Industrial designer Nicola Smith
The first time Nicola Smith walked into Made In Workshop she was stared at.
Nicola is a petite woman who looks a lot younger than her years, and it’s difficult to imagine her small, feminine hands operating heavy-duty machinery. So it’s no wonder that she looked a bit out of place.
Nicola Smith in her natural habitat at Made In Workshop
Nicola came across Made In Workshop when she was tasked to machine prototype patterns for Homefarm, a South African start-up that developed a hybrid hydroponic-smart unit that grows microgreens. After talking to Made In Workshop’s owner, Henry Levine, she realised that machining the 15 moulds for the units at the makerspace would cost less than it would to outsource a SINGLE mould to another manufacturer.
Nicola has always had a knack for making things with her hands; when she was a girl, instead of playing with dolls she played with machines.
After school she wanted to study visual art, but “by luck” her mom gave her a pamphlet advertising an industrial design programme at the University of Johannesburg, so she decided to do that instead.
Her first year was tough, and she didn’t want to carry on.
The CNC mill at Made In Workshop
Through industrial design, Nicola also came to understand that she could have an impact on the world, especially when it comes to throw-away culture and consumerism. “Most smartphones will last for about two years – it’s built into the design to only last that long, and that’s exactly what I want to go against. I want to make products that last and can be repaired, rather than support this horrible consumerism loop that just carries on,” she explains.
Nicola spent seven months at Made In Workshop machining the vacuum-forming positives for the Homefarm units, as well as laser-cutting all the necessary components that the prototypes needed. However, before all of this could happen Nicola had to learn all the CNC ins-and-outs before she could fully jump in.
Nicola was blown away by the range of machinery housed at Made In Workshop.
an industrial design student I never had the opportunity to use these kinds of machines at UJ – like CNC wood- and metal mills; they just didn’t have them.”
Nicola is a full-time industrial designer at Wolkberg Casting Studios, but in her spare time she gives her hands a little “ceramic therapy”, which has turned into a side hustle.
“I used to have big beef about it when I was at university, but I understand that it’s still a male-dominated industry. I don’t have a chip on my shoulder or any of that; I’d rather have my actions speak louder than my words.” Find out more about Made In Workshop by contacting them on 087 701 4156, or pop by and take a look around at 65 Maria Street, Fontainebleau.
To find out more about Nicola’s side hustle, Kilnhouse Design Studio, go here.