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Every week in our Q&ADR column, ADR interviews an architect, designer, object maker or industry person about who they are beyond the work – their life, inspiration, challenges and aspirations.
This week we catch up with Anne-Claire Petre, a furniture designer and founder of anaca studio, to talk about the Australian furniture industry and taking the leap to step out on her own.
Can you tell us about your background and how you ended up working within the design industry?
I studied industrial design in Nantes, France and then moved to Edinburgh, Scotland and got into the College of Art where I did a bachelor of arts with honours majoring in furniture. This gave me great foundations to enter the JamFactory Furniture associates program in Adelaide when I settled in Australia. I was designing and making then.
When I later relocated to Melbourne, I got to work for a few some well-known furniture companies and a couple of architecture and interior design studios, which gave me some valuable insight into the different facets of the industry.
You founded your own furniture studio, anaca studio. Can give us some insight into what it is, where the idea came from and how you got it off the ground?
The studio specialises in furniture and accessories, all made 100 percent in Australia using responsibly sourced timbers and other sustainable materials and finishes wherever possible.
I am passionate about design and quality manufacturing. I wanted to work with local makers to offer a range of products that would be built to last. To me, the idea is that we should surround ourselves with objects we really love and respect.
A combination of events came together at the start of 2012 and motivated me to start the business. I had been working in the retail sector for a little while but I was eager to get back into designing. Once the seed was planted, I was determined to make things happen. I took on a part-time job in an interior design studio and simply set myself up at home to start with. I searched for local manufacturers and had the first products prototyped. Once I had a couple of pieces in the collection, I just got out there and made contact with interior designers and architects to present the products. It rolled on from there…
What has been the steepest learning curve and most pleasant surprise since founding anaca studio?
I feel that I’m really learning every day because there are always new challenges and decisions to make.
A tough one has been learning how and when to say ‘No’, sticking with it and then realising that the world didn’t crumble because of it!
What would you say has been the biggest achievement in your career?
Taking that first step in starting anaca studio and creating a cohesive brand and products I’m really proud of.
What do you think characterises Australian design?
I think Australian design has come a long way and I feel that these days there is an incredible variety of styles and inspirations.
Australian designers have taken on a real global perspective and are now creating products that are very refined, highly creative and well on part with what’s being done overseas.
The Australian designs are like our multicultural population – we’ve taken inspiration from a multitude of styles and countries and adapted them to suit our lifestyle. Australian manufacturing has also slowly embraced the challenges of working with our quirky designer’s ideas which has really helped in creating unique products.
Who/what/where do you look to for inspiration?
I’ve been drawn to the modernist aesthetic and the lightness and refinement of Danish and Japanese designs for many years.
I get inspired by colour, fabrics, shapes, materials, manufacturing processes… It depends what I intend on designing and for what purpose.
What’s up next for anaca studio? A new range or exclusive collaborations?
There will be some new products this year for sure. I have a few designs in mind; at the moment I’m still deciding which one should go into prototyping. That’s often the tricky part.
And yes, there is a collaboration in the pipeline and a little pop-up shop in the near future. A bit soon to disclose more at this stage!
Portrait of Anne-Claire Petre by Martina Gemmola.