This article originally appeared in Mezzanine – Summer. Photography by: Bruce Moyle and Jonathan Wherrett.
It has been a big year for Tasmania-based Simon Ancher, settling into his new store and studio, exploring the potential of a new resource of salvaged timbers and furthering his range of handcrafted furniture – all while running the furniture department at the University of Tasmania and spending time with his three boys.
With a reputation for handcrafted custom furniture and interiors built over 15 years, the designer says: “Last year the enquiries kept coming for two pieces in particular… so I decided I needed a dedicated display space for residential items.”
The space, which is set off Launceston’s main street in a Heritage-listed stable, is a team effort between Ancher and his wife Lisa. Lisa is “the driving force behind shaping the look of the space and skilfully coordinating other Australian-designed objects that complement my work,” he says.
The collection highlights Ancher’s observation that: “There is a strong appetite for quality, Australian-designed objects in Tasmania that is increasingly being supported by locally produced food, wine and craft beers… there is a great ‘buy local’ vibe here.”
It is no secret that Tasmania has undergone an enormous cultural shift in the last decade thanks in part to Arts Tasmania’s Design Island initiative and, of course, ‘The MONA eff ect’. “Tassie has seen a huge increase in visitors. Tourists particularly love the handmade objects and Tasmanian timbers,”he says.
Since his Plied rocker won the Premier’s Best in Show award at the 2006 Tasmania Wood Design Collection Biennial Exhibition, Ancher has established himself at the forefront of a new era of design on the island state. It is a position that is gaining attention across the country, via social media, with his client base expanding to be almost 50 percent interstate in the last year.
Along with his furniture, Ancher undertakes public commissions for seating and works with various organisations to develop more sustainable timber resources in Tasmania. One such resource is Hydrowood, which Ancher has been testing through his role as program director for the furniture design department at the University of Tasmania. The timber, which is salvaged from the fl oor of Lake Pieman on the west coast of the isle, “has an amazingly relaxed nature and is a pleasure to work with,” he says. The Hydrowood was submerged when the lake was formed in 1986. Ancher believes its introduction gives the maker a second chance to get things right and make the most of such a precious resource.
Similarly, Ancher sees new growth in the appreciation of furniture. “Quality, design, craftsmanship and longevity are becoming more important than price,” he says, “and what has been really great to see is the younger generation investing in furniture that they intend to keep forever.”
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