British Nigerian artist and designer Mimi Shodeinde is the founder of the London studio Miminat Designs. Her sculptural pieces for furniture, lighting and interior objects embody both the material and the poetic
Photography courtesy of Miminat Designs featuring Omi D-3 Chair
Words by Alia Akkam
Sinuous shapes have long held Mimi Shodeinde in thrall, so naturally ‘a desire to capture movement is obvious in my work’, says the British-Nigerian designer. Shodeinde, founder of the London studio Miminat Designs, infuses interiors and objects, whether a calming, light-filled Cape Town penthouse or a wall sconce fusing marble and antique brass, with a soft, hypnotic fluidity.
Just as graceful is NRIN, her recently launched range of sculptural vessels ‘dedicated to the female form and my interpretation of how I see the female body’, explains Shodeinde. After her mother’s cancer diagnosis last year (luckily, she’s now in the clear), Shodeinde reacted to the upending news through creation, pondering the question: ‘How can I design something that represents and embodies so much strength and bring in references of my culture to that?’
Her NRIN collection is the mesmerising response. Aptly named for Obinrin, the Yoruba word for female, these objects express the power and resilience exemplified by women like Shodeinde’s mother. Crafted from ash wood, the sturdy column base is buoyed by a swoop of lustrous metal, an amorphous ripple of hand-cast aluminium imbued with subtle textures that hint at pollen grains found in the blooms that will soon brighten these centrepiece vessels.
Photography by Edvinas Bruzas featuring NRIN Vessels
‘I wanted the vases to evoke a sense of durability,’ elaborates Shodeinde, noting how she deliberately juxtaposed wood and metal because both materials are robust, yet ‘can be manipulated and pulled in many beautiful, organic ways’. Although she was raised in London, Shodeinde has been captivated by her Nigerian heritage from a young age, when she first began to learn about African art and architecture.
A few years back, she even lived in Nigeria for a spell. ‘I’m from a proud Nigerian home and I try to showcase that in my designs,’ she says. Consider Okuta, the homeware line she developed back in 2018 that pays homage to ancient Yoruba murals with such rich elements as stone and gold leaf.
For a brief period Shodeinde contemplated a career as a dentist, but her inaptitude for maths and science prompted her to take a closer look at her father, who trained as an architect, and her own promising artistic skills. ‘There was constant creativity stirring in me as a child,’ she recalls.
Photography by Armand Da Silva featuring Mimi Shodeinde
Shodeinde first hatched Miminat to meld her love for architecture and furniture when she was still at university in Edinburgh, an ambitious venture supported by her ‘hard-working and entrepreneurial’ mother, she remembers, who owns a series of retail businesses.
This passion will become even more apparent when Shodeinde settles into her new studio in north London’s Holloway neighbourhood, an industrial warehouse setting flaunting well-preserved exposed brick and beams that she is currently renovating.
‘It will operate as part gallery, part working studio,’ she explains. But, most importantly: ‘It will give people the chance to step into my world and see all my earlier prototypes from when I was studying alongside what I will be releasing to get a feel for my journey in design.’
The camera, Shodeinde believes, doesn’t do justice to her work, but by dropping into this interactive space, visitors will ‘get a true understanding of it – the materials I use, the scale, the narrative’.