Friday, April 30, 2010

Interview - Greg Hatton

Willow chair - photo by Lizette Bell

Best. Cubbyhouse. Ever. (designed and built by Greg Hatton)

Cubbyhouse interiors

Outdoor table setting and overhead light by Greg Hatton

Lights and things

Deco chair and other lovely stuff in Hatton's previous workshop/showroom in St Kilda

I cannot believe it has taken me this long to interview Melbourne furniture designer/landscaper/stonemason/general fossicker/ Greg Hatton. Even if you don't know him by name, I'm sure most Australian-based readers would have seen his beautiful willow furniture in print magazines or Melbourne shop windows in the last few years... yet somehow I have neglected to share Greg's incredible body of work here until now! Shame! I can only say a huge thankyou to Greg's fabulous loyal assistant Leila Sanderson, who contacted me a little while ago and kindly chased down the interview from Greg - no mean feat from a man who, I dare say, spends a lot less time at his computer screen than the rest of us!

You might know Greg by his studio moniker 'Twiggie' - an apt name which describes the stunning rustic furniture, lighting, and props he makes for private clients, local businesses and stylists. What you mightn't know is that Greg's diverse background originally included stints as a bike courier, fisheries officer and vegetable farmer(!!)... until he fell into stonemasonry after a 2 year sabbatical overseas. Greg found himself instantly drawn to the raw beauty of this natural material... and before too long was taking on his own landscaping and design commissions.

I am so inspired by Greg's brilliant attitude - his answers below reveal so many likeable qualities... and it seems that aside from being insanely talented, Greg is just such a super nice guy! He strikes me as someone for whom no job seems too hard or too complicated, someone who is driven, yet doesn't take himself too seriously - and who relishes the opportunity to get his hands dirty and earn a crust with 'honest toil'. In some strange way, it seems that each chair, stool or stonewall created by Greg tells something of his own unique personality... each wobbly imperfection points to his free-spirited creative process, and highlights the beauty of the raw natural material.

Until very recently Greg was working out of a fabulous warehouse/showroom in Melbourne's Balaclava... but being an ever-restless creative soul, he's recently taken on an immense new project, purchasing an old Butter factory in rural Newstead earlier this year (pics below). It's a brilliant (but dilapidated) old heritage building, in much need of love and restoration. Wowsers, big job! Currently part of the site is being used as Greg's new workshop, and the pair also intend to exhibit furniture and other design work here... oooh exciting! Stay tuned!!

Please check out Greg's website for more, or his Flickr, and he also has a brilliant blog which is updated by his trusty assistant Leila (aka Skinny) - she seems super AMAZING in her own right actually... I really need a Leila of my own! Where do I find one?

Huge thanks to both Greg and Leila for this wonderful interview!

Clearly having some trouble culling the photos. But can you blame me? LOVE the Christmas trees... a LOT.

Tell me a little about your background – what path led you to what you’re doing now?

Whilst sorting out the screws and nails in boxes in his shed for the 100th time my aging Grandfather once told me that you can live one life for 80 odd years or 8 lives for ten years, I chose the latter, he painted trams. His house was yellow and green! I have always made things, cubby houses, billy carts, bikes with big front wheels, bikes with big back wheels, pulled things apart and put things back together. A tree fell over in the backyard when I was about 12 and I decided to make a chair from it for my mum.

Year’s later after pursuing opportunistic and diverse vocations such as a bike courier, fisheries officer and vegetable farmer, I found myself without a job following a 2 years sabbatical overseas. So I started making things from willow - a weed growing prolifically in our rivers and streams and degrading waterways. After 12 months and little success I started working for a childhood friend Marty who put me in charge of the mixer for his stonemason gang. 3 months of mixing and the novelty had worn off and the only way out was to learn how to lay stone myself. It was love at first sight. Working with another raw material in its most basic form, and hard physical toil to create amazing structures that retained the beauty of the natural material they consisted of. It was great!

I scored a big job building a front entry wall of my own design, went out on my own and haven’t looked back…although we all have those days where working for someone else looks a little more attractive.

