Team

The Bronze Age Team
OWNers

Jan Otto du Plessis

Born in Pretoria in 1971, Otto is a primarily a sculptor by training and persuasion, specialising in figurative bronze work.

He is the founder of Bronze Age Foundry in Cape Town, which he built into the bronze foundry of choice for many leading local and international artists. Together with designer Charles Haupt, he has fostered a new regard for bronze as a modern material equally suited to furniture, lighting, functional design and sculpture.  

Otto attended the prestigious Pretoria Art Music and Ballet School, Pro Arte, where he majored in sculpture with distinction. He apprenticed to a sculptor during his undergraduate studies at Pretoria Technikon (now Tshwane University of Technology), from which he graduated in 1994. 

Charles Haupt

Guided from inception to production by a concern for function and process rather than adornment, Charles does not however consider himself a minimalist and invests structural details with beauty. His work strikes a balance between reproducibility and singularity, combining the precision, efficiency and flexibility of digital and industrial processes with the tactile intimacy of hand-crafted objects.

Given since childhood to stripping objects down to their elements, Charles was drawn to science at school and grew up among his architect father’s models and plans that anticipated the order of things.

Charles Haupt NØDE node designer Cape Town

“I like to think that we do authentic work and that people who commission us come to Bronze Age because they want us, and not necessarily because they just want the job done.”

– Charles Haupt

ADMIN
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Nawahl Ismael

Nawahl is our administrative cornerstone who joined Bronze Age in Simon’s Town in 2011 after honing her skills as a high-ranking executive PA for one of SA’s leading business figures.

BRONZE AGE TEAM
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Le Roux Hofmeyr

An integral part of the Bronze Age design team since 2015, Leroux studied Interior Architecture, followed by a B Tech degree. He has a special touch with both metals and rhythm, as bass guitarist for the rock band ‘The Valley’.

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Joseph Mhlanga

Since joining Bronze Age in 2014, Joseph has become a highly skilled mould-maker who works on all the complex sculptures and commissions for Bronze Age, some of which are over 2 meters high.

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Volker Koch

Volker Koch studied at the Greenside Design Center where he learnt to apply the process and principles of design in a progressive, intuitive and ethically sound manner. He is the ‘fixer’ and out-of-the-box practical spirit at Bronze Age.

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Precious Mhlanga

Precious has learnt to paint waxes, work seam lines and apply patinas on brass since joining Bronze Age in 2016. She enjoys the sense of community and growth opportunities and is learning mould-making.

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Edwin Nyamurova

Eddie joined the Bronze Age team in 2016 and has been learning sanding and texturing from Charles, as well as etching and mould-making from Stanislaw Trzebinski.

SCULPTORS
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Trevor Potter

Trevor is a resident artist who has been with the Bronze Age Foundry since 2013. He collaborates on commissions with the team, as well as developing his own body of work.

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Lungisa Kala

Lungisa has been with Bronze Age since 2003 and is widely considered one of the finest fettlers in the country, in addition to taking his own practice further as an exhibited sculptor.

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Melani-Rene Louwrens

Since joining the studio in 2017, Melani-Rene has worked on Bronze Age commissions as a freelance professional sculptor, in addition to developing her own practice. She holds a BA from Michaelis and a diploma in Motion Picture Production Design.

NØDE
Gerrit Giebel NØDE node designer Cape Town

Gerrit Giebel

Head Designer

Gerrit’s exceptional combination of skills brings out the soul and character in his designs, resulting in such solid and refined products as the NØDE range, jointly developed with Charles Haupt.

Jan-Otto du Plessis

Born in Pretoria in 1971, Otto is a primarily a sculptor by training and persuasion, specialising in figurative bronze work.

He is the founder of Bronze Age Foundry in Cape Town, which he built into the bronze foundry of choice for many leading local and international artists. Together with designer Charles Haupt, he has fostered a new regard for bronze as a modern material equally suited to furniture, lighting, functional design and sculpture.  

