LAB DE STU

Cutting-edge Melbourne design collective LAB DE STU has a knack for creating furniture and lights in graphic contemporary shapes and interesting colours. The trio – including Adam Lynch and Dale Hardiman (of Dowel Jones) and André Hnatojko – is also involved with limited edition, design-art platform 1-OK Club and unveils new collection's this week at 2016's Maison&Objet Asia, where they're exhibiting as Rising Asian Talents.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What’s with your name?
The name LAB DE STU is short for Laboratory Design Studio. It originally explained the vision of the studio, but was shortened soon after for ease because one of the designers had a stutter. This shortened name also reflected the change from studio to collective. 2016 sees LAB DE STU evolve into a brand.

How did you three hook up and what do you each bring to the party?
We met studying Furniture Design at Melbourne's RMIT together in 2011. We were quite young when we first founded the studio, so we really banded together as we were all friends. We each have very different focuses so the most important thing is that we all bring diverse perspectives and opinions.

ABOVE FROM LEFT: LAB DE STU trio Adam Lynch and Dale Hardiman (of Dowel Jones) and André Hnatojko
ABOVE RIGHT: The flat-packed 'Mr. Dowel Jones' tripod light by Dowel Jones. Made of Tasmanian oak and rubber, it comes in desk or floor sizes
BELOW: Launching at 2016's Maison&Objet Asia is Dowel Jones's first wire product, the 'Bradley Hooper' side table, coffee table and stool available in various colours and tops

What do you like to design and what’s your style?
We don’t strive to have a specific style, we are informed by market research and conversations with our manufacturers. Our style may be representative of who we work with.

Tell us about your Maison&Objet Asia exhibition?
As we all produce different work under the name LAB DE STU, we’ve decided to unify the designs through the use of colour. All but two works in the exhibition will be from new collections never seen before. Maison&Objet Asia will see the presentation of three new collections: André Hnatojko will be releasing his latest range of lighting, and Dale Hardiman and Adam Lynch’s brand Dowel Jones will release two furniture collections, including the steel 'Bradley Hooper' side tables, inspired by basketball hoops, which come in two frame sizes with tops in cork, walnut or ash.

How do you feel about being showcased as part of Asia’s design scene?
We’ve been recognised through various awards programmes and exhibitions within Australia since our founding in 2011, but we’ve never been labelled as rising talent internationally, so it’s greatly appreciated and quite amazing to be representing Australia and Australian design at Maison&Objet Asia. We’ve been lucky enough to present work in Europe over the years, but never in Asia, so the ability to exhibit in Singapore is fantastic. 

BELOW FROM LEFT: Dale Hardiman and Ash Allen's limited-edition 'Factory Works' vessel for 1-OK Club in extruded rubber coil, set on a found glass object that was then smashed; Dowel Jones's graphic 'Mr Merger' pendant light, in brass and rubber, with rotatable heads

Where or how do you get inspiration?
Inspiration comes from problem solving and usually from the most uncommon of places. Our practices involve looking at preexisting product typologies or problems and exploring them with the aid of manufacturers. We find the most interesting projects can come from visiting the strangest factories!

What’s currently exciting you in design or style?
We get excited by process and materials, so finding new methods or experimental materials influences our work and aesthetic. Bold colour has always been something we like to use, whether in products, styling or displays.

Who are your design heroes?
There is an endless list of people and eras who have influenced the three of us. We generally focus on experimental designers such as Max Lamb and Formafantasma, but also respect brands which make common products in a special way, for example Copenhagen's Wrong For Hay and New York's Good Thing.

BELOW: LAB DE STU's 'Hurdle Family' by Dowel Jones, including the 'Full Hurdle' and 'Half Hurdle' chairs

ABOVE: The 'Hurdle Tray' side table comes in covetable colours

Is Melbourne a big influence on you? And where’s on your travel wish list?
Our focus is predominantly on collaborating with local manufacturers, so living in a country with manufacturing forever moving away is difficult and influences all aspects of our design work. Asia is on our travel wish list as we’re always looking to Europe, America and Scandinavian countries for design, yet we are so close to Asia and there is such growth and opportunity in the design discipline there.

What’s your social media of choice?
We predominantly use Instagram as a quick and responsive way to introduce work and display interior projects. It's also a great way to get instant feedback from the public.
labdestu.com.au

LAB DE STU is exhibiting from 8-11 March 2016 as part of the Rising Asian Talents showcase at Maison&Objet Asia at Sands Expo and Convention Center, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. For past Fizz coverage of Dowel Jones, see their contribution to The Broadsheet Restaurant.

Pictures: Cricket Studio cricket-studio.com.au

BRODIE NEILL Made in Ratio

Born in Australia, Brodie Neill's designs have proved a global hit. His eponymous London-based label crafts limited editions and public commissions, while his brand Made in Ratio produces eye-catching furniture and lighting. A furniture design graduate from Tasmania, he has created work for Italian firms Kundalini and Riva 1920, as well as one-off projects for Austrian crystal company Swarovski and British fashion guru Alexander McQueen.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What inspired you to start Made in Ratio?
I set up Made in Ratio in 2013 to create a more accessible furniture collection to sit alongside the limited edition and commission pieces produced by my studio, but one that still maintained my trademark high quality of form, originality and innovation. 

