IDEA Retrospective: Ross Didier

August 21, 2014

Continuing our IDEA Retrospective series, Australian Design Review presents a conversation with Ross Didier written by CATC student Amy Thomson. Didier reflects on his IDEA award winning project of 2005, the Obelisk Chair.

Above image: Obelisk chairs as seen on the Ross Didier site.

Ross Didier is a regular guest at IDEA, having won in the Product category in 2005 and receiving multiple nominations through the program over the years. Didier’s Elfin Oak is also on the IDEA 2014 shortlist in the Objects category.

Ross Didier had chosen to meet for this interview at Cumulus Inc, an established dining institution on Flinders Lane in Melbourne. Shortly after arriving, restaurant owner Andrew McConnell wanders past, and gives Ross a familiar nod – two master craftsmen apparently aware of each other’s skill and reputation.

For more than a decade, Ross Didier has created inspired pieces of furniture, attracting respect and recognition across the world along the way. Given the international acclaim that follows him, Didier presents as kind and humble. Reflecting on his student days, Didier remembers the intimidation he felt when he decided to make the jump from Fine Art to Industrial Design at RMIT. The two disciplines seemed destined to become his calling card.

Didier’s interest in sculpture was matched with a passion for furniture, which was also his family’s business, Moderntone. At the end of his studies, Didier jumped on a jet plane, leaving Melbourne for London. Some of his first jobs in the UK capital involved designing pieces for the theatre.

“That was great because you knew that whatever you made wasn’t being made to last, it was going to pulled apart again to make something else eventually,” he said.

“The impermanence of the pieces and the wild kinds of settings they would be used for allowed me the freedom to experiment.”

Didier’s opened his own studio in 2000, shifting his focus from furniture on borrowed time to pieces that stand the test of time. In 2005, Didier was given an opportunity to exhibit at the Milan furniture fair Salone Internazionale del Mobile. Didier said he knew the occasion demanded an iconic piece.

Drawing inspiration from the detailed production design in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Didier playful approach to geometric shapes and 3D contortion led to his renowned Obelisk Chair.

The chair’s head-turning appeal was singled out by Allermuir and quickly put into production. The chair was since been exhibited at the Denver Art Museum and the Belconnen Art Centre, and was awarded Product of the Year in 2005 at the IDEA Awards. For Didier, the IDEA award was welcome recognition for the two years of hard work that went into its creation. The international recognition that followed has undoubtedly opened doors to galleries and collectors, and has given him the confidence to pursue to experimental approach he first adopted in the theatre world.

Didier believes that the IDEA Awards, an award specifically for Interiors and Design, add a certain sense the credibility of the industry. He liked the fact that the awards didn’t always go to obvious candidates, and that an emphasis was placed just as much on the development of a concept as it was the innovation displayed in the final piece.

Written by Amy Thomson.

This piece is part of an IDEA retrospective series of interviews and articles conducted and written by local CATC interior design students, which will feature in the coming weeks in the lead up to the IDEA 2014 event and anticipated release of the book Life Spaces: Live Work Connect.

For a 400-page limited edition hardback book of this year’s IDEA winners, order your copy of Life Spaces: Live Work Connect.

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