Otto attended the prestigious Pretoria Art Music and Ballet School, Pro Arte, where he majored in sculpture with distinction. He apprenticed to a sculptor during his undergraduate studies at Pretoria Technikon (now Tshwane University of Technology), from which he graduated in 1994. 

His career began in London as a modeler and sculptor specialising in bespoke plaster reliefs, but soon evolved when he returned to South Africa to establish Bronze Age in 1997. 

Over twenty years, Otto has brought his technical knowledge and aesthetic sensitivity to bear in perfecting the works of fellow artists, as well as numerous commissions.

His personal generosity has been integral to providing clients and colleagues with a unique understanding of how to achieve the best possible outcome at every level. He mentions ‘flow’ in terms of running a creative business on principles that relate to quality – both of work and human relations – as well as to integrity, respect, sharing and discipline. He has mentored and trained most of his production team, as well as countless others over the years.

After setting aside his own practice to build a business and raise a family, he has recently been able to devote more time to his work.

His self-professed love of figurative sculpture looks to the essential greatness of Rodin’s assemblages, Brancusi, Giacometti and Henry Moore, as well as to Kentridge, Dylan Lewis’ wildlife and the abstraction of Bruce Arnott and Brett Murray’s work.

While his limited-edition functional pieces and collectible design strike an aesthete’s balance, the exploration of beauty in his sculptures is always a vehicle for a deeper engagement with universal themes – at times solemn, and at others, with the playfulness of an indomitable optimist.  Nature presents a rich store of inspiration – in particular birds, wildlife and skeletal forms. 

He credits his father for instilling in his children a work ethic and sense of adventure. As a child, he spent four years in Paris and much of his time in nature. For the one-time navy diver charged with missile target recovery, wreck surveys and underwater mine sweeps, the sea remains a second home which he now explores as a free-diver, spear fisherman and surfer.

Charles Haupt

Guided from inception to production by a concern for function and process rather than adornment, Charles does not however consider himself a minimalist and invests structural details with beauty. His work strikes a balance between reproducibility and singularity, combining the precision, efficiency and flexibility of digital and industrial processes with the tactile intimacy of hand-crafted objects.

Given since childhood to stripping objects down to their elements, Charles was drawn to science at school and grew up among his architect father’s models and plans that anticipated the order of things. 

Charles majored in industrial design and discovered an affinity for art during his two-year apprenticeship at a London foundry, upon which he joined Otto du Plessis at the Bronze Age Art Foundry in Cape Town. 

The mechanical properties of bronze enabled Charles to explore his fascination with nature’s mathematical patterns and articulations at every scale. Reaching well beyond shape, texture, colour, his interest lies in the rhythms and logic of symmetries, spirals and tessellations which are integral to the structure and surfacing of his rigorous designs.

Citing a feather among his definitions of beauty, he speaks of how it can be reduced to barbs, barbules and hooklets, yet also underpins the mechanics of a flight and is equally at play in the astounding and as yet unexplained synchronised movement of migrating flocks. 

While he likes to joke of his partnership with Otto that it’s remarkable that they survived this long, given that on the surface they could not be more opposite, he adds that this accounts for their dynamic balance and strength.

Nawahl Ismael​

Nawahl studied Conveyancing & Litigation with the intention of going into law and completed additional diplomas in Business Administration and Secretarial Studies. Attending what she thought were mock recruitments in her last year, she was hired then and there by her interviewer – none other than Dr Iqbal Surve, the erstwhile CEO of Sekunjalo Investments and today Executive Chairman of Independent Newspapers.

As Nawahl recalls: “Surve was already established within political and business circles and I was privileged to meet many influential figures, ministers and heads of corporate companies during my ten years as his business and personal assistant. I had an excellent colleague who taught me the ins and outs of working in a corporate environment. I learnt a lot about people and the importance of respect to bring out potential. The respect for substance is present at all times in the way Bronze Age interacts with its staff, artists and clients, ultimately shaping authentic outcomes that have aesthetic and material integrity.”