You’ve created so many incredible pieces - from private commissions to props for stylists and for retail display… what have been one or two of your favourite projects?

Making coffee bean silos for a mate who runs an amazing café/ coffee roasting company called St Ali in south Melbourne was pretty satisfying. They look good, functioned perfectly first time and are used everyday and haven’t needed any maintenance. Touch wood.

Coffee silos at St. Ali

Last year I finished a 12 month project building a billabong (Fancy dam) for some loyal clients down the Mornington peninsula at Red Hill. I actually used my university education! I studied geomorphology and soil science and with this realised the Ordovician clay at the site chosen would be impervious, deep and would resist turbidity (not suspend particles in the water column or be cloudy) ..unlike the nearby volcanic clay on the east side of the creek. That alone was satisfying enough, I even thought I was smart for a moment! I saved the client about $80000 on dam lining and had a great time making it. Unfortunately they want to plant willows along the edge to which I have protested vehemently. They even named their newly born daughter willow so I can no longer argue.

Fancy Dam

We did a great garden job in Acland street St Kilda, great clients are generally the key, if they let you go and believe in your vision it helps a lot with the end product.

Garden in st. Kilda

A garden behind a block of 60’s flats in South Yarra on a very steep site was also pretty satisfying, dragging all the rocks up 5 sets of stairs reminded me of it for at least 6 months, I can tie my shoes again now.

Beautiful landscaping by Greg at steep site in South Yarra

Some of the pieces I am most proud of I have made for myself and aren’t prepared to give them up, a sculptured dragster out of sticks, a four poster bed, some cool shelves. Its normally the pieces I make when I have some downtime, the ones that flow out rather than being forced a bit, does that make sense?

OMG awesome. :)

Four poster bed in Greg's previous Balaclava showroom/workshop


Can you give us an insight into the inner workings of your business? Do you employ other people, and do you outsource any significant tasks…? How do you keep up with the boring ‘business’ side of things, in addition to the fun creative side?

I have a girl Friday everyday, Skinny (Leila), who’s great. She puts up with me and her duties vary from p.a, paving queen, blog manager, bookkeeper, chair maker, soft furnishing expert, delivery girl, publicist, marketing manager, tree lopper, teepee designer and manufacturer….etc etc.

Beautiful Teepees by Leila Sanderson who works with Greg

We each have our strengths and varying tolerance levels of the boring stuff so it balances out well. I have a few boys I call on for the heavier stuff, Nick - a barista who worked at a café around the corner from one of my bigger jobs, Paulie - another stonemason/ barista, Gumby - who’s recently run away overseas, brother of another café staffer, and Stu who’s run away too, to open his café, Tim’s starting this week, a mate of a mate. I rescue people from badly paid hospitality jobs and when they are sick of waking up sore and tired they run away. They mostly come back though.

Where do you turn for inspiration for your designs? (ie books, magazines, your environment, travel, nature, family or friends… etc?)

Many of my clients provide enough of the inspiration, they are mainly pretty creative types who know what they want, we just sit down together and nut out the bones of a job, I like them to evolve rather than be a set design on paper. Often it’s the materials I find that tell me what they are to become, or in a garden build the whole outlook changes when you remove a tree or change ground levels, and so do your ideas on what to do next.

My favourite mag is called DAMn from Belgium.

I love the freaky beauty of organised European villages. (I lived in Austria for a while) and the history around them. Utilitarian design in old Austrian farmhouses many made before steel was readily available, so no nails no screws no wire…

Greg and Austrian Farmhouses... how about that fence!?

My mate Big Al had a very cool great uncle Keith, rip - who lived on a remote property in the Wimmera alone all his life. This resulted in various eccentricities and much inventiveness. He became a bit of a cult hero with a few mates after a couple of visits. I always think of him when I need to make something and have limited materials… what would uncle Keith do?

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Getting up scratching my head and wondering what I’m supposed to be doing today, followed by a strong coffee at home or The Wall, my current favourite café. All shadowed by my trusty old hound Kev. I don’t really have typical days as I am stupid enough to take on different things all the time, thus leaving me in a constant state of confusion, research and fear.. I mean excitement.

