Maretha Olivier: a Jackie of all trades
There is a saying: “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams
“Interior design is the type of creative career that allows you to experiment with spaces and test new and unusual ideas. Sometimes the experiment will fail, but that is the best way to learn. By allowing myself to make mistakes, I have learnt how to be a better designer,” says Maretha Olivier, programme manager for Interior Design at The Design School of Southern Africa, and winner of the 2015 Charles Freysen Best Teaching Practice Award. The Design School SA is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE).
Olivier had originally wanted to be an Architect but, after visiting the Interior Architecture faculty of the University of Pretoria (UP), she fell in love with the building, the people and everything that the interior design department had to offer. As a result of this instant love affair she changed her mind and opted to study an interior design degree at UP instead. Both professions have much in common, they both challenge you to think creatively and that is what Olivier really loves.
“In any design project there is the initial conceptual development phase followed by technical documentation and execution. While all these phases of the design process are critical to the eventual success of any design scheme, my bias has always been to create concepts and to think of new designs for interior spaces,” says Olivier.
Olivier has a broad range of experience within Interior Design and extensive industry knowledge. Having previously worked in the residential interior design sector as a senior interior designer and also lecturing in Interior Design, she is the ideal candidate to head up the Interior Design programme available at The Design School SA.
Her role now involves the quality assurance of the course and overseeing the development of the academic content. “My aim is to ensure that the students are equipped with the right skills to one day become successful industry professionals. We encourage students to put themselves out there and enter competitions to showcase their talents,” explains Olivier.
“One day I may be lecturing students, and the next I am at Homemakers Expo physically building an installation with the students. No day is the same, so my job is never dull.” Her six years’ tenure at The Desingn School SA include an initial three-years as a lecturer, following which she left the academic world to work in the industry for a period of time. While in the industry, she worked as a senior designer for M Square Lifestyle Design in designing high-end residential properties and had several of her designs featured in lifestyle magazines.
However, she missed the teaching environment and working with young designers. “When you have worked in the academic environment and developed a love for both the students and learning, it takes a hold of you. Therefore, I returned; the students at The Design School SA are something special and I feel inspired to be around these young designers,” says Olivier
Olivier explains why people get such a rush from interior design; “You take a concept from inception and see it all the way through until it is physically realised. This is what is so unique and gratifying about the subject. You get to see your creation physically in front of you – no accountant or lawyer ever gets to see that,” she chuckles.
Olivier believes that a key aspect of the profession is realising that designing a beautiful interior need not cost a fortune. She has seen students come up with more tasteful finishes on a budget of R1,000 than with a budget of R50,000. It is the effort and creativity that goes into a design that differentiates it.
Her advice to interior designers is to keep pace with fast-moving trends, what is in one day might be out the next. She also places great emphasis on networking as the interior design sector is an industry where what you know is as important as who you know.
“As a nation, South African interior design is entering interesting times. I would say that at the moment our interior design industry is on a par with the best in the world. One of the more exciting sub-sectors is furniture design, with exhibitions such as 100% Design providing a greater platform for some of our amazing designers. We are no longer just copyists. We are seeing the emergence of our own identity in South Africa, which aligns with the global trend towards sustainable or ‘conscious’ design. Increasingly we see a demand from people wanting ‘green’ designs which minimise energy and wasteful consumption of resources,” explains Olivier.
She recommends anyone interested in a career in BA Interior Design to apply at The Design School SA, www. designschoolsa.co.za . “All our lecturers and are passionate about the subject, and in design passion is crucial, we don’t showcase our work, we showcase our passion,” concludes Olivier.