We had the good fortune of connecting with Duncan Greenwood and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Duncan, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
At first I thought it would be a nifty way to make some income on the side from a hobby. I have a passion for juggling and fire dancing, and quality props are hard to get in South Africa, so I started a shop called Flow DNA. The idea was to provide lots of toys for my friends and I to play with at parties, basically. I had a full-time job in animation, so money wasn’t the focus. It was a way of attempting to sustainably produce art that I love to make, and encouraging people to express their own motions. I wanted to see a world where everyone had more interesting toys.

Over time I noticed the positive changes this venture was having on the people it touched, and I decided to focus on it full-time. It felt like the best contribution I could make with my unique set of skills, and if I could set it up as a smooth-running system, it could become a “passive income”. It has since provided all sorts of amazing opportunities to make art that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t followed my passion, but the “passive” thing hasn’t worked out yet. It turns out that there is nothing passive about the way I’ve been doing this so far. I’m working on changing that.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The ability to perceive and predict motion is fundamental to our capability to interact with our universe. Motion defines the change between the past, present, and future states of objects. Being able to quickly assess the state of an object allows us to respond to its potential, as opposed to merely reacting. A motion can be an abstract or philosophical change or effect, but it’s easier to start training with simple physical things like balls and sticks.

We can make things move in whatever ways, for whatever reasons that we choose. Jugglers might seek to perform successively more complex patterns for the sake of challenging themselves, developing physical and mental dexterity. Circus performers use their skills to inspire and impress an audience. Flow arts can be a tool for movement meditation and mind-body connection, much like yoga. I look at it as a real-time animation medium. It’s also fun to move things.

I founded Flow DNA to promote this assortment of arts in South Africa by providing props and toys that facilitate dance and play. It was the first online shop of its kind down here, and now supplies a wide range of almost all the basic props that you might need to get your body moving – poi, hoops, staffs, gymnastic ribbons, and many other things that may or may not have fire or lights on them.

Pioneering a new industry is not easy. For 7 years I have lived a frugal lifestyle, worked multiple jobs at a time, and invested all my energy into building this business. Over the past few years I have learned some expensive lessons. People will take advantage if you allow them, and ownership only works along with taking responsibility. Nothing becomes anything unless we put more in than we take out, until it can sustain itself, and produce a surplus in return, like growing a fruit tree from seed.

I also make my own range of props, combining my CG design skills to drive CNC machinery, making shapes specifically for the subtle feelings I get when I play with them. Although they’re a bit too niche for the South African market, when I started reaching out internationally, I received a lot of positive feedback. Most of my designs are going to the USA, and being at the bottom of Africa provides challenges when it comes to serving the needs of Americans. I find myself running 2 very different projects, and I prefer the one where I get to make fancy new contributions to an art form. In 2022 I plan to split off from Flow DNA, leaving it to do what works in South Africa, taking myself to America, and starting a new business. I will learn more effective ways to produce my designs locally where there is more interest in them, and we’ll see what happens next.

I am calling this new project Motionception.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There are some great beaches around Cape Town that I’d dig to spend more time surfing at. We have a community fire jam once a month at Clifton 2nd beach. Walking up Table Mountain ends up with some great views of the city. I’m also a huge fan of jumping around at the trampoline park.

My ideal trip takes us far out of town to places like Wild Spirit in Nature’s Valley, for rustic vibes, chilling and drumming around a fire, walking in the indigenous forests spotting birds, and looking up to see more stars than we do from the city. Around there is the Bloukrans River Bridge – the highest commercial natural bungee jump in the world. There are nature reserves and animal sanctuaries all along the coast, such as Addo Elephant Park. There’s something about elephants that you just can’t experience until you look one in the eyes and hug them.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The most obvious shoutout would be to my parents in thanks for my existence to start with, and for providing a secure upbringing that not everyone is blessed with.

Countless people have inspired me along the way.
What I appreciate most is when people are there to bounce ideas with me. I have a lot of ideas, and verbalising them with someone is the first step towards manifesting them.

Some ideas are great, some need some adjustment to work, and some are unachievable, or just plain silly. It really helps to be able to get feedback from people so we can filter and adjust our intentions. Everyone who has ever collaborated with me on an idea, whether it was theirs, mine, or ours, and allowed the space to see where it goes, even if it didn’t go anywhere. I am grateful for those conversations and memories that built layers on my intentions. Thank you all for iteratively creating me.

Prisna, Sean, and Savvy of Flowtoys deserve a shoutout. They have been there at every step of my flow arts career, making products that inspired me to get into this business, and they’ve been consistently patient and supportive as suppliers, customers, and also friends.

Also shouting out to Jessy Spin – an amazing performer from Australia. Her mad Instagram and dance skills have been instrumental in getting my work on the map, and she’s provided important critique on my designs.

Website: flowdna.co.za

Instagram: @flowdna_arts

Linkedin: duncanroygreenwood

Twitter: @flowdna

Facebook: @flowdna

Youtube: youtube.com/flowdna

Other: motionception.com – coming soonish. instagram.com/motionception facebook.com/motionception youtube.com/motionception twitter.com/motionception patreon.com/motionception

Image Credits
Prefix Photography – fire sticks and lecture photo. Megan Davies Photography – fire fans Boost021 – fire s-staffs Joffrey Hyman Photography – party hats at Equinox Festival stall setup photo by someone on our team Light trails and waterfall selfie by me.

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