When you think about concrete, you probably think about pillars and brutish structures. Well, what if you were given the challenge to come up with something innovative using concrete? This was exactly what Alex Shahini faced when he and a good buddy, Brayden Solomon, decided to enter the 2019 PPC Imaginarium Awards.

The annual awards invite designers and artists from South Africa and Zimbabwe to show off their talent across six categories, from film to industrial design. The only requirement is you have to use cement as your primary inspiration or material – or, as Alex puts it, you have to “think creatively with concrete”. Which is no easy feat.

Welding the cutlery holder’s metal base frame

Apart from the massive exposure, entrants stand a chance to win mentorship opportunities and R500 000 in cash.

“We wanted to challenge the structural strength and integrity of concrete and do something quite small and delicate, but still manage to keep the capabilities that concrete inherently has. So we decided on a bespoke cutlery set,” Alex explains.

Alex was first introduced to Made In Workshop while working for Homefarm so he knew the ins and outs of the Makerspace – and he knew it would be the ideal space for his concrete project.

“I know Henry quite well; I really did enjoy my time there,” says Alex. “There was always a familiar face at the workshop; everybody got along and it had a nice community feel.”

Thinking creatively… with concrete

According to Alex, making the entry for the PPC Imaginarium Awards was a big learning curve. He had to use resin to add strength to the concrete so it wasn’t brittle, and there was a whole range of techniques used – from welding the cutlery holder’s metal base frame to laser-cutting some of the components.

“The entire process was trial and error,” Alex adds. “And we made use of quite a large portion of the workshop’s functionality.”

After six months of late nights and weekends (as both Alex and Brayden work full time), the CONCREATcutlery set was ready to be entered.

Alex Shahini and Brayden Solomon

Out of more than 800 entrants, Alex and Brayden were runners-up in the Industrial Design category, which is pretty impressive.

The duo is considering making small batches of the cutlery sets in the future, but Alex stresses that the experience was a purely creative endeavour.

“Theoretically it could be taken further,” says Alex. “But we’ve parked the idea for the time being; for now it’s on display in Brayden’s dining room.”

Got a project or entering a competition? Contact Made In Workshop on 087 701 4156, or pop by and take a look around at 65 Maria Street, Fontainebleau.