Greg's trusty pal, Kev

What are you most proud of professionally?

Working pretty green, I know that term has been flogged to death but I can sleep at night.

Taking on new and challenging jobs

Winging a pool renovation and pulling it off.

Compromising minimally

Aforementioned pool renovation. Looks pretty profesh to me!

What would be your dream project?

A large sculpture work over acres of rolling hills.

Building a stone house into a rocky outcrop

Running a skip sculpture competition, each artist gets a random skip full of rubbish and has to produce a work in a set time frame.

What are you looking forward to?

Genuine leadership in government.

Feeling relaxed and confident in what I do.

Getting my shit together, I guess they are the same thing.

Planting out my vegie patch in Butterland (The Butter Factory in Newstead).

Melbourne Questions –

Where do you shop in Melbourne for the tools of your trade? (ie recycled materials, hardware, fabrics etc?)

Side of the road for materials apparently its illegal but what isn’t these days.

Timber from Bowerbird timbers out towards Warburton, recycled and windfall timbers, lovely people to deal with …worth the drive.

Recycled Timber and things from Hughes demolition in Oakleigh

I actually scrounge most of my materials, it’s part of my business plan , reuse recycle repair. It’s amazing what people throw away.

Where /what was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

Had some great hot cross buns from a bakery in Elwood the other day, sourdough, buttered…thickly. Yum and a great lamb and couscous salad at Mart in Albert Park, haven’t been out much lately, my mate Pat whipped up a tasty dahl with some tommy’s I kidnapped from a clients garden….they were over ripe and the clients were away!

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Again hard to be typical as I have no routine, at the moment scraping paint or wax off some surface of my latest project, renovating an old butter factory in central Victoria. I’d like to be riding my bike somewhere in the bush.

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

I am about as far from having my finger on the pulse of Melbourne as anyone, however I’ll give it a shot. That you can make a coffee at home that’s as good as one at your local café.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Melbourne International Jazz Festival - Design by 21-19

The identity / website / print design for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival is a bit fancy isn't it?

Lovely work by local firm 21-19. Designer Ryan Guppy says the identity was a play on the festival theme: stepping out of time and into space '...where notes and stave live freely, mutually dependant upon one another but at the same time masters of their own direction.'

Guppy says a large motivation for this year's identity was also to position the festival with a contemporary voice. Mission accomplished! In keeping with this brief, 21-19 have also collaborated with the festival to conceive The Places in Between - a unique immersive light and sound installation located at the Amphitheatre of Federation Square, and featuring the music of Chris Abrahams. The installation will awaken on opening night and will run every half hour from 6.00pm until midnight for the week of the festival.

The festival starts this Saturday May 1st, and apparently brings together 400 artists in over 95 events in just one week!

Melbourne International Jazz Festival
May 1st - May 8th 2010

Tickets and info

'Get Lost, Find Something' - Darren Henderson's debut exhibition in Melbourne

A sneak peek at Darren Henderson's debut solo exhibition, 'Get Lost, Find Something', opening tonight at Fitzroy's Gorker Gallery.

Melbourne artist Darren Henderson has a fascination with owls.... he's been painting them for years - lots and lots of colourful, expressive, kooky little owls. You can see 300 of them at his debut solo exhibition, 'Get Lost, Find Something' at Fitzroy's Gorker Gallery - opening tonight from 6.30pm - 8.30pm!

The installation at Gorker will see all 300 tiny owl paintings hung to form a large-scale world map, alongside other paintings and gocco prints by the artist. If you're interested to learn a little more about Darren and the show, there is a great recent little interview with him over here.

...and if Darren's feathery little friends look familiar, perhaps that's because you've seen their Grandaddy on the exterior wall of The Wall cafe in Balaclava! (pics below). I love that guy!

In you're on the Northside of Melbourne tonight pop in to the show and have a little look!

'Get Lost, Find Something' - works by Darren Henderson
Gorker Gallery
395 Gore st (Cnr Gore and Kerr sts)

Exhibition opens tonight and runs until Sunday May 16

Darren's sneaky-looking oversized owl commands attention at The Wall cafe in Balaclava.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Modernist Australia

Various Modernist Homes via the brilliant Modernist Australia blog. This one in Brighton is currently for sale - details here.

