Crafting Competitiveness 7 Artisans on Craft Michael Young Be Productive! The Scope of Uphostery Scope Furniture Scrapbook Shareen Joel
INSPIRATION / IDEATION / DESIGN / INNOVATION / INDUSTRY
editors’ letter Finding your competitive advantage.
... consumers and specifiers are increasingly embracing local products – the market is tiring of mass brands and products of questionable provenance and authorship...
n an effort to assist Australia’s furnishing sector to become more resilient in the face of future challenges, Furnishing International advocates for smart industry and sustainable competitiveness based on craftsmanship, authenticity, design and innovation. In doing this, we aim to represent different perspectives around what is working, who is innovating and what are the best strategies to offer relevant, saleable products to specifier and consumer audiences. We like to see people with ideas and energy doing well. In this issue, we turn our gaze to furniture manufacturing through the eyes of some of our industry leaders. While they are all unique you will see patterns emerging! Each issue has it’s own tone and one theme that repeatedly emerged as we compiled this issue is ‘competitive advantage’. When we search it out, we can see evidence that the best positioned and performing businesses in the sector have their own unique process, product, technology, or offering. Competing in the mid-market with similar products is clearly now a race to the bottom on price. The market is segmenting and Australian designers and manufacturers who find and exploit their unique niche are doing okay. “We don’t compete” is what almost everybody said, proving that if you can find your niche and hold it, there is a viable future. As a fundamental element in this conversation we can also see that consumers and specifiers are increasingly embracing local products – the market is tiring of mass brands and products of questionable provenance and authorship. The design market is demanding sustainable, ethical, quality. These are good signs for local industry. Recent financial hardships have meant that manufacturing companies have had to rationalise their business models with leaner operations and an increased ability to adapt to uncertain market conditions. These constraints present opportunities for new thinking. It’s good to see common sense coming to the fore, we’re seeing great communications and branding delivering real dividends, we see businesses diversifying into complimentary areas of industry, embracing customisation as an advantage over global brands, offering short lead times as an antidote to importation and fostering good business relationships with clients as a vital key to success. We hope you enjoy the various perspective we are putting forward, and join with us as we consider the things we need to keep and the things we need to change for our furnishing ecosystem to remain as diverse and productive as possible.
Ewan McEoin and Linda Cheng
We chat to Michael Young on his experiences working in Asia. We look at creative innovations from around the world and four great Australian designs made right here.
34 Crafting Competitiveness
Capacity The Scope of Upholstery One of the few remaining upholsterers in Australia, Scope Furniture is diversifying their capacity to remain competitive in a dwindling industry.
Talking Business With Bekaert and Qasair.
Differentiation through craftsmanship, design and authenticity is a crucial survival strategy in the Australian furniture industry. We visit seven successful businesses and investigate their approach to carving out a niche.
58 New Products
Scrapbook Product and interior designer Shareen Joel shares her inspirations, influences and most idolised possessions.
68 Industry News
Cover image: Paul Blake of Chatsworth Fine Furniture. Portrait by Change Creative (Ty Layton) Correction: Last issue, we misidentified Patrizia Torelli as President of the Australian Furniture Association (p.43). Her correct title is CEO.
above: Michael Young recently collaborated with Australian textile company Instyle. Left: Michael Young
michael young is a proliFic designer based in hong kong. he’s known For his collaborations with international brands and launching products in a wide range oF markets, all the while working with local industries in china. he shares his views on business, being motivated and the raw Facts on doing business in australia. Interview Linda Cheng Photography Courtesy of Michael Young Studio
Can you tell us about your experiences working in Asia? It’s been a really organic. I got a lot of attention when I went to Hong Kong. That really helped people engage with me. Around that foundation, many businesses started to happen. The fact is if you can offer good design and good promotion, then people will come to you. Some 20 or 30 companies that I’ve worked with are all doing really well. How did you make that happen? I’d say entirely by accident. I think if I had gone to Asia without a few things under my belt, it wouldn’t have worked. Luckily when I left college, I got backed by a Japanese company. I worked for Laurent Perrier. I was in a micro-cosmos where things were happening and I got a few little opportunities. Those things became very important culturally 10 years later, like working for Magis, Cappellini and Rosenthal. So by the time I came to Asia, I had some ammunition. They trusted me. That was really the foundation. But also equally, working for those companies meant that I had a communication network in Europe which for Asia is incredibly valuable. Australians sometimes feel disadvantaged by the distance from Europe. You’ve been based in Hong Kong for a long time and you work a lot with these international companies, can you tell us about your experiences with that and do you have any words of wisdom for Australians who feel that disadvantage?
