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In support of emerging talent with our category sponsor, Zenith, ADR is running a Q&A series with the shortlisted people and practices making up some of the brightest lights on the local design landscape.
Ash Allen and Harry Zanios are two up-and-coming industrial designers and both recently collaborated on the Flex Barstool and Table which is shortlisted in the IDEA Object – Furniture and Lighting (Rising) category. ADR speaks to them to find out what inspires their work and what’s on the cards in the future.
Can you give an insight into the challenges and highlights of your work in an emerging practice?
AA: Challenges would be gaining recognition and trying to make a living doing what I love. Highlights are meeting wonderfully positive and supportive people in the industry
HZ: In terms of challenges, I agree with Ash. Making a living based on what I enjoy most is a challenge. Another thing is the time and effort to resolve something fully and to have it ready for market. Highlights for me are when people get excited about what you do and seeing what other people are producing is also really exciting. The furniture industry has a community feeling to it which I enjoy.
Where do you turn for inspiration, and which architects or designers have had the biggest influence on your work?
AA: Graphics – even a line, a shadow, a pattern – can be inspirational, or simply the question ‘what if’? I try not to be influenced too much, but I do admire the work of Thomas Heatherwick and Nendo.
HZ: Inspiration can come from anywhere really and there is no one place for me. It stems from anything that draws my interest or fascination. It can come from other designers, products, nature, science, physics, materials etc. l like play and what results from it. As Ash mentions, it’s the ‘what if’ that captures my imagination. It’s fun, yet challenging. I do like the mid-century design aesthetic and feel influenced by designs and designers from that period. The forms are often simple yet truly elegant as well as being highly creative and considered.
What excites or frustrates you about the current state of Australian architecture and design?
AA: Media is enabling us to effectively promote ourselves, curated shows like Denfair have passed critical mass, and companies like Catapult Design are supporting Australian designers by truly promoting and selling our work.
HZ: I feel that design has come a long way and is more appreciated and understood now than it has been in the past. There is more awareness of it now which is great. I love some of the new technologies, often digitally driven, which help in the design, development and production of new ideas as well as the promotion and sales of them. It all allows for a more do it yourself approach.
What is frustrating is the time and effort and costs required to get something off the ground. I’m not particularly a fan of the replica industry as it feeds off the creativity and development of other people’s hard work and ideas.
What has been the proudest achievement of your career to date?
AA: Seeing my Sticks & Stone setting and Lionheart stools in the NGV, and Dollop light in the Powerhouse Museum.
HZ: Being nominated and coming runner up in the GOTYA (Graduate Of The Year Awards) 2015 was great as it was for a body of work and a reward for the effort that went into those years of study and learning.
It was also great when Flex was announced on the IDEA shortlist – Object, Furniture and lighting (Rising). I honestly didn’t expect it which made it a real surprise. It was great working with Ash who’s been a real mentor.
What is your favourite project from your own body of work and why?
AA: Squashing a replica Tolix chair for Dale Hardiman’s inaugural 1-ok club. With Thin I wanted to add value to the replica chair by removing its function and making it wall art. It was a bonus when Anne-Maree Sargeant acquired it to promote the Authentic Design Alliance (ADA) which is educating people about the detrimental effect of ‘rip-offs’ on our industry.
HZ: It’s hard to choose between Up-Stack and Hexy Legs, to be honest. Up-Stack was my first piece and when it was finished I remember feeling a great sense of pride on how well it turned out.
The concept behind Hexy Legs has the potential to be developed into many products and drove the idea behind the Flex Range, so I will have to lean towards that. I enjoyed the process and exploration that was involved and how I was able to push the materials and utilise CNC manufacturing processes.
Can you tell us about the Flex Range you entered into IDEA this year?
AA: I saw the leg detail on Harry’s Hexy Legs table last November. We started talking and decided to collaborate on a commercial barstool and table. We tried flexing different materials in different configurations for six months, before finally launching the range at Denfair in June. The natural curvature of the split leg drove the concept, as well as the relatively tall height, to meet the demand for more elevated workstations.
What are you working on currently and what are you looking forward to?
AA: I am currently working with James Walsh, a final year RMIT Industrial Design student, on a fascinating project. Victorian bluestone has a rich local history, but there is a larger contemporary issue emerging from its quarrying – the vast amounts of unused waste material generated. By melting the waste fines, we are reforming the bluestone into a collection of homewares to have new value and function within our home. I’m looking forward to showing the range at Elemental –an upcoming show at the Abbotsford Convent, opening November 18, 6-9pm. Nov 19 – Dec 21.
HZ: I have a few pieces I’d like to develop which have been put on the back burner for a little while. This includes the development of a coffee table prototype exploring kerf cuts and yes, more flexibility. As far as new ideas I’m also keen to develop and prototype some pendant lighting ideas which I can’t wait to get stuck into.