Monday, March 29, 2010

Toffie Popular Culture Festival 2010

As some of you may know, this past weekend was the Toffie Popular Culture Festival, a student event, which, despite the name, was organised by a group of young and energetic designers called “the presidents”. It was hosted at Rondebosch Boys’ High School.

Despite being a student event, tickets were sold at R680-00 per person and included an exhibition, talks, launches, shows and good vibes as well as an epic networking opportunity for all those keen on making connections to help kick-start their design careers. As a result of “price” many people could not afford to go (or so they said). Whilst I can understand this view, as my ticket and workshops were paid for by my grocery money, resulting in a month of living off R50 per week (student survival tactics).

Despite my buying a ticket and paying for workshops, at first I, like many that did not attend, felt somewhat sceptical about value for money. However, as you will read, it was a misconception I that I was pleased to break.

Day One

Arrival and first impressions:

After convincing my dear, old mother to let me squat at her house in Kenilworth for the weekend, I quickly packed my bags and headed off for the station.

Upon entering the registration area I soon got the feeling of being at some kind of fruit and veg. convention when I found myself surrounded by packets marked with labels reading “Farmfresh Potatoes”, and, for a split second of sheer stupidity, I wondered if I had somehow misinterpreted the whole thing and wound up at completely the wrong place. However I was reassured by the sheer number of skinny jeans and designer shoes that I was in the right spot.

With my registration I received one of these strange bags and opened it to find that it contained, not starch, but a number of groovy promotional products including a magazine (Bruce Lee), fine liners, a sketch pad, a cool poster and enough snacks to get me through the day.

Exhibitions & Stores:

Since I had arrived at the very start, some stores were still being set up so I made my way straight to the exhibition where I was stoked to find the strangest assortment of designs and artwork since my matric exhibition in 2006.

The work displayed by the artists was awesome, inspirational and altogether very, very sexy. Every set-up had something great to offer the audience each with a style of its own. For example, Kronk’s display showed off a range of both traditional and 3-D-vinyl ‘canvasses’ whilst the Ijuci display had a mood more toward the rough and re-touched progress showing the process and evolution of the product from rough illustrations and lay-outs to what you get when you buy the magazine.

After spending two hours in and around the exhibition hall, I finally went out to the stalls. The range went from awesome vinyl toys (Toitoy) to some extremely groovy shirt prints and one store even hosted a small homemade arcade machine.

Magazine Workshop:

At 4pm I made my way to the first of the workshops (the magazine design workshop) hosted by Peet Pienaar, whom I understand is the designer responsible for both Bruce Lee and Goodwill Fernandes magazines. The workshop, although quick, proved to be surprisingly thought-provoking and generally very insightful into how magazines are viewed (in general) and how they can be changed to make them so much more than just a medium for news up-dates and typography.


Although I personally did not give much thought to buying a book, I have to say that I greatly enjoyed the performance and would like to raise a beer to all those who played. Thanks for the good vibes.

The best of S.A. music videos ranged in concept but were all-round weird, interesting and pretty fucking kief. By the time it came for the Fokof movie screening, I had no idea what to expect next so I just stayed routed to my seat. All I have to say “that was bloody awesome”. In about two hours I went from kinda’ knowing who they are and having only ever heard an earful of their songs, to becoming a very big fan.

And so, on leaving, I was offered a copy of the DVD and immediately agreed. Whilst purchasing, I was asked by the guys from Flyonthewall “what did you think of the film?” and I thought to myself “mate, I didn’t move from my seat, I neglected a lift and opted to walk home to a cold dinner in the middle of the night and I am giving you the last of my money. What do you think?”

Day Two

Peet Pienaar:

On day two of Toffie festival, we all arrived at 10am to hear Peet Pienaar, who spoke about South African art and South African design and emphasized to us all that there are commonly recipes in design, specifically magazine design and, that this idea of following one recipe/method of layout and medium, must be changed and broken in order to make magazines, amongst other designs, much more interesting.

Wynand Myberg:

Next we heard from Wynand Myburg of Fokofpolisiekar and Van Coke Cartel who covered what it is to be in a band and told us all the tale of the journey he personally experienced, from starting Fokofpolisiekar to where he/they are now. He spoke well and basically explained how having a dream and being passionate about what you do will lead to your success. He then shared some good advice on where one should ‘do-it-yourself’ and where one should hire professionals to get the job done properly. He ended off saying how everyone must find their own balance of business approach and creative process and the real formula to success in anything is to just give it your energy and time and that its all up to the individual to make your own success.

Jorge Alderete:

The third speaker of the day was Argentinian-born Jorge Alderete who, despite using a translator, had a lot to say about both South African and South American design and how similar our two cultures are. His talk mainly consisted of saying how one’s own interpretation and passion can be utilised and how one can achieve great designs even without ever having studied design formally.

Kim Jones:

Our fourth and final speaker for the day was men’s fashion designer, Kim Jones, who showed a few examples of his past work and explained who he was and how he came to be where he is now. About 80-90% of his talk was question and answer so I cannot elaborate too much on what was said. However I will admit that it was motivational and very interesting to hear about his journey to success.

Kronk Designer Toy Workshop:

After all the speeches we finally got to the Kronk workshop where I was blown away by the sheer amount of insight into toy design and customisation that he had to share with us; insight gained from pure experience and experimentation. I felt that the information I learned personally about the process was simply invaluable and I think it was, without a doubt, worth the time and the walk home in the rain.

Day Three

For reasons I will not elaborate on, I arrived to the first talk of day three almost 15 minutes late.


After that, we were all introduced to the guys (and girl) from Flyonthewall, who created the Fokof documentary, as well as a number of other, really epic ads, some of which, they screened for us in 10 minutes. They talked about how they all studied together at City Varsity, Cape Town and how they saw film as the best medium to express their ideas. They also gave some good advice for aspiring film makers, which is pretty much, “just do it, keep making stuff.” which if you think about it, it the best way to develop yourself at anything really.

Juan Frontini:

Next, Juan Frontini explained to us, what MTV was all about and what initiatives are currently happening to remind people that MTV is still all about the music and youth culture. We were entertained by some really cleaver advertising and introduced to some very interesting takes on advertising for such a widespread and highly significant brand (MTV).

Sigi Eggertson:

The last “speaker” for Toffie Fest 2010, was Sigi Eggerson from Iceland, who presented his work and gave his talk using a computerised voice as he explained he was nervous about speaking to large groups. I think this idea was quite a smart solution to such a dilemma. The work he showed us was very good and his use of “pixels” as illustration is a groovy concept. I particularly liked the intricate simplicity in his landscapes as well as the practical approach he takes towards all his work.

Although I took enough notes, that I filled a small green book, I think the most valuable notes I took away, which I will share, are…

… Get passionate about what you do and others will want to get passionate about it with you.

… Do the best with what you have now and if need be, wire it together.

… Just do it, keep working and success will come.

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