parker Furniture Bringing great Australian design back to life Sydney manufacturing and design outfit WORKSHOPPED is collaborating with Covemore Designs to re-introduce selected pieces from the ‘Mid-Century’ range designed by Tony Parker (pictured right). As if destined for resurrection, Tony Parker’s furniture is made by the original skilled tradespeople Parker Furniture, who are now employed by Covemore. Tony Parker spent his early career in London honing his skills by designing contemporary furniture for the department store John Lewis. When he returned to Sydney, Tony set out to expand his father’s furniture business by developing the ‘Mid-Century’ furniture range. He’s been a leader of the Australian furniture industry for over 40 years. WORKSHOPPED is the exclusive distributor of the new ‘Mid-Century’ range made by Covemore in the factory in Seven Hills, Sydney. parker.workshopped.com.au covemore.com.au
Winter issue 2013
petit ballerina Prima and Petit Ballerina (pictured) by Melbourne-based designer Simone LeAmon draws inspiration from a historic lamp shade design. Emerging in the late 19th Century, the ballerina lamp shade is easily recognisable as one of the iconic decorative objects from the Edwardian era with its distinctive silhouette, twist and frills. Simone developed the product with lighting manufacturing Rakumba in a six-month residency. Through exchanging ideas and learning the manufacturing capacity, the product evolved to capitalise on the skill-sets of Rakumba craftswomen. simoneleamon.com
Winter issue 2013
mataerial Mataerial is a revolutionary new method of 3D printing. Conventional additive manufacturing works by building up layer upon layer of material on a flat 2D horizontal surface. It makes creating 3D objects on non-horizontal, unsmooth or irregular surfaces almost impossible. Created in a collaboration between Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia and Joris Laarman Studio, Mataerial works by using innovative extrusion technology. Harnessing the power of a robotic arm, similar to those in car manufacturing factories that spraypaint parts, Mataerial prints ‘cables’ melted plastic onto any surface at any angle. The method, dubbed ‘Anti-Gravity Object Modelling’, creates naturally shaped objects and follows exact stress lines of custom shapes. It can also manufacture structures to any size. We’re interested to see how Australian companies embrace the emerging possibilities of 3D printing, dynamic structures and thin ply technology. mataerial.com
Winter issue 2013
printed solar cells Three years in the making, Australian scientists have produced the largest printed solar cell. In a collaborative effort between CSIRO, Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VICOSC), The University of Melbourne, Monash University and industry partners, researchers have been able to print organic photovoltaic cells onto an A3 sheet of flexible plastic, which is ten times larger than previously possible size of a fingernail. The $200,000 printer uses existing printing techniques with semi-conducting inks and can print onto plastic or steel. The cells are expected to generate 10-50 watts of electricity per square metre. Itâ€™s also fast, producing one cell every two seconds. This extremely accessible technology is making ever increasing advancements towards off-grid power generation. The printed solar cells can be applied to roof tiles and sheeting, cladding and even curtains which, as well as filtering sunlight, can have the added function of generating electricity for a building. csiro.au
Winter issue 2013
FEaturE: craftinG coMpetitiVeness
craFtsmanship is eXperiencing a kind oF renaissance in the australian Furniture industry. we visit seven craFtsmen and investigate their uniQue approaches to craFt. Text Linda Cheng Portraits Change Creative (Ty Layton, pp. 35–38), Elizabeth Harvey (p. 41)
Winter issue 2013
n the world of furniture making, the pendulum has swung many times between the heights of industrial efficiency and humanist craftsmanship. Right now, as we see market forces rationalise almost to the point of oblivion, it seems that the negative implications of industrial excess are re-igniting an appreciation for craftsmanship and provenance as we search for more humanist modes of production. We’ve seen this well documented through the Arts and Crafts movement of late 19th Century. Spearheaded by English writer William Morris, the movement rejected great technological advances that led to the Industrial Revolution, instead, championing principles of tradition craftsmanship. We can see many of the Arts and Crafts ideals paralleled today – an emphasis on quality, truth to materials, integration of design and making, even craft as a form of social healing. We spoke to seven practitioners from around the country about their different approaches to production and the ways they have sustained a competitive business against the swinging pendulum of lower costs and lower margins and we see some critical themes emerging. As competitive strategies go, diversification is an excellent way to stay
competitive, often as well, it’s an effective method to protect against the pressures of retail. Whether this is through customisation, working with architects and designers or with clients direct. The downward cost pressures have caused a polarisation in the market. Whilst cheap imports have found a place, there’s also an upward trend of people who are prepared to spend more, but less often, on products that they can emotionally connect to. According to industry opinion, the biggest competitive advantage is the ability to customise, be quick to market and maintain short delivery lead times. Our featured practitioners all have diverse and varying approaches to their work, but what they all have in common is the determined and unwavering pursuit of quality. This has allowed each to carve out their own niche in the upper pool of the market. There’s also a sense that whilst at times it seems to be a hard life that they’ve chosen, craft is also a deeply person endeavour. The act of making something, to have that humanist connection to a product and impart the narrative of a craftsperson, the materials and the process within it is what sets them apart from the pack. And it’s this connection to the products that consumers are responding to.