Le Roux Hofmeyr

One of his favourite pastimes as a teen was to scout small-town second-hand furniture stores for pieces that appealed to his design interest, mostly Art Deco, Bauhaus and Mid-Century. Thanks to the new South African educational curriculum which offered Design as a subject entailing practical handiwork and technical drawing, he was able to pursue his interest in design from the outset.

After graduating from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Le Roux went into furniture design, working for Mokena Makeka’s Design Lab, as well as for Pierre Cronje as a designer and draftsman, before going on to apprentice at Bronze Age.  He was immediately captivated by the versatility of metals and the singular beauty of their oxidation processes: “Each individual attempt is unique, and mastering the organic process, with materials that offer their own constraints and properties, is an art form.”

LeRoux credits his upbringing with nurturing his eye for beauty and interest in accidental beauty.  “I grew up in George and spent most of my childhood exploring the forests and the Outeniqua mountains, as well as the coastline around Victoria Bay and Herolds Bay. Growing up in a small town surrounded by wilderness gave me an appreciation for natural beauty, simple pleasures, found art and intriguing objects.”

And there’s the exceptional environment commended by every artist at Bronze Age: “I am surrounded by creative minds. Amazing projects and clients coming through the door. Working with Charles Haupt and Otto du Plessis continues to be a privilege and a source of inspiration. I cannot give them enough credit for their uncompromising work ethic and the way they mentor our team organically. There’s never a dull moment at Bronze Age, and we pull together under pressure in a way that never takes the fun and pride out of hard work.”

Joseph Mhlanga

Between 2009 and 2014, Joseph was with Family Castings in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, an industrial foundry where he learnt mould-making using green sand. When he joined Bronze Age, Otto du Plessis instructed him in the art of making silicon rubber moulds, working seam lines and painting waxes, as well as fettling, texturing and patinas. In addition to being mentored by Otto, he completed an AMT mould-making course. 

Today Joseph makes the moulds for Bronze Age sculptures and commissions, as well as taking on the works of artists Stanislas Trzebinski and Joop Kuneke.

“I enjoy mould-making because it requires patience and an understanding of the original artwork. The choices I make when doing the splitting and slipping rely on an intuitive anatomy of the piece which is different every time, allowing for the best way to demould it and preserve important detailing.”

He is married to Precious who also joined the Bronze Age which they both regard as a place to grow and a family of sorts. Their son Shammah Junior was born in 2015.

Volker Koch

A creative polymath, Volker moved from design and illustration to stainless steel product development, followed by full spectrum waterjet cutting before he stepped into the forge of creative blacksmiths and learnt to beat metal to life with a passion that remains unabated.


Going on to work in art foundries, he became interested in the secrets of bronze. He joined Bronze Age in late 2019 as assistant problem-solver who loves a good challenge: “I see problems as little effervescent energy tabs that enable us to translate our clients’ hard work into noteworthy and valuable objects.”

 

Volker is also a fellow creator and his interests in contemporary design and ancient processes extend beyond metal, to stone and wood sculpture, as well as ink, allowing him to contribute valuable insights to the broad range of Bronze Age commissions.

 

As with all members of a team that is not just multi-disciplinary but rich in personalities, Volker adds a dose of his unique humour to defend his trade: “I think that the best craftsmen and women can only appear weak in the incapable hands of feeble designers.”

Precious Mhlanga

She and Joseph are both from Zimbabwe and have been together since 2011. Their son Shammah Junior was born in 2015. Prior to Bronze Age, Precious worked in the hospitality sector as a chef and still enjoys cooking and baking.

Edwin Nyamurova

Eddie took business studies and mathematics for A-levels in Harare and was interested in accounting but fell into wire art as a way of earning a living when he moved to Cape Town. He had his own stand at the Church Street market, started doing jewelry work for Tagy Martial and decided to join Maker Station for three days a week when he felt that too many people were doing wire craft.

