If woodwork brings to mind awkward, clumsy tables and yellow or orange varnish, we are proud to introduce a fresh perspective. For Kuni, woodwork is still based on the old ways – traditional, skilled and fine work paying attention to the grain, joinery and functionality.
Kuni creations come with a contemporary twist – shapes or materials that keep the furniture edgy rather than old-fashioned. Benches and tables are designed in modern outline, with simple detail, but above all, a respect for the wooden slab and the particular grain. Their ethos is reassuringly old school while pushing modern boundaries to create timelessness.
To own a Kuni design is to own a work of art. Each piece is uniquely created, lovingly crafted and distinctive. Kuni offers a rare opportunity to possess an exclusive furniture creation that is one of a kind.
Gys Potgieter is the visionary and owner of Kuni, creators of unique, handcrafted wooden furniture to natural perfection. Gys is a master of his craft and retains a reverence for hand-worked wood and indigenous wooden slabs at the core of his individually crafted pieces. For Gys, craftsmanship is a language of patience, perfection and determination, of visualising the potential in the grain and lovingly moulding it to result in a masterpiece. It’s not about the extent or number of items produced, but about the passion and pride of producing a single, unique, handcrafted work of art – a natural object of lasting beauty.
Gys’s passion for wood and wood-crafting began as a young boy. His tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit motivated his father to present him with his first combination woodwork machine on his 14th birthday. This was the start of Gys’s lifelong relationship with wood-crafting. He started hand-making wooden pencil boxes and sold them to his school friends and schools in his community. His range soon expanded to include lamps, bookshelves and side-tables.
At the age of 16, Gys walked bravely into Tony Factor’s shop in Market Street, Johannesburg, to show him some of his products. The very next day, Gys literally sold all his stock to Tony Factor, who then started collecting from Gys on a weekly basis. Soon, he was supplying Lotters Pine Shops with the same goods.
And so, Gys together with his life-long friend and apprentice, Michael (or “Kokok” as Gys endearingly calls him), started a small and humble business on his family farm in Eikenhof, south of Johannesburg.
As his business grew, Gys moved his woodworking factory to Alrode South and officially registered his company GF Potgieter Enterprises in 1982. He was supplying OK Bazaars and other individual shop-owners with his range also including beds, breakfast nooks and room dividers.
Soon, his business grew to 350 people, with his company making furniture for the likes of Game, Dion and Pick n Pay. He also introduced a new furniture range and well-known South African brand Duralog.
In 1998 devastation struck as Gys’s woodworking factory burnt to the ground. This was a life-changing event for Gys and he started thinking about his passion, his true purpose and once again finding real pleasure in life.
Gys slowly started rebuilding the woodworking machinery that survived the blaze, and started GFP Woodwork Machines, which he continues to sell to this day. Next he consolidated and sold his various businesses.
Then, 10 years ago, Gys moved back to where it all started – the farm in Eikenhof, south of Johannesburg. Gys now has his dream workshop where he is able to focus on his true passion, working with his hands – and with wood! He is back in business, doing what he loves – making bespoke furniture with beautiful, indigenous wood for commissioning clients.
Part of the legacy Gys wants to leave behind is to share his knowledge, passion and love for wood.
Darren Myburgh, a qualified industrial designer, has joined Gys in Kuni as apprentice woodcrafter, and together they patiently design and create masterpieces.
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