Patty Johnson


Toronto-based designer Patty Johnson had already made a name for herself designing furniture for Sephora, Keilhauer, Nienkämper, Pure Design and other high-end companies when she began imagining the potentially positive effects of globalization and sustainable manufacturing beyond the Northern Hemisphere. The roots of what would become her award-winning North South Project – “a new model of design and craft collaborations in the developing world” – began in 2001 during a trip to Guyana, South America, where she was working as a furniture design consultant for the Canadian International Development Agency.

There Johnson met Jocelyn Dow of the Liana Cane furniture factory and learned of the limited access to the global market that Dow and other companies in developing countries have. Johnson came onboard, designing a cane lounge chair, ottoman and rocker, and a line of patio furniture, all crafted from local, sustainable rainforest products.

Around this time, Peter Mabeo of Gaborone, Botswana, contacted Johnson. He wanted to expand his custom furniture and millwork company output with an export line. Their collaboration resulted in Johnson’s design for the Maun Windsor Chair (2004), a new interpretation of a classic Shaker-inspired chair, produced by hand. Mabeo’s website describes the manufacturing of the chair as “ecologically, aesthetically and culturally sustainable,” while bringing long-term benefits to the local craftspeople and community.

Johnson’s work has won many honors, including the Editors Award at New York’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair, and has been included in I.D. Magazine’s Annual Design Review Awards, the International Design Yearbook and Newsweek’s Design Dozen 2006. Recently, the North South Project, in partnership with Disenos + Artesanias Guanajuato, created a new ceramics collection, and they are currently working on projects in the Caribbean and Rajasthan, India.

Johnson is an adjunct faculty member at the Ontario College of Art and Design and has lectured around the world. She holds an MA Design from London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.

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