LOUISE OLSEN – Dinosaur Designs

Louise Olsen is one half of influential Sydney duo Dinosaur Designs, alongside artist partner Stephen Ormandy. Pioneers of using resin to create gorgeous homewares and jewellery, the pair takes inspiration from nature, art and the city they call home...

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What’s your design philosophy or style?
I like to create forms that nurture people’s senses. I love the juxtaposition between materials. I like to humanise modern materials such as resin and metals.

What do each of you bring to the design process?
Stephen and I work independently on our own designs for Dinosaur Designs. We both have our own signature, design sensibility and understanding of resins that we have worked with for over 30 years now. 

TOP: Louise Olsen and her work/life partner Stephen Ormandy, co-founders of Sydney homewares and jewellery brand Dinosaur Designs
ABOVE RIGHT : Debut hardback book 'The Art of Dinosaur Designs', published recently by Penguin Lantern, shares the studio's vision

Tell us about your new book The Art of Dinosaur Designs
Our book was a chance to open our studio doors and allow people to see behind the scenes of how Stephen and I design and create, and to discover some of the inspirations behind our pieces. We didn’t want to do a straightforward history, but we do cover some of the highlights of the past 30 years.

Where or how do you find inspiration?
I’m constantly inspired by nature. I love the way nature takes time to evolve and perfect. I find that when designing an object it takes time and there is a lovely flow that happens as one idea leads to another. 

ABOVE: Launched in October 2016, the duo's latest collection 'ColourBlock' features 'Totem' vases, pictured, alongside platters, plates and salt dishes in bold and soft primary hues. It also boasts sculptural jewellery, including bangles, earrings, rings, necklaces and neck cuffs, exploring colour blocking

What materials and colours are you currently drawn to?
At the moment I’m working on a collection inspired by sandstone, called 'Sand', launching in February 2017. I love all the variation of pigments in the sands from Central Australia to coastal beaches. Our recent 'ColourBlock' range played with solid hues, juxtaposing them, from cobalt blue and vivid coral red to refreshing accents of bright grass green, reminiscent of summer days.

How have art and nature influenced your practice?
We both have a passion for the world of art and nature as it offers never-ending change and beauty.

ABOVE: Sunrise at the iconic Sydney Opera House, one of Louise Olsen's favourite design destinations, by Danish architect Jørn Utzon

Is Sydney a big inspiration? And do you have any favourite local design hot spots?
We can’t help but be inspired by the ocean, the nature and the light of Sydney. For our favourite design spot it’s hard to go past the Sydney Opera House. We’re so lucky to have it – it’s an incredible icon. 

ABOVE: One of Olsen's influences is American designer and sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Pictured is his walnut wood and plate glass 'Coffee Table' (IN-50), 1944; The freeform 'Cloud Sofa and Ottoman', c 1948, in fabric, foam, wood and iron; the Sculpture Garden at The Noguchi Museum, Long Island City, New York; A Noguchi installation at the museum

Who are your design heroes? Or which era, aesthetic or interior has influenced you the most?
Giacometti, Picasso, Calder, Bertoia, Ray and Charles Eames and Noguchi are our design heroes; they were all artists who also designed furniture, ceramics, jewellery, sets and costumes for film and theatre. Every era has its moment of beauty. I tend to think more about the future. 

Where’s on your travel wish list and why?
I’d love to see more of India; it’s so unexpected and varied, and there’s so much ancient history that’s still alive that sits alongside contemporary life.

BELOW: Dinosaur Designs' curvy store in The Strand Melbourne, and a more linear look in their Sydney boutique in the historic Strand Arcade

You have shops in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, New York and London – any plans for future launches?
We’re currently working on a new store in Crosby Street in New York, which will be open early in 2017.

What social media do you use most?
Instagram – because of its wonderful visual stories.
dinosaurdesigns.com.au

Pictures: Rachel Kara (portrait); Heleena Trahanas (book cover); Bec Parsons ('ColourBlock' collection, styled by Mark Vassallo, model Duckie Thot); Sydney Opera House; The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York (Noguchi furniture); George Hirose (Sculpture Garden); Elizabeth Felicella (Noguchi installation view)

See our review section The Library for more on new book 'The Art of Dinosaur Designs'

MARTYN THOMPSON

Prince st MT portrait 2 06.2016.jpg

Australian photographer Martyn Thompson is well known for his enigmatic imagery which has appeared in style bibles including Elle Decoration, Vogue and Architectural Digest. Now a native New Yorker, he has turned his eye to designing esoteric fabrics for the home. We go behind the lens to see what makes him tick...

BY DEE IVA

What prompted you to start designing textiles?
I’ve always loved textiles. Thirty years ago I was painting fabrics, making them into clothes and selling them in a small shop in Sydney. I began taking pictures of them and my photography career was born out of that – it took over. So coming back to fabric isn't a total stretch. I had started exploring new ways to reproduce my photos and discovered the digitised jacquard loom. Although a little suspicious of the first results I soon fell in love – there’s a depth to the tapestry-like weave that speaks to the tactility I search for in my photos. I realised the potential for interior fabrics and began to develop the idea.

Tell us about your new 'Rock Pool' textile collection.
I was in Limeni on the Mani Peninsula of Greece on an editorial assignment. Standing at the end of a jetty staring at the rocks in the water below, I saw all these colours – amazing – like a painter's palette – dancing on the surface. I took a small cart load of photos and these became the basis for the 'Rock Pool' collection.

ABOVE AND ABOVE RIGHT: Martyn Thompson in his Manhattan studio
BELOW FROM TOP: Thompson's watery 'Rock Pool' design can be used to upholster walls as well as furniture. The chair is covered in a mix of 'Whitewash' and 'Painted Galaxy'; A range of Thompson's earlier designs including 'The Accidental Expressionist' and 'Melting' are used to cover these cushions; 'Ripple' from the 'Rock Pool' collection covers the wall, the small sofa is upholstered in 'Blotch' from the 'Accidental Expressionist' collection

Does your photography inform your designs?
It’s very literally an extension of it. Each of the fabrics begins as one of my photographs before we edit and develop the image into a repeat pattern. My photography has always been very much about a certain quality of light and a particular muted colour palette. Happily these qualities