FEaturE: craftinG coMpetitiVeness
amien Wright is widely recognised as one of Australia’s foremost timber craftsmen, a favourite amongst architects and designers who has worked in private commissions for the last 20 years. His exquisite Brief table is currently travelling around Australia as part of JamFactory’s WOOD: art design architecture exhibition. After graduating from a Bachelor of Arts in history and politics, Damien found himself facing unemployment. “So I started making furniture out of driftwood because I had a yearning to do so,” recalls Damien. Whilst travelling around the world visiting furniture studios, Damien came across Glen Holst’s workshop in Bridgetown, WA. Inspired, he quickly saw the potential for a future in furniture making. Damien works almost exclusively with Australian Indigenous timbers. “Very much timbers that are outside of the dominant cannon of craft timbers,” he explains. “These Australian species don’t fit into an industrial furnishing scale because the timbers just don’t provide the uniform product that fits into the demands of a volume growth industry.” As such, he works predominately in one-off commissions for clients, architects and designers. Apart from his much-revered craftsmanship skills, it’s this language of Indigenous timbers that is central to Damien’s work. “Very early on I developed technical specialities in particular types of timber and a particular argument about the use of various Australian timber. It ties me back into my formal training as a historian and my interest in politics, society, environment and economics,” he says. “So I found a way to explore a form of identity politics through woodwork.” In 2010, Damien was invited by the Gumatj clan of Yolngu people of north east Arnhem Land to assist in their timber forestry project. The workshop which he helped set up makes useful products for their community. To the Indigenous people, this was a chance to exchange knowledge and expertise, a two-way learning process the Gumatj refer to as ‘balagalili’. “I think there’s lots of potential for those types of enterprises, for their social relationships and the social capital, but also for the potential economic capital that comes out of them as well,” says Damien. One of the major drivers of Damien’s work is the cultural-political value of craft. “Craft is a way of reconciling a settler experience,” he explains. “It’s a way of connecting to Indigenous cultures, both in Australia and across our region. It’s under developed and under explored in terms of its capacity to find meaningful relationships between a settler society and our Indigenous people. Craft is a search for meaning and place-making and craft is about reconciliation.” wrightstudios.com.au
CapaCity: scope furniture
The Scope of Upholstery one oF the Few remaining upholsterers in australia, scope Furniture is diversiFying their capacity to remain competitive in a dwindling industry Text Linda Cheng Photography Courtesy of Scope Furniture
Winter issue 2013
capacity: scope furniture
pholstery is one of those trades in the furnishing industry that would face possible extinction if it weren’t for a select few people and companies still in the business. In Victoria alone, the upholstery schools have closed down and it’s no longer offered as TAFE course, so the only places left to learn the trade is on the job. Drew Milvain is one of these people keeping the trade alive. As owner and director of Scope Furniture, he started the company as an upholstery business and over the years, the company has evolved to become a manufacturer of commercial furniture, making products for many of the well known brands and retailers in Australia that are often specified by architects and designers. Scope made products are easily recognisable in many commercial projects. Initially studying architectural drafting, Drew always had a keen interest in furniture but fell into the upholstery trade inadvertently after he was offered a job through a friend. From doing odd jobs in his home shed to picking up custom work and sharing a factory with another Melbourne manufacturer and retailer, Tait, Drew now runs two factory operations in Tullamarine and employs around 20 staff. From humble beginnings, the business has matured and consolidated its position in the market. “We don’t compete,” Drew says. “We’ve really stayed on a path of custom made commercial furniture and short lead times. All the things that can’t be sourced from overseas and there are only a select few here who are doing it.” Short lead times, high quality products and the ability to adapt have really been the key to Scope’s survival in the industry and maintain their capacity. “At the moment we have 115 different jobs in the system, which would add up to 900 individual pieces of furniture. And we can be working on 10 different things in a day,” says Drew. As more and more contracts have come in, Scope has adapted to add other trades to the business. Last year, it acquired a steel factory in a neighbouring street. “It came with a contract to make table bases as well as all the steel bases for our chairs and tables that we make here,” explains Drew. “It’s been a good addition to complement what we were already doing so we didn’t have to outsource as much.”
