Spotlight: Meet The Team At Wolkberg Casting Studios
Today we’re chatting to Ramielle De Jager, co-founder at Wolkberg Casting Studios, about the inner workings of this South African Industrial Design and Manufacturing company. We share some behind-the-scenes info and learn what to expect from Wolkberg in 2022 and beyond.
How did it all begin and what was the path that led you to launch Wolkberg Casting Studios?
It started with the coming together of like minds on a special project to create concrete countertops. Over the years there have been a few contributing shareholders and directors, each adding to the common goal.
Currently, I work together with Graeme Bramley who is an Industrial Designer by profession and together we are the proud owners of this marvellous company we helped create.
Can you give us a little insight into your creative process?
For me personally running a growing business means more focus on the numbers and compliance than just design and creativity. My focus is on growing our export business and securing growth capital for Wolkberg expansions. So I went from the person doing everything to learning to let go and trusting and mentoring others to do great work for me. Now, I surround myself with a super talented team of young designers and creatives. I can simply give creative direction and they execute with passion and precision.
How do you and your team collaborate day to day?
Collaboration is a core value at Wolkberg. We hope to continue to harness this as the team members genuinely see so much value in each other that collaboration is easy because everyone gets to learn something new or sees things from a different perspective. We have a few group chats where we share inspiration with each other and this subconsciously keeps us on similar wavelengths. Furthermore, we have robust but respectful debates about products and it ultimately leads to the best version of a product that it can be.
How do you approach the creation of a new design?
I have years of experience in leading new product development for large brands and I have taken those learnings and incorporated them into the Industrial Design process. This means Wolkberg has a more business-minded approach to design than just creativity. We’re like Vogue in a way in that a lot of what we create is not just art or design from our personal perspective but rather it is a compromise between our design instincts and what we know and see the market needs. It starts with identifying a problem to solve and market research before going into the actual design process. In this day in age, there is way more to consider outside of just being creative. As the business grows there is more focus on more significant issues like sustainability and ethical standards of the industry.
What are some of your applications?
Wolkberg not only specialises in floors but walls and slabs for interior settings, and includes a range of custom finishes. We actually created our own innovation, Limesite, to make concrete countertops that perform on par with other surfaces used in kitchens like marble and granite. This innovation opened up a whole new world of product possibilities for us and the fastest growing product happens to be our tiles. I believe this is a testament to the fact that the market was yearning for something new. We receive around 200 custom product requests per year and we have a vetting process where we choose to proceed with requests where we can truly add value and make a difference. If we choose not to do the work then we always aim to point the client in the right direction towards hopefully another creative.
You design and produce all your own products in South Africa. Have they been specified in any other projects around the world?
Absolutely yes we have in the last year and a half had our product go to world-class restaurants in Dubai, London, Florida, Netherland, Mauritius and all over Africa. We’re forever grateful to the South African Interior Designers and architects that take us with them on their global journey.
You have a strong commitment to keeping things local which is an important element of your business. Has it been challenging to maintain?
Indeed, we will certainly lose some initiatives however it is so rewarding when you push the boundaries and get it right. I also see those losses as opportunities to open new markets or offerings. If I can’t pursue a solution immediately it goes into my archives of important things to do next.
Where do you turn to regularly for creative inspiration?
I find inspiration in all forms of design from industrial design, fashion design, graphic design and so much more. My current obsession is with “docuseries” focusing on the design industry. I love learning how other creatives work and especially how they balance the business aspect from the creative aspect.
Which other local creatives designers and architects are you loving at the moment?
There are just so many! I am eternally grateful to all the designers working with Nando’s and Motherland Coffee. Special thanks to the guys that allow us onto their global projects like Design Partnership, Tristan Du Plessis Studio A, Life Interiors, Boogertman and Partners, Source IBA and I could go on. Truth is every single client makes a huge difference to us, big or small, local or global; it’s all special.
What is your proudest career achievement to date?
I have to be most proud to have seen this small business survive a pandemic, coming out the other side still thriving, not having retrenched any staff and in fact, growing our staff complement. Furthermore, I am really proud of myself for making tough decisions in the best interest of Wolkberg Casting Studios as this business is the livelihood of many people. Being an entrepreneur can get lonely and especially if you’re steadfast in your beliefs and you have to set the record straight with others that aren’t on the right path.
What would be your dream project?
For Wolkberg right now, oh man… Hilton Hotels. I am manifesting this relationship! Personally, however, I am working on a special project that is focused on adding value to industry newcomers.
How do you spend your free time?
I hardly ever have free time. It seems every moment is spent doing something for Wolkberg, however, I recently started illustrations on Procreate and I love painting watercolour paintings.
Do you have a favourite restaurant?
Right now… Kol izakaya, Hyde Park.
Where will we find you on a Saturday afternoon?
Most likely at home with my daughter and husband and our 5 dogs.
Gauteng’s best-kept secret?
The Cradle of Humankind of course! Seriously beautiful landscapes in winter and summer; a photographer’s dream.
Oh, there’s this new curry place on Hendrik Potgieter called Ballito Bunnies too. Just yum! Tastes like home.
For more visit Wolkberg Casting Studios. We’re excited about the future of this amazing local brand and can’t wait to see what they do next!