Friday, February 5, 2010

Interview - Jon Goulder

Furniture designer Jon Goulder, next to fellow Midland Atelier maker Malcolm Harris (background).

Glissando Credenza (detail) - Jon Goulder 2009

Oh La La Dining Chairs 2009

Calypso Lounge 2008 (available through Living Edge in Australia)

Calypso Lounge 2008 and Fill Bookshelf 2009

Get ready to be hearing a lot more about Jon Goulder.

Jon's had an interesting career path - from pro snowboarder(!!), to an apprenticeship with the family furniture and upholstery business in the Southern Highlands of NSW, to art school in Canberra... and then to setting up his own design practice. Jon has slowly and steadily gained great respect and accolades from the local design industry, and really has grown to become a stand-out Australian designer. Tinkering away quietly and without fanfare, Jon makes the kind of furniture you'd expect to see from those big-name superstar international designers - you know, the ones who get all the press!?

But rather than tout his talents and attend all the big international design shows, Jon has spent the last 2 years working tirelessly to create an ambitious solo exhibition of his work, 11:12 - Furniture by Jon Goulder, which opens in Perth today! (Don't worry - other states will follow later in the year!)

Jon seized the opportunity to work on this exciting project - made possible only through a unique collaboration with FORM, a fantastic, forward-thinking Western Australian cultural organisation, and the Midland Atelier project, their BRILLIANT new creative initiative aimed at nurturing the local design industry in WA. It is SO inspiring to see such incredible creative things happening in Perth, and I've no doubt the Midland Atelier project will certainly get tongues wagging in other states!

Part employee, part artist-in-residence, Jon's work with the Midland Atelier project is varied and ever-changing. With the exhibition now open, Jon will turn his focus back to developing the Midland Atelier concept and mentoring other designers at the facility. Lucky them!

If you are in PERTH you should totally go and check out Jon's exhibition soon!
If you are somewhere else in Australia - stay tuned! (...and perhaps go visit Living Edge to see Jon's Leda seat or Calypso Lounge on the showroom floor!)

In the meantime... read on to learn a little more about Jon and the brilliant things happening at Midland Atelier!

The Exhibition! 11:12 - Furniture by Jon Goulder - exhibition design by Glasfurd & Walker, photo courtesy of Ross Swanborough.

Tell me a little about your background – what originally drew you to furniture design, and what path has led you to what you’re doing now?

I’m a fourth generation craftsman and completed an apprenticeship in furniture making and upholstery through the family business, E.W. Goulder and Sons. What has led me to what I am doing now (designing a solo exhibition) comes from my education at Canberra School of Art, which I finished in 1999. Being educated at an art school is very different to being educated at a design university. At art school it is very normal to strive to develop a body of work that equates to a solo show. It is important to note that this show would not be possible if it was not for the support of FORM. Lynda Dorrington offered me the opportunity and naturally I jumped at it. FORM has supported me on a retainer whilst I developed the work.

Tell us about the Midland Atelier project! What role do you play at Midland Atelier, and what initially appealed to you about working with FORM on this unique project?

The Midland Atelier project has to be one of the most exciting projects happening in Australia at the moment. It is the largest purpose built design studio / workshop in Australia. The Atelier is West Australia’s first creative industries centre, managed by FORM and based in the historic Pattern Shop and Foundry building at the Midland Railway Workshops.

My role is predominantly within the Pattern Shop (the furniture studio). The Pattern Shop has only been online officially since 2009 but for the past 18 months I have been FORM’s man on the ground at the Atelier, helping to select and entice resident designers and set-up the facilities. I am an artist in residence. Whilst I recently designed and made a body of work for exhibition I also take on a mentoring role with a few of the designers who work at the Atelier. I help build networks through my established connections with industry, media and markets.

The Pattern Shop at Midland Atelier

What does a typical day at work involve for you at the moment? How do you divide you time between your own design work, and your role at FORM?

A typical day at work involves starting early – 6-6.30am and working hard for a solid ten to twelve hours. Because I make my own prototypes and/or limited batch production runs my day is generally quite physical. I get very dirty and dusty and love every minute of it. I develop my designs in 3D models and full scale mock up so even in the design process I still seem to get grubby. It’s not as glamorous as some might imagine. For the past 12 months I have been left alone to exclusively make the exhibition which is an amazing opportunity. I still work very closely with a number of the designers at the Atelier which seems to happen naturally when working in a group workshop. After my exhibition opens my role will change again and I will be much more involved with strategy and the building of the Atelier’s capacity.

Fill Bookshelf 2009

After winning numerous accolades for your work over the years, and being involved in many group shows, you’re now embarking on your first solo show! How long have you been working on the 11.12 exhibition, and what can visitors expect from the show?

I have been working on the show for two years and visitors can expect 11 new pieces of work that are all original pieces. I hope the body of work has a unique style that is very much my own. The pieces have been handmade and are collectables, the kind of pieces that you hand down through generations.

11:12 - Furniture by Jon Goulder - exhibition design by Glasfurd & Walker, photo courtesy of Ross Swanborough.

Where do you draw inspiration for your work - nature, travel, film, architecture… and do you pay attention to international design trends?

It’s hard to say. Before design engulfed my life I spent all of my time travelling, skating, surfing and snowboarding. I was a sponsored snowboarder for 5 years - maybe that has something to do with it. I do have a close eye on the international design scene but do not follow the trends. It is clear to see that following trends does not build your career. Being yourself does.

LD Desk

Amore Mio Coffee Table 2009

Which other designers / creative people do you admire?

I admire anyone who is committed to a creative life.

What would be your dream creative project?

Designing my second solo exhibition. Any large scale installation work where I have complete artistic freedom.

What are you looking forward to?

I am looking forward to the opening in Perth and then the show touring, I look forward to slowing down and taking stock of where I am at in my career and helping FORM build the Midland Atelier. I look forward spending time with my family and having some time off.

Top - Oh La La Dining Chairs 2009, Bottom - Leda Seat 2004

Perth Questions

How did you find the move to Perth? What are the greatest challenges you have faced in re-locating your business and making a new start?

The move to Perth has been amazing for me and for my family. The challenge is the isolation but the isolation can be a good thing also.

What/where was the last great meal you ate?

A Paella at home. My wife is a chef; it’s hard to find a restaurant that competes.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

For the past year you would find me at work developing new designs. Typically I would choose to be at the beach.

Perth’s best kept secret?

Perth’s best kept secret is the unaffected people. The people in West Australia don’t seem to have a false front or an ‘attitude’ like in other places. Also the social life and live music, pubs, events and so on. WA does not have gambling (card machines) so live music and conversation is still very much alive. WA is the lifestyle state Shhhhhhh.

Form Wall Shelf 2009


  1. that desk is absolutely perfect! and the coffee table would look so great at chez trbuhovich.....perfect actually. wow. good job, john; good job, lucy. x

  2. Love Mr Goulder's work and thanks for you message. If you see the lovely Karen McCartney please say a big hello from me!