There, a chance encounter with sculptor Stas Trzebinski, who at the time was being mentored by Otto du Plessis, led to an introduction to the Bronze Age foundry across the street. “It is a very good environment, with good guys and a great learning platform for me. I’m happy and grateful to be learning new things and getting better every day and I have real friendships here.”

Trevor Potter

A graduate of ‘Michaelis School of Fine Arts’ (2012), Trevor was born in Los Angeles and grew up in South Africa. Immediately after Michaelis, Trevor worked on a series of ‘steam punk’ animatronic machines and robotic animals crafted from scrap metal which were exhibited at the Holden Manz Gallery in Franschhoek. Towards the end of 2013, he approached the Woodstock Foundry to gain experience in the production of bronze sculptures and began an informal apprenticeship with Otto as his mentor. Over the course of four years, Trevor familiarised himself with the various processes and began managing projects on the behalf of Bronze Age.

Trevor has worked with leading South African sculptors and designers as well as internationally recognised artists, among which Brett Murray, Wim Botha, Conrad Botes, Paul de Toit, the Haas brothers, Misha Kahn and Sipho Mabona. He has also been involved in the production of many of Cape Town’s public sculptures, including the SA Navy ‘Standby Diver’ monument in Simons Town.

Trevor continues to create fine art sculptures and illustrations with a strong figurative emphasis and has sculpted wildlife, human and abstract form. He has extensive experience in producing bowls, lighting, tables, cabinets, chairs, benches and flooring and is currently developing his own range of design products. His works have been featured in Southern Guild’s exhibitions ‘Transformations’ and ‘New Wave’ and at Design Miami Basel, as well as sold at auction with Christies’ in London.

Lungisa Kala

Over the past years, he has assisted various artists and been part of teams of sculptors working on pieces ranging from 40cm, to life-sized and up to 9m monumental statues, as well as creating miniature sets for a television commercial. Among other commissions, he has worked on a number of statues for the National Heritage Monument’s ‘Long March to Freedom” installation, completed a life-sized statue of Josiah Gumede, sculpted a maquette of Joe Slovo, created two original sculptures for ‘Nguni Gold’ and worked on the 6m statue of Nelson Mandela with Tania Lee.

Reverend Professor Peter Storey was quoted as saying: “I recently met a young man called Lungisa Kala, a finisher and polisher in a bronze factory, but his real calling is to be a sculptor. I’ve watched him fashion a remarkable likeness of the late Rev Seth Mokitimi for our new Seminary and asked him if he enjoyed what he was doing. ‘Too much,’ he said, ‘too much!’ That’s call.”

It has always been his ambition to create his own series of sculptures and Lungisa is currently working on a collection of small bronzes inspired by wildlife and childhood memories of rural life in the Western Cape. “To achieve anything requires faith, belief in yourself, determination, vision, hard work and dedication. And so, I trust that I will do the things I dream of.”

In addition to fettling, Lungisa has learnt welding, smooth-polishing, grinding, ceramics and mould-making at Bronze Age. He has completed courses in welding, tool and die-making and holds various certificates (Advanced Fluxcore Arc Welding from Allweld Marine and Industrial; NQF Level 5 Toolmaker Qualification ‘SAQA ID 91796’ from Northland College Wingfield Campus) as well as diplomas in Entrepreneurship, Business Management and Computer Practice.

Melani-Rene Louwrens

Melani discovered painting and drawing while studying Special FX at City Varsity. Graduating with two merits in painting and costume, she went on to intern with a film production company where she was tasked with the fabrication of creatures, props and prosthetics: “They needed sculptors. I tried it and fell in love.” Melani worked in the film industry for several years before studying Fine Art at Michaelis. On the Dean’s List throughout her four years, she received a distinction for Studio Work (sculpture).