Kew home - listed here

Kew home - listed here

Another one for sale in Brighton.. ooh la la check out that bathroom!

Stunning Eaglemont mid-century masterpiece - as blogged by Modernist Australia late last year

Sorry to say I don't have a specific Australian home to share today... a few in the works but none quite ready to go I'm afraid! Along the same lines, I thought I would share a great little find discovered recently by the very clued-in Jenny Butler (Apartment Therapy's Australian contributor!).

Modernist Australia is a fabulous blog dedicated to Australian Modernist homes... with an especially brilliant nation-wide Modernist real-estate round-up, highlighting some of the most beautiful untouched Mid-Century Australian homes on the market! Never has an orange tiled kitchen or speckled beige Nanna carpet looked so appealing! (I am serious!) ....If you can get past some of the questionable furniture in these homes (mainly sofas) - the expansive Eames-inspired windows, interior wood panelling and pristine original cabinetry truly hold timeless appeal.

Plus, you gotta love MA's unapologetic stance when it comes to suburban residential development - in reference to the home pictured below - 'a plea to all Sydneysiders; do not to let this building be one of the many demolished at the whim of the monied-up philistines who run your town. ' Ouch! Nice one.

Hands off, Philistines!

OMG can you believe both of these kitchens have the exact SAME orange tiles for their splashback? Brilliant.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Heatherly Design

Custom upholstered bedheads by Heatherly Design

I discovered Heatherly Design recently at Magnolia Square - prompting another 'why didn't I know about this already!?' moment! Wow, what a brilliant little local design company! Based in rural Victoria, Heatherly started out in 2000 with an initial focus on interior design and colour consultation. Heatherly's owner/director Georgie Leckey soon recognised a gap in the market for stylish custom upholstered bedheads, and seized the opportunity to adapt and fill this niche.

The Heatherly Design website allows customers to design a custom bedhead according to Heatherly's range of designs, sizes and fabrics - or you can source and supply your own fabric if you prefer. The prices are extremely reasonable, particularly for a customised locally-made product!

My fave has got to be the raw Belgian linen with cross-stitch detail (below)... beautiful! (There is a stunning shot of it, styled by Glen Proebstel, which featured in Country Style magazine - check it out on the Heatherly press page).

Monday, April 26, 2010

Milan trend round-up

Tinted glass furniture and lighting at last week's Milan Furniture Fair. Clockwise from top left - vintage light installation by Piet Hein Eek at the Spazio Rosanna Orlandi, vintage-inspired Glas pendant lamps by Diesel / Foscarini, delicately tinted glass tableware in brilliant fluorescent colours by Scholten & Baijings, Out of Stock's Hues table inspired by scientific Venn Diagrams, Daniel Rybakken's stunningly simple wall-leaning Colour lamp.

I'm a bit skeptical about calling this a 'trend' round-up - mainly because I am not particularly into the idea of trends... perhaps they are relevant in fashion-land, but in the design world, I guess I feel that classic styling and good design should stand the test of time, rather than popping it's head up for one season before disappearing again!

But of course this trend thing keeps popping up in conversation since I returned home, so I have decided to round up a few common themes which seemed to stand out during the Milan fair... I don't know if they're really proper trends, but, you know, at least they make nice photo montages :)

This is by no means an exhaustive list... there were so many more common themes and ideas which deserve attention... but I'll just share three today!

Tinted, coloured, overlapping glass

One theme that caught my eye again and again was the use of varying forms of tinted and coloured glass. I spotted examples at both the Salone Satellite exhibition at the main fair, and in the Zona Tortona district. I especially loved the overlapping effect used by Sweden's Daniel Rybakken for his stunning wall-leaning Colour light, and by Out of Stock for their Hues table. Super beautiful.


It appeared to me that ceramics had taken a back seat this year (perhaps because the brilliant Jaime Hayon was sadly absent from the fair this year!?). In its place I noticed a surprising abundance of Carrara marble! How do these emerging designers afford such luxurious materials for their prototypes!? I have no idea... but it was really fabulous to see so many new designers adopting the use of the same precious, timeless material used by the old Italian masters such as Michelangelo so many moons ago!

