Review: Connecting creators at Factory Design District

By Penny Craswell

It was bad luck that the worst storm to hit Sydney in decades happened to coincide with the most exciting new design event to make its debut in the city this year. Factory Design District is the brainchild of Kobe Johns who brought her previous experience on DesignEX and London Design Festival to the event, which ran over three days as part of Vivid Ideas.

Johns now runs joinery workshop JP Finsbury with her partner (in work and in life) Adam Price and envisaged Factory Design District as a way for manufacturers and makers to connect with the design industry and the design-loving public.

Factory Design District, held in Sydney in June 2016. Photo: Fiona Susanto
Factory Design District, held in Sydney in June 2016. Photo: Fiona Susanto

The mission of the event, which included stands by some 30 exhibitors, was to start a dialogue between those people who work in timber, metal, fabric etc. and those who are curious about the process of making, or who may want bespoke or off-the-shelf Australian-made and designed goods. Read more

Object stories: Carafe Table by Charles Wilson

By Penny Craswell

The Carafe table has a visual and structural complexity to it that is characteristic of the work of Charles Wilson, a Sydney-based designer who worked in close collaboration with Herman Miller over a period of years to complete the project.

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Carafe table with drawer designed by Charles Wilson for Herman Miller


The underside features a series of compartments in moulded plywood including open shelves as well as a closed, sliding drawer that opens both ways, sloping inwards to create a geometry that is tucked in under the tabletop. The leg structure spans to the corners of the table, supporting the shelves but visually forming a third layer underneath that is drawn together at the centre in a distinctive T cross-section which Wilson says references industrial structures. Read more

Five designer-maker stories from Simple Shape

By Penny Craswell

A wide-ranging discussion with Helen Osgerby, design lover and the brains behind online store Simple Shape, takes in the changing precinct of Deptford in London, serendipitous encounters with like-minded individuals, the role of narrative and storytelling in design, and the (almost literally) polar-opposite weather: balaclava-cold in London, oven-hot in Sydney.

Our rapport is instant, despite the distance, perhaps thanks to Osgerby’s approach to design, which is very much focused on storytelling. “When something has a story attached it, it has a resonance,” explains Osgerby. “That was one of the things that was important in thinking about the business. It’s about quality too – feeling a glass jug is handblown for example, it’s very skilled and unique and incredible.”

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The pastel ceramics collection by Elliott Ceramics, Simple Shape. Photo: supplied.

The pastel collection by Elliot Ceramics, Simple Shape. Photo: supplied.
The pastel collection by Elliot Ceramics, Simple Shape. Photo: supplied.
I first heard about Simple Shape from Helen’s husband Jay Osgerby, half of London design studio Barber Osgerby, so it’s no surprise to learn that Helen is fully immersed in the design community, with plenty of knowledge and contacts (she tells me a story about working with “jelly architects” Bompas and Parr for an event where they decided it would be great fun to explode some jelly). 
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Object stories: Macadamia wood design by Quench

By Penny Craswell

Quench is a group of Queensland-based designers who have been coming together each year for five years to exhibit their work both in Australia and overseas. In 2015, for the first time, the designers of Quench decided to take a more unified approach, deciding on one material – macadamia wood – and one theme – objects relating to food. The result is a series of objects that are handcrafted and beautiful, creating a truly Australian collection that tells a story. The name of the exhibition, which was shown at Tokyo Designers Week in 2015, is “Table Stories”.

Dr Crunch by Marc Harrison for Table Stories. Image: Supplied
Dr Crunch by Marc Harrison for Table Stories. Image: Supplied

For Table Stories, each designer has created a different story to tell. Marc Harrison, known for his Husque tablewares made of processed macadamia shell, has designed a macadamia nut cracker called Dr Crunch. Alexander Lotersztain, an Argentinian-born multi-disciplinary designer working under his brand Derlot, handcrafted Sclpt, a series of four spoons; Jason Bird, who sells furniture and objects under his brand Luxxbox, designed three objects called Vessel; Surya Graf, whose work spans architecture and industrial design, created Hex, a mortal and pestle grinder for fresh spices; and David Shaw, who designs furniture and is founder / director of the Street and Garden Furniture Co, created Prop, a sculptural object for holding hot food as well as a tea candle. Read more

Exploring small living with the Moonlight Cabin

By Penny Craswell

Unlike other parts of Australia, the South West coast of Victoria does not get very hot – summer maximum averages are around 23º (73ºF) while winter minimum averages are around 6º (42ºF). Architecture firm Jackson Clements Burrows have designed a small holiday cabin along the coast here as an experiment in small living as well as a way to test the best architecture to suit the climate.

Small footprint living at the Moonlight Cabin by JCB. Photo: Jeremy Weihrauch of Gollings Studio
Small footprint living at the Moonlight Cabin by JCB. Photo: Jeremy Weihrauch of Gollings Studio

Called Moonlight Cabin, the structure has a small footprint at only 60sqm (645sqft), an intentional choice to challenge what size is necessary for a holiday house. Inside, the cabin is one large space, with the kitchen, bathroom and utilities clustered in a central “pod”. Read more

Review: Scented Intoxication exhibition by Lyn and Tony

By Penny Craswell

Lyn Balzer and Tony Perkins are a Sydney-based photography and designer/maker duo with an international sensibility, whose works are nevertheless deeply rooted in Australia. Their new exhibition at Sydney’s Australian Design Centre, called Scented Intoxication, features works made from a range of materials in two simple colours: black and white. But it is scent that is the most extraordinary feature of this exhibition.

Gallery view, Scented Intoxication. Photo: Australian Design Centre
Gallery view, Scented Intoxication. Photo: Supplied by Australian Design Centre

When you enter the exhibition space, it hits you right away, a beautiful, heady perfume that is not sweet or perfume-like in the traditional sense, but is reminiscent of burnt wood or native Australian vegetation or both. Lyn and Tony worked with French-born Australian-based Elise Pioch Balzac of Maison Balzac to create two scents for two scented candles: L’Obscurite (darkness) is a black candle with a scent inspired by one of Lyn and Tony’s photographs of a sea cave in Kiama NSW. Elise interpreted the image in a scent inspired by volcanic rocks using tree resin, birch tar and red cedar. The other scent is L’Etrangete (strangeness), a white candle with a scent inspired by another photograph by Lyn and Tony, this time of a waterfall in a lush rainforest. Elise interpreted this image of sunlight in greenery as a scent with lemon myrtle, native ginger and hemp. Read more

Review: Timber crafted bar and sauna by Partisans

By Penny Craswell

Founded in 2011, Partisans is an architecture studio run by Alexander Josephson, Pooya Baktash and Jonathan Friedman in Toronto, Canada. Two recent projects use innovative digital technologies to create beautiful interiors in wood: Bar Raval and Grotto Sauna.

Bar Raval, bar at night. Photo: Jonathan Friedman
Bar Raval, bar at night. Photo: Jonathan Friedman

The brief from Bar Raval’s clients Canadian chef Grant van Gameren and mixologists Mike Webster and Robin Goodfellow, was to create an enduring institution that is also an “art piece”. Partisans developed a highly detailed digital model of the space and then enlisted the help of fabricators MCM and software engineers Mastercam to create prefabricated components, crafted in sinuous lines. Over 9km of engravings on 75 panels of wood created the final bar interior.  Read more