Melani brings extensive experience to the team and enjoys collaborating with artists and clients to interpret a brief or achieve a particular vision. She takes on Bronze Age commissions as well as private projects that range from figurative work to bespoke furniture, in addition to devoting time to her own practice.

Her skills draw on the critical and conceptual dimensions of her training and she is notably comfortable with both fine detail and monumental scale, as well as passionate about texture and surface finishes. While modelling in a variety of materials, she is partial to any type of clay for its tactile quality and versatility in anticipating the textures and character of the finished sculpture.

Melani was nominated for a Fleur Du Cap Theatre Award (Best Prop Design in 2008) and worked on the “African dinosaurs” permanent display at the Iziko Museum. 

Gerrit Giebel

Gerrit’s interest in concept and product development is balanced by craftsmanship. After training as a blacksmith and metalworker, he completed a Bachelor’s in Industrial Design in Hannover, Germany. His technical range is surprisingly broad, spanning jewellery, furniture, artistic yet functional installations as well as graphic design. 

He shares a love of metals and materials with the Bronze Age team: “I deeply connected to metal which was so versatile in its solid state, but my first experience in heating and shaping it during my apprenticeship just blew me away. I also like to work with other authentic materials such as cork, paper…and light. Bringing a material to its limits is the best way to really understand its properties.”

Gerrit has been featured in numerous design editorials and exhibited at the Southern Guild Gallery (A New Wave, 2016; Design Miami 2016; 10-year anniversary 2019 and Foundry Proof 2019) and his commissions have included a wall installation for designer Kat van Duinen, custom work for ARRCC, a chandelier development for Southern Guild in collaboration with Charles and jewellery for Athi-Patra Ruga, in addition to graphic design work. 

Gerrit was Head of Design at Jo Carlin Design, Assistant to Julian McGowan at the Southern Guild Gallery and is still Director of iDEAS and fORM. He joined Bronze Age as an apprentice in 2014 and returned to work with Charles in 2018, founding NØDE as their joint venture in 2019.

“I had the chance to explore the creative scene of Cape Town, but never found a place better suited to me than Bronze Age. I was immediately captivated by the studio’s magic. It’s a place where craftsmanship, contemporary design and nature come together in a symbiosis between materials and machine. The environment feels like a family: there is a challenging exchange of opinions, old skills are combined with new technologies and even machine-generated products retain a natural soul. Working with Charles is great: we are both straight talkers and we can’t stand poorly made things, so we search until we find the perfect solution.”

Marcel Brynard

He studied Architecture at UCT after considering Industrial Design and Art. During his studies, he job-shadowed Otto du Plessis and the work at Bronze Age Studio held such strong appeal that he split his 3rd year over two years to work for the studio part- time.

During his 4th year at varsity, he attended a Summer Studio program at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London where he gained insight to the intersection between art and architecture.

After completing his undergraduate degree in 2017, Marcel worked for Architect Peter Neokrides, and later, in the Cape Town film industry as a draftsman as well as a set designer. After spending a year in South America, he has returned to Bronze Age (somewhat as a prodigal son) and enjoys working for the studio full-time.

His experiences in the fields of architecture and design have enriched and fueled his passion for visual art. He is interested in sculpture, print-making and architectural fictions, drawing inspiration from the works of Iakov Chernikov and MC Escher.

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As artists, designers and craftsmen, we place our specialist skills, extensive experience and cutting-edge technical processes at the service of our client. Our commissions are sculptural, architectural or functional, and have ranged from working off an available space, open-ended verbal brief or a sketch, to manufacturing according to plans.

While our fine art moulding is informed by our own practice, the fabrication of more functional elements is greatly enriched by our range of exclusive materials and techniques. We advise clients at every stage, optimising the production process and presenting samples when required.

Our commissions have included Quoin Rock, Ellerman House, ARRCC and OKHA, Southern Guild, the Pot Luck Club and Shortmarket Club, among many others. We have also developed design elements in collaboration with Southern Guild, Gregor Jenkins