featuring enamel – one that she’d worked on for weeks and received fantastic feedback on.

While she didn’t place in either competition, more importantly she diversified her skills, strengthened her problem-solving abilities, and walked away with a reinforced belief that it’s imperative for creatives to express themselves and have fun with their craft. Perhaps most significantly, the PlatAfrica entry opened up a fascination with the potential of vitreous enamel, which deepened into a study of this underutilised material for her B.Tech degree, birthed a new range and won her a fan-base of likeminded potential buyers. She’s on something of a mission now to tackle the perception of enamel as old-fashioned and position it as attractive to the young and contemporary audience that she targets. “I will keep on playing with enamel because I do think there is something special there. It is a medium not a lot of local designers are using currently and one can truly create beautiful effects with it.”

Lené Swartz

Lené had visited the Design Indaba conference in her final year at CPUT and jumped at the chance to showcase her latest pieces at the Emerging Creatives exhibit in February 2020. Despite a slightly lower turnout than usual due to the coronavirus outbreak, she got to rub shoulders with respected designers from around the world and meet inspirational achievers in many different fields.

Lené shares her tips for other designers considering applying for Design Indaba:

  • Your designs should truly reflect your unique style, since you never know if you’ll be presenting in a gallery-style environment alongside your peers instead of the usual individual cubicle setup (as was the case in 2020).
  • You have to be really prepared – curate your work carefully and know that your work will not be loved by everyone, but as long as it reflects your true artistic expression, you’ll be on the path to crafting an authentic brand that will attract your ideal customer
  • Think carefully about what you want to achieve by exhibiting there. Are you launching your brand, or hoping to catch the eye of an established company who might hire you, or are you just looking to network and learn from other businesses for now?

Lené’s advice for entering competitions:

  • It’s not just about the cash prize or exposure – use it to develop your own style, and a thick skin! “Don’t take yourself too seriously. You will meet people that love your work and people that won’t. It is your job to showcase your talents to the best of your ability”

Lené is currently working full-time as a production manager for an established workshop in order to expand her skillset and learn about running a business. Her latest project is a collaboration with a fashion design student, for which she’s producing complimentary pieces for the graduation show.

 

Lené can be contacted on:
thecreativejeweller@gmail.com
Or find her on Instagram @the_creative_jewellerydesign

Lené Swartz

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