It's always inspiring to meet a designer who is bold enough to pursue local manufacture + artisanal collaboration despite the inherent economic challenges an I must admit, during the course of Ross' talk, I developed a particular crush on his Touch Glass pendant. I have, rather selfishly, tailored my line of questioning here to zero in on the object of my desire however if you're interested in seeing more of Ross' work do pop over to his website to view the full suite of products (interior designers + architects take note: Ross' website is a specifier's dream! All those typically hard to find technical details, CAD drawings + simple presentation images are right there for your downloading pleasure).
The Touch Glass sits within a larger family of lights made from different materials. The common factor between each is obviously the shape, how was it derived? Was it difficult to translate across each of the materials or was it a fairly natural progression?
The Touch light's form was actually derived from another product I had designed earlier which did not make it to market. The original light was too complex for me to manufacture in Australia. The concept was inductively charged + therefore wireless which allowed it to function more as a mobile light to illuminate everyday tasks rather than a fixed pendant. So the form, in many ways, was already defined + it was the process + desire to work with glass that was really the main journey with the product.
The Touch light comes in aluminium, copper + glass, with the glass version in some ways being the primary product + the aluminium + copper being secondary, definitely from the production sense. The first step in the manufacturing process was to create a solid mild steel form, from this a mould was developed via metal spinning. The glass blower then blows the glass into the mould to create the form of the product. The original solid form can then be used repetitively to spin either aluminium or copper over to create the full family of lights.
The light is an artisan made product, how did you go about finding the right artisan to work with + what would you say are the inherent challenges + benefits of artisanal process as opposed to the more streamlined manufacturing process of something like your Tailored Couch?
I had known Miles Johnson for a number of years through a mutual friend + had been keen to collaborate for some time. We met about a year prior to the product going into production. Through these meetings I gained a much better understanding of the glass blowing process; what was feasible + what was economical. We also collaborated for quite some time to get the mould exactly right... this was not an easy process.
I think the challenges with working or collaborating with an artisan are pretty straightforward. It is not an exact science, so sometimes you just need to roll with it. The benefit at the end of the day is that you have a beautiful, handmade, original product. Each of the products is ever so slightly different, this patina talks to the handmade process + for me is where the real beauty lies.
You've recently partnered with Stylecraft to release the Touch lighting range, can you tell us a little bit about the journey from when you first realised you had an interest in product design through to now, working with one of Australia's leading product distributors?
I was designing furniture from an early age + graduated in Industrial Design at Monash University in 2000. After graduating I worked in interior design in Australia + London until I returned to Melbourne in 2007 to start my own business. I developed + produced a number of furniture + lighting products over the next few years including the Flint table which was released in 2009 with Tait.
I released the Half Full Collection (a FSC certified solid oak table, stool + bench) with Stylecraft in 2011. Following this we released the upholstered Tailored range in mid 2012 + the lighting in 2013. I had wanted to work with Stylecraft for a while and was in discussions with them for a year or so prior to Half Full to define the right product fit.
Describe your typical day for us, is there such a thing?
My studio is called Sample House, an open plan warehouse space shared with Nest Architects, MRTN Architects + a collective of writers. It is very much a design studio so a typical day would involve myself sitting at the computer infused with a lot of caffeine. We do a lot of the light assembly within the studio as well so a lot of my time is spent managing this process. I'm also out on the road a lot, either by bicycle or car visiting manufacturers.
If you could see the Touch collection installed anywhere, where would it be?
To be honest I don't really have any aspirations for the products I design to be placed anywhere specific. As long as the owner loves + appreciates them I'm happy.
What's next for you?
This year I've really been focussing on growing the Tailored range. So to accompany the current upholstered pieces + small tables there will be a series of new tables to fit in with the range. These new coffee tables will have a range of material options for the top surfaces + will sit in a slightly different category from the current, metal spun top tables. I'm really excited about the release later this year of the Tailored dining table. This table will round out the range + create a very universal collection of products.
There are also another few releases happening which are still under wraps, stay tuned.
Finally, which other creatives do you think are doing amazing things right now?
I like the musician Spencer P Jones, not exactly an up + comer but hey...
If you'd like to see a little bit of glass blowing in action take a peek at Ross' fabulous animation (who doesn't love a good stop motion sequence?!)...