Jon Goulder: all in hand

January 20, 2016

Designer and maker Jon Goulder brings worlds together through his material approach and an inherited legacy. MEZZANINE speaks with JamFactory’s current creative director

Written by: Marcus Piper, Images by Bo Wong. 

“It is all about feel and touch – it’s all in your hands” – this was the advice of Ernie William Goulder, an upholsterer who handed his craft down through generations. His business, E W Goulder and Sons, was a highly regarded furniture manufacturing and upholstery business in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, employing his three sons and some 20 additional staff . Ernie Goulder was blind and, as his grandson Jon Goulder recalls, “he would feel his way around the factory and huff and puff when he felt foam.” Ernie was of a time before synthetic materials and had no time for foam.

Thirty years on, Jon Goulder is bringing craft and design together, continuing the legacy he inherited as a fourth-generation furniture-maker. Having studied under the late George Ingham at the Canberra School of Art (now School of Art (ANU)), who placed particular emphasis on developing craft skills, Goulder began his career as an apprentice to his grandfather, father and two uncles, making use of the family factory to develop his own ideas. “I found antique furniture quite grotesque, so I wanted to design things that performed the same function but were more clean lined,” he says. “I really was a country lad who naturally started to design and make stuff for no reason.”

This exploration of aesthetics as a direct result of his understanding of the traditions of furniture-making, has continued to evolve for Goulder, placing him in a rare position, somewhere between master craftsman and designer. “Ten years ago I asked my graphic designer if they thought I was committing career suicide by calling myself a design/maker,” he says with a part serious, part humorous tone. Craft has come a long way in the past decade and it is people like Goulder who have broken down its stigma and modernised the way we perceive traditional techniques.

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