What’s the brand’s design vision?
To bring thoughtful and progressive ideas to life that are in perfect proportion: of form and function, time-honoured and new materials, traditional hand craftsmanship and boundary-pushing digital process. 

ABOVE: Brodie Neill with his sculptural 2015 'Wishbone' seats, three-way organic benches commissioned by Hobart's Brooke Street Pier
ABOVE RIGHT: The stackable 'Alpha' chair with A-shaped back

ABOVE: The head-turning 'Supernova' table and 'Alpha' chair helped put Neill's London-based brand Made in Ratio on the map, combining traditional craftsmanship with digital technology

Your ‘Supernova’ table and ‘Alpha’ chair have helped make your name. Tell us more.
Both ‘Supernova’ and ‘Alpha’ are the result of organic engineering, inspired by nature and refined through technology. The ‘Supernova’ trestle is formed by pouring 100 per cent recycled molten aluminium into a sand casted mould. We combined an ancient manufacturing process with environmental sustainability to produce a modern product with a long lifespan. A toughened glass top rests on the star-shaped trestles, which can be positioned in various multiples and orientations to create a dining table, desk or coffee table.

Our ‘Alpha’ chair is inspired by whale vertebrae that wash up on the shores of Tasmania’s coast. The name is derived from the A-shaped structure of the back legs and backrest, which give the chair its strength. ‘Alpha’ is formed from six components individually CNC-shaped and assembled into the single seamless form using traditional and contemporary woodworking techniques.

What projects do you have coming up?
2016 kicked off with Made in Ratio presenting our collection at January's Maison&Objet design fair in Paris, including reiterations of some of our most recognised pieces. We are planning events at this year’s Salone del Mobile in Milan and the London Design Festival. In Australia, I was delighted to be shortlisted for the recent Rigg Design Prize exhibition at Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria. Made in Ratio also has exciting projects coming up in 2016 through its commercial partner Living Edge design store in Australia. In Hobart, we have designed the ‘Wishbone’ sculptural seating for the Brooke Street Pier, which is now open to the public.

BELOW: Made in Ratio's 2013 'Cowrie Rocker' rocking lounger takes its cue from the concave curves of seashells. The sweeping all-in-one structure is formed from plywood with a veneer of natural ash, ebonised ash, walnut or oak.

photo: brooke holm

photo: brooke holm

Do you still work independently as Brodie Neill on design-art and limited edition commissions? Or does Made in Ratio dominate your time?
The two studios work hand-in-hand and our research and experimentation for projects in one studio informs our work in the other. I established Made in Ratio as a small, self-produced collection to complement my complete creative output. Currently, under the Brodie Neill arm, we are working on private commissions in Asia and the USA, new furniture products for Italian brand Riva 1920, and ‘Portal’, an eight-metre sculpture for Brooke Street Pier on the waterfront of Tasmania's capital Hobart, a landmark meeting point that will be installed mid-2016.

Where do you get inspiration?
The beauty and complexity found in nature continues to be my biggest source of inspiration; over millennia, through evolution, nature has already resolved many of the design challenges we face today. This inspiration manifests itself in the overall form as well as the details in my designs.

ABOVE: Moulded from a single piece of Corian, Made in Ratio's 2014 'Pleat' indoor/outdoor bench effortlessly overlaps at each end to create an elegant silhouette

How do the UK and Australian design scenes differ?
With the help of modern communication, the two countries are now closer than ever before and through recent projects, I’ve been lucky to be part of both. London is nearer to other established design capitals such as Milan, Paris and Stockholm as well as burgeoning design scenes in cities including Berlin, Lodz and Ljubljana, which all influence the vibrancy of the creative scene and diversity of work across Europe. 

In Australia it’s great to see local design getting the chance to shine, thanks to some fantastic recent projects, with more currently underway all over the country. Through Made in Ratio’s partnership with Living Edge we are fortunate to be part of these exciting schemes.

Globally, we’re seeing a shift away from the bigger brands of Europe and North America – these guys still control the market share don’t get me wrong! – but we’re seeing a scope for smaller operations as alternatives and this suits locally designed and produced pieces in Australia and throughout the world. 

What’s currently exciting you in design, architecture or art?
I find it inspiring to see materials being used in original ways and innovation in processes where new life is breathed into forgotten crafts through the aid of digital design. It’s also at the crossroads of previously defined design fields that the real magic happens, where science meets art, nature meets technology and the old meets the new. Preconceived design disciplines are discarded allowing contemporary creatives to roam free across uncharted territory.

ABOVE: The 'Supernova' table in a fresh incarnation, supported by a trio of trestles in spaceage shapes and tempting turquoise

Which design era has influenced you the most?
The pioneering period of the 1950s and 60s has been particularly influential in my designs. It was a very potent time of experimenting with new materials and technologies. The era also saw an emergence of playfulness in designers and their sculptural ideas for the home.

Where’s on your travel wishlist?
I have just returned from the IMM Cologne design show and Paris. Over the next few months, I have some trips planned in Europe to meet the craftspeople we work with and visit factories. I am also keen to build on our success in the Far East and will be travelling to China and Japan towards the middle of the year and then Australia. 

What’s your social media of choice?
Design is inherently a visual industry so Instagram and Twitter lend themselves really well as platforms where we can tell stories through images and also seek inspiration and keep in touch with wider industry trends. Follow us on @madeinratio and @brodieneill.
madeinratio.com   brodieneill.com