Clockwise from top left - A3 lamp by Swedish Hallgeir Homstvedt, Fruits Basket by French designer Philippe Nigro, Incredible sculpted marble Ren table by London-based Ifeanyi Oganwu of Expand Design, Marcel Wanders for Baccarat crystal / marble vases, Candle Stands by French designer Didier Raimbault.

Grids, geometry and dominos!

Last but not least, I really loved the brave use of colourful geometric and grid-formation patterns by so many exhibitors... Grace Winteringham's Phase Bureau with geometric marquetry detailing was one of my absolute favourites, I predict big things for her UK-based studio, Patternity! In the new Ventura Lambrate area, Onno Schelling's Domino Cupboard also caught my eye... and Thomas Pausz' Dominos Table was just so much fun - particularly as the patterns and colours can be completely customised at the dinner table! (Possibly not suitable for kids under 3 yrs!?).

Clockwise from top left -
Grace Winteringham's Phase Bureau, Onno Schelling's Domino Cupboard, Thomas Pausz' Dominos Table, Moroso's Beth chair, designed by Philippe Bestenheider, is made entirely from recycled materials, including fibres derived from recycled PET bottles, and French designer Inga Sempe's gorgeous quilted Ruche sofas for Ligne Roset are so super cute - LOVE the brave yellow but they also come in white...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Emma Elizabeth's Milan Design Vlog!

Sydney-sider Emma Elizabeth gets cosy with Marcel Wanders during Milan design week! I don't know who looks more excited!

Goodness me. It's been a brilliant but very crazy week in Milano... and although I have loved every single moment, the whole volcanic ash thing did put a bit of a dampner on things towards the end there... and so I am blaming Volcano-induced stress for the absence of an interview for your today (Shocking!).

BUT never fear, I do have something even more exciting to share - a super awesome project by Sydney designer/stylist Emma Elizabeth Coffey!

Emma Elizabeth is a Milan veteran - she attends the Salone del Mobile every year and knows this city like the back of her hand. (She also speaks Italian and wears a designer dress every single day, which I find endlessly impressive!)

This year EE has started a seriously BRILLIANT project called Design Vlog - a kind of Guerilla-style video blog documenting all the happenings here during design week! EE has been madly dashing about the city, microphone in hand, with local cameraman Mike Stone, and together they have pinned down some seriously super famous designers (Marcel Wanders, Tom Dixon... and many more!). It is an absolutely brilliant little project and really gives you a feeling for the electric mood in this city during design week!

Check out this hilarious little video featuring Marcel Wanders! And you can pop over to Vimeo and to see all the others... design blog GOLD!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Studio Museo Achille Castiglioni

Studio Museo Achille Castiglioni in Trienalle, where Castiglioni worked for over 60 years(!!). Photos - Fabrizio Marchesi.

The workshop

Ok so I can't claim this is some kind of well-kept secret, because I did read about it in Lonely Planet and the *Wallpaper Milan guide... BUT the Achillie Castiglioni Studio Museum is just so super great I just couldn't help but mention it here!

I joined a little tour through Castiglioni's beautiful little 5 room space in the Triennale area on my last day in Milan... I actually didn't know too much about Castiglioni until this visit, but came away with a new-found respect for this much-loved Italian designer - his simple but ingenius designs, and his brilliant sense of humour! The tour was an intimate group of around 7 people, and the absolute best part was that it was taken by Castiglioni's daughter Giovanna! It was so great to hear first hand stories from her childhood, early memories of her father and visits to his now famous studio. Giovanna was so warm, generous and entertaining - chatting with her felt like gaining an insight into Achille's own personality.

This one is definitely a must-do if you're ever in Milan!

All details here.

Some of Castiglioni's impressive catalogue of products

Many of Castiglioni's famous designs are still in production today. Top - Danese Ovio, Bicchieri e Caraffa (1983), Lampadina lamp (1972 - Flos), Mezzadro stool (1957 - Zanotta). All product shots - Amendolagine-Barracchia.