Making our Robben Island Coffee Table

The story behind the table

This extraordinary table depicts the infamous Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned during the Apartheid regime. We are only producing 18 of these tables and each table represents a year that Mandela was imprisoned on the island. Each table has been engraved underneath with a brief story about the Island and its specific number of 18.


Top left photo: Nelson Mandela visiting his prison cell on Robben Island, photographed by Jurgen Schadeberg. Top right photo: The first of 18 tables that has been engraved underneath with 1 of 18.


Inspiration for the piece

South Africa is situated between two oceans and features interesting harbours and shorelines around its coast. Our love for the ocean and gradients of sea water seen at beaches was the first piece of inspiration. Along with a country that is rich in history, we started to develop an idea that represents this history. Mapping Robben Island out in the form of a table seemed like a great idea and we pursued it. We saw online how people were using resin and wood to make tables and chose this as the medium. Unfortunately, there were no guides on how to do large casts of resin and how to cast it on wood.


Photo above: The gradient of blues formed the increase of depth of water, photographed by Nattu Adnan.


Product development

The past 2 and a half years have involved trial and error to master the craft of resin. This development process started off with the creation and testing of moulds. We then started doing smaller test casts until we successfully created a small prototype without any cracks. After this we up scaled our small prototype which did not work. We had to do a lot of development on the larger scale casts as this presented a lot of different problems that we did not experience in the smaller scale casts. After we had successfully completed the test casts we had them ground up and will use this resin powder to create our 4th series of furniture due to release in 2019.


Top left photo: The small scale mould used to develop the technique of working with resin. Top right photo: A larger scale table in the mould ready to be cast after the smaller tests were successful.


Improvements on table

Having experimented with a few tests, we always aimed to improve every test from the previous one. There have been some major improvements from the first table through to the 1st of 18 tables. The resin height has been halved which has given the table a more elegant appearance. This has also made the table lighter which has allowed for two people to carry this table.  The legs of the table have also been improved to display the layers seen on the contours of the table. We have also engraved the top of Robben Island with a map of the streets and important buildings on the island.


Top left photo: The first full scale table that we cast had a lot of problems such as cracks and discolouration just to name a few problems. Top right photo: A later successful cast which is now exhibited in an art gallery. (Both tables in these shots have not yet been polished)


Finishing it off

Finishing touches can be critical in completing any art piece. To finish this table off we have placed a glass plane on top of the resin. This protects the resin below and allows for easy cleaning which makes this an everyday piece of furniture. Three little metal ships are included with the table which portray the ships seen anchoring around Robben Island. These ships are cast from solid Sterling Silver and can be moved around the surface of the table. A booklet is also included on how to clean and care for the table. The booklet also provides instructions on how to remove scratches from the table.


Top left photo: This image shows the size of the tiny oil tanker ship on a finger. Top right photo: A macro lens was used to photograph this to capture the micro detail of a life boat at the stern of the oil tanker ship.


Exhibiting it

As our slogan reads, “When furniture becomes art”, we have therefore placed all our furniture in an art gallery. The Robben Island Coffee Table will be exhibited for next 2 years at the prestigious Art@Africa Gallery in the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town South Africa.


Photo above: The Robben Island Coffee Table exhibited at the Art@Africa Gallery, photographed by Candice Waldeck

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

five × two =