The Insider SA visits the studio of self-taught furniture and product designer Laurie Wiid whose award-winning functional art uses cork to express his unique designs.

Laurie Wiid is a Cape Town based designer who established his studio, Wiid Design, in 2013. Known as an ambassador of cork in Africa, Laurie is well-known for his innovative use of this material in high-end product design, architecture, and large-scale production manufacturing.

Laurie takes The Insider SA on a tour of his studio – the space where you’ll find him most. There, you’ll discover Laurie’s latest collection in the works: African-inspired cork pendants, contemporary and functional artworks, and flawless ceramics and glassware.

Laurie explains, “In my studio we specialise in bespoke and custom pieces for architects, interior decorators and private clients, we then also have our own collections”. He adds, “The products we design and manufacture are very labour intensive, but quality is the most important”.

“Cork is one of nature’s most extraordinary products. I love that it is a completely natural and sustainable material that fits into so many environments and have so many uses.

For many years my studio have been working with Amorim cork, a Portuguese company based in Portugal that has been producing cork for 150 years. 

They combine tradition and expertise in cork production, with a strong commitment to sustainable development.”

One of Laurie’s largest and most impressive installations is a multi-homed sculptural birdhouse. Since one of the cork grades Laurie specialises in – called Dark Façade Grade Cork – is 100% organic, natural and suitable for outdoor use, therefore it is an excellent choice for an outdoor art piece. “I decided that since cork is essentially bark, why not manufacture beautiful birdhouses as a sculptural product and because it’s also practical”.

This isn’t the first time Laurie’s work has exceeded expectations…and heights. Laurie has achieved a number of world ‘firsts’ – including the world’s largest cork pendant light and the largest cork cabinet, both of which have been exhibited by Southern Guild.

What makes Laurie unique is how he became so skilled in his craft. Laurie opted for a hands-on approach to learning, becoming an apprentice to experts in his field. “I never studied per se, but I’ve always pushed myself to design and understand materials: ceramics, timber, the ways of joinery, finishing, and sanding – there’s a lot of practical skills I learnt from a very young age”.

Laurie uses this knowledge to push boundaries, combining traditional handcrafting with avant-garde techniques to transform his materials into life-changing and durable creations.

“It’s very important for my studio to design, manufacture and conceptualise sustainable products”, Laurie explains. “The amazing thing about cork is the sustainability of the material – nothing goes to waste. Whatever cork is leftover as offcuts will get milled up and placed into moulds to create more products”. Because of this process, all of Wiid Design’s cork creations are proudly labelled as recycled cork.

Laurie’s first major accolade came in 2013 when he won the Maker to Market Award at the Design Foundation Awards. Since then, he has added numerous achievements to be proud of.

“It’s always amazing to be recognised for what you do. It’s a wonderful feeling to be a part of something bigger than your own product”. Not only does Laurie manufacture products for people’s homes, but he also gets involved in charities and donates his pieces to auctions for good causes.

In our ever-changing world, agility has become the key to success for many young designers. Laurie Wiid understands the importance of sustainability for our future and has moulded his love for design and craftsmanship with a deep awareness of the environment around him.