Winter Issue 2013
talking business: qasair
taLkiNG BuSiNESS: qasair
The business of rangehoods a local manuFacturing success story, Qasair rangehoods takes on the south east asian market.
top: Qasair factory in Ringwood. right: Qasair Maihand Rangehood Far left: motors Left: ducting
his year marks the 40th anniversary of the Qasair rangehood. It’s an Australian success story – the only Australian made rangehood on the market – taking on its European counterparts. The technology of the Qasair rangehood was originally developed by immigrant German engineer Helmut Goetz who designed the motor as well as the ducting. Goetz departed for the US and the product was bought from him by John Keating and his business partner. Qasair is developed specifically for Australian conditions, climate and cooking styles. Australia is a country of people who like to cook. “We’re so multi-cultural, we do a lot of exotic cooking at home so we need that higher air flow,” says Crystal Wong, Qasair’s Business Development Manager. “Australians cook quite a bit of meat, do a lot of barbecuing on the stove top. We use high powered grillers and teppanyaki plates inside the home – this is where we excel.” Because of the climate conditions in Australia, loss of warm air from the interior of a house isn’t as much of a concern as European homes which have to be airlocked, allowing the motors to move more air through the rangehoods.
“As well as the motors, it’s also the ducting that we use,” continues Crystal. “We make all our own ducting. It’s much bigger than the average ducting used by any other rangehoods which is why they work. We also custom make the ducting pieces for situations where they can’t get around obstacles with standard pieces.” It’s this customisation that has allowed Qasair to corner the market with specifiers. Architects and designers often like to custom design rangehoods which Qasair can manufacture locally. In its history, the technology has remained largely unchanged. “We’ve used the same air movement for many, many years. We’ve had it all tested by CSIRO. But we are trying to get the noise level down further,” say John. The rangehoods are insulated with fibreglass matting which reduces the noise level to around 45 decibels making it one of the quietest on the market. With its success in Australia, the company also exports to New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia, where similar home cooking styles and similar climate conditions have opened up new market opportunities. qasair.com.au
Scrapbook by shareen Joel
hareen Joel is an industrial designer whose work crosses disciplines of product design, interior, branding and creative direction. She initially worked for Ford Motor Company after graduation, in a role that took her to the car manufacturing hub of Detroit in the US. She is the daughter of a fashion designer and in her 20 year career, sheâ€™s blended her interests in fashion with the industrial and engineering culture she acquired while working for Ford. Jetsetting around the world attending fashion and trade shows, Shareen was charged with forecasting and translating form, material and colour trends for the automotive industry. In 2003, Shareen established her multidisciplinary design practice, Shareen Joel Design, based in Melbourne. And in 2011, she launched Share Design, an online resource of design inspirations for designers and consumers alike.
Winter Issue 2013
the place for designers to share their thoughts
by Shareen Joel
Scrapbook by shareen Joel
Shareen Joel in her Prahran studio. Photo: Sharyn Cairns
CITYBOOk Modular bookcase designed by Antonella Di Luca and Ubaldo Righi. Made from sheet iron. Available in white and dark grey. Mr Less & Mrs More, mrless-mrsmore.com
Winter issue 2013
SERIF STOOL by Charles Wilson. Powdercoated die-cast aluminium. Available in Safety Yellow, X15 Orange, Blaze Blue and Signal Red. Charles Wilson, charleswilsondesign.com
MARINA OUTDOOR TABLE designed by Bruno Fattorini & Partners. Made from protrusion glass fibre profiles. Extremis, extremis.be
UP LAMP, designed by Mattias StrĂĽhlbom for Muuto. Made from aluminium and iron. Available in grey, green and white. Forest for the Trees, forestftt.com.au
kĂ„SPAIkkA BATH TOWEL, 100% cotton. Marimekko, marimekko.com
Winter issue 2013
Industry News New kids on the block
Furnishing in Focus 1â€“30 May resented by Warwick Fabrics and support by Australian Made campaign, Furnishing in Focus toured the country starting in Brisbane and ending in Perth. The events showcased the best of locally produced furniture. This strictly import free event brought together buyers and exhibitors drawing hundreds of visitors in each city.
Melton Craft turns 25 9â€“14 april aunched at Milan Furniture Fair this year was brand new Melbourne-based furniture design practice, Another Small Studio. Comprising of a partnership between object designer Tom Shaw and spatial designer Linda Raimondo, the pair were invited to exhibit as part of Salone Satellite amongst the worldâ€™s most promising emerging designers. Tom is originally from Manchester and has lived and worked in the UK and Japan as well as in Melbourne as design manager of Jardan. Linda has worked in design firms in Europe and Asia. The pair established their studio when they relocated from London to Melbourne. Their first collection is inspired by the nomadic lifestyle both have lead. With products designed to be easily assembled and disassembled, and moved from place to place, even across continents. Each of the furniture pieces have also been designed with a cheeky nod to the various cities they have both lived in, including Melbourne, London, Leeds and Tokyo. The duo hopes that with this concept, their collection will have global appeal and help promote Australian design internationally.
Winter Issue 2013
stablished by John and Lucy Booker, Melton Craft was originally a giftware business with a small range of cast aluminium tables and chairs. In 25 years, the business has evolved to a wholesaler of outdoor furniture with a range of cast aluminium, stone, steel, teak, wicker and outdoor leather offerings. Melton Craft is look forward to future business opportunities supplying the domestic and commercial markets.
Global adventure for Lifestyle Enterprise
fter building a solid client clientele base in the US. Lifestyle Enterprise is now turn its attention to the global market. Six years ago the company established a global distribution network penetrating key markets including Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia, Europe, Middle East and South Africa. The company trades in over 60 countries worldwide. With the stronger economy in Australia, based on per capita sale, the market here is now second only to Puerto Rico.
18–21 July DESIGN:MADE:TRADE & Furnitex Melbourne, Australia
Six years strong, Design:Made:Trade has been a springboard for Australian design talent in fashion, furniture, textiles and industrial design. For the first time,
Design:Made:Trade will be a curated forum with Scott Lewis at the helm featuring over 30 artists and designers including the young guns at Lab de Stu, Melbourne ceramicist Gregory Bonasera and Ingrid Tufts who is exhibiting her handmade porcelain tableware (pictured above). Design:Made:Trade is exhibiting as part of Decoration + Design, co-located with Furnitex.
27–28 July Open House Melbourne Melbourne, Australia
1 May – 1 August Design100 City Design Awards Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane
Now in its sixth year, Melbourne’s prime historic and contemporary architectural buildings open their doors to the public for a weekend, aimed at helping people engage with the architectural heritage of the city. This year, a total of 111 buildings will be opening their doors.
Submissions are open for Design100’s City Design Awards including Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The awards recognise excellence in a multitude of design disciplines including product, interior, architecture and textile. This year, Design100 is also launch a new Furniture Design Awards category. Entries close 1 August.
Winter Issue 2013
A new feature this year will be Australian Manufacturers Precinct showcasing the breadth of Australian made furniture. The move aims to encourage growth in the Australian furniture industry and create opportunities for Australian manufacturers. designmadetrade.com.au furnitex.com.au
3 August – 10 January George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher Sydney
Powerhouse Museum and Herman Miller present an exhibition of George Nelson, one of the most prolific designers of the 20th Century. The exhibition is curated by Vitra Design Museum in Germany and will be the first time seen in Australia. hermanmiller.com.au powerhousemuseum.com