Studio Furniture 2008

Craft Australia 716 craft·design ISSN:1835-1832 Issue 029 April 2008

Studio Furniture 2008 was initiated by David MacLaren, Artistic Director of Bungendore Wood Works Gallery, as a way to foster the production of unique pieces of furniture by makers and to highlight the important role of commercial galleries. Stan d'Argeavel presents an overview of the competition and exhibition with images of the winning works.

Articles - 31 March 2008
Studio Furniture 2008

Studio Furniture 2008 opened at Bungendore Wood Works Gallery on Australia Day, 26th January. The exhibition was initiated by David MacLaren, Artistic Director of the Gallery, as a way to foster the production of unique pieces of furniture by makers. The criteria for the exhibition was that the work be unique and individual with sensibilities injected by the artist to produce pieces that, perhaps, 'pushed the envelope' in terms of design, use of materials (predominantly wood of course) and were to be substantially hand made. View images of Award winners

The carrot at the end of the stick was of course the $10,000 prize money put forward by the Gallery with $5000 for first prize, $3000 for second prize and $2000 for third prize. A further aim of the competition was to highlight the role of commercial galleries, like Bungendore, and to offer a much-needed commercial face for Australian studio furniture, enhancing exposure and sales.

The Gallery was partnered by Australian Wood Review magazine who took on the role of promoting the competition and exhibition which was successfully done through several issues of the publication. The Australian Wood Review is Australia's leading wood magazine and that provides wood workers in Australia, New Zealand and internationally with a full array of articles on wood working materials, tools and expert editorial from many of Australia's premier makers and educators in the wood genre.

A further partnership was undertaken with Craft Australia with the General Manager, Catrina Vignando, giving ongoing support and who was involved in the project from its inception in mid-2006.
The success of the competition and inherent exhibition was assured when over 120 entries were received by Australian Wood Review from every state in the country and the ACT. The only exception was the Northern Territory.

The selection panel, consisting of Linda Nathan, Editor of Australian Wood Review, Raf Nathan, publisher of Australian Wood Review and David MacLaren selected 56 entries from 51 makers. Neil Erasmus, furniture designer/maker, fine woodworking teacher and a regular contributing editor for Australian Wood Review judged the competition over 2 days and then opened the exhibition.

His task of judging was made all the more difficult firstly by the diversity of pieces that ranged from fine boxes to seven piece dining settings and pieces inspired by the iconic makers in the studio furniture field. There was such a high level of thought and expertise in the making applied to the entries that Neil's job of selecting three winning entries required a tough and relentless pursuit of just what defines a piece of Studio Furniture in the early 21st Century.

Neil's interpretation on the criteria and hence his guidelines for judging the individual pieces was, "they describe a highly individualised, aesthetically resolved and mostly handcrafted one-of-a-kind item of furniture that covers all genres, including the whimsical, humorous and witty." Being work that, "when properly executed, sings with a clear, rich voice, hitting the high notes perfectly."

The first prize of $5000 went to Peter MacDonald from New South Wales for his Towaninnie Dining Suite a curved edge, triangular table and six chairs in solid jarrah and silver ash. It was an exercise in harmony with the chair backs made to move, not unlike a dance, around the table with their curved tops, perfectly complimenting the finely curved silver ash inlay in the table top. The selection of the suite as the winning piece was further ratified by the sale of the setting and a further commission for a similar design from another Bungendore Wood Work Gallery client.

Second prize of $3000 went to Victorian maker Will Matthysen for his Clock 0413. His time-pieces have reached legendary status, not only in Bungendore Wood Works Gallery - where they have been displayed and sold for many years - but throughout the wood working world. His almost fanatical and highly successful attention to detail and superlative skill levels of production ensure that to look at a Matthysen time piece, be it a wall-clock or, as in this case, a mantel-clock, is to look in awe at a thing of beauty and consummate professionalism, and of course they work a treat.

Erasmus was unable to separate two further pieces that eventually became joint third prize-winners. The 2 entries were New South Wales woodworker Warwick Wright for his Zetna Cabinet made from rock maple, masur birch veneer, wenge, eucalypt and Laminex. The Zetna is an elegant and internally lit cabinet with an extending tambour desktop echoing the fine studio writing desks of the past.

The second was Ferdinand Rocker a collaborative work between maker John Madden and visual artist Angus MacDonald. Ferdinand Rocker could be seen as the antithesis of the Zetna Cabinet. It was whimsical, arty and humorous. Made from blackwood and cow hide, and, as McDondald says, "an aesthetically gestural homage to the bull whose low centre of gravity and proportions I find compelling". Neil Erasmus felt that even after the hardest day at the office the sight of the "moo" chair would bring the broadest of smiles.

With another 52 entries in this wide-ranging exhibition time and space does not permit a detailed description. However I must mention the Signature Rocking Chair entered by New Zealand maker David Haig. Used as the symbolic icon of the Studio Furniture 2008, the chair's design and presence on the floor literally has the power to take ones breath away. (This piece is so well resolved by Haig that Neil Erasmus found it impossible to find anything that could be added to the chair to improve the design and conversely nothing that could be taken away from it.)

David MacLaren decided on an additional acquisitive award purchasing the chair for display and sale in the Gallery and it continues to bring jaw-dropping looks from visitors to the Gallery.

Australian Wood Review Editor Linda Nathan has termed Studio Furniture 2008 as the snapshot of fine woodworking undertaken in the 21st century and judge, Neil Erasmus, considers the works as arguably the finest collection of contemporary furnishings he has seen under one roof.

A success in every way, Bungendore Wood Works Gallery owner and Artistic Director could not be happier with the outcome of his brainchild in terms of sales, relationships with the makers and the real gains made in developing the notion of the important role of commercial galleries like his to both makers and artists alike.

Stan d'Argeavel
Exhibition Coordinator
Bungendore Wood Works Gallery
You can read an extensive article by Neil Erasmus on Studio Furniture 2008 and a review on many of the pieces in the current issue of Australian Wood Review Number #58. The magazine is available through newsagents and booksellers.
A full list and images of entries for the competition can be found on the Wood Review website.

Friday 23 May 2008