An interview with Ramielle De Jager, Co-Founder and Director of Wolkberg Casting Studios
Can you tell us about your practice and how your business began?
The business has humble beginnings- self funded with big plans to make a positive impact in our world.
As Industrial Designers our mission is to create a sustainable solution for kitchen countertops, a product that can be recycled and not deplete our earth’s natural resources.
The research and development of Limesite began in 2014 with the intention to create concrete countertops for the interior market. We set out to resolve cracking, staining and scratch resistance. Through the development phase we realised that so much more can be done with Limesite than just countertops due to the nature of the material. The material is fluid and can be cast into multiple forms. We experimented with a few 3D tiles, lighting and architectural pre-casts options- all of which have proven to be feasible products.
Limesite is a Wolkberg innovation and there is no other product like it in the world. It is a high performance mix achieving our unique Dimension surface finish which is what Wolkberg Casting Studios has become famous for within our market.
Where do you initially draw inspiration from when designing your custom tiles and surfaces?
There are two ways we get inspired: one is more technical and the other is more aspirational.
As Industrial Designers we draw technical inspiration from our material capabilities as far as sustainability, aesthetics and manufacturing. This usually guides us on how to design new products. If the material is capable of doing something miraculous then we will see how we are able to create a beautiful product while exploiting the materials capabilities.
Our aspirational influences are derived from multiple places in nature and culture. We are also inspired by problems we see our clients or market experiencing.
Your tile installations are more than just practical- they are works of art. What story do they distil for you?
We really are on a mission to serve our clients with mind blowing products that are sustainable and flexible in how it is used. Our tiles have multiple possibilities for installations. A single tile has two surface texture options in multiple colours and in multiple tessellations/layouts. This makes the options countless and no two designs need look the same. This is extremely useful for our clients who endeavour to have every project they do look unique.
We get great joy from seeing our clients delight in working with our products and it always amazes us how every different designers’ interpretations bring about fresh and new ways to use our tiles.
Talk us through the design/installation process.
The design process when using our tiles are very exciting as you have so many options available, by using our data sheets alongside samples of tile shapes and colours the designers can map out various design options to propose to their clients. The data sheet has black and white tessellations which can be coloured to test out an idea before committing to it. Once the layout, tile shapes and colour is chosen- the client can place their order for production. Once stock is received you will have a tiling guideline in each box to help your contractor achieve best results.
It is important to note that the product is not a ceramic or porcelain tile but rather it is a cemetitous tile. The nature of concrete is for it to get stronger with time. The product leaves our factory fully cured however it is still more brittle than a ceramic tile so handling it with a certain amount of care pre installation is necessary.
It is also important to note that concrete patina’s differently in different situations and when designing our products we have taken into account the products life cycle and want to embrace how the product changes with time. If the client wishes it can also be easily refurbished routinely much like a marble tile.
What makes you stand out from competitors?
It is sustainable with a 4 star eco label, hand made and is an innovation. There is none other like it in the market.
What are you currently working on?
We are currently working on a range of 3D semi-precious metal and Limesite combination cladding for outdoor areas. We have a thing for spotting materials which patina’s well we are confident our tiles will age gracefully.
What is your proudest achievement at Wolkberg?
To date it has to be seeing our innovation embraced across the world by interior designers and architects. Most recently achievement would be our four-star rating on the Eco label with Eco Standard South Africa which is the South African equivalent to the global Green Star. Green Star is our next project.
Click here to learn more about Wolkberg and their bespoke Limesite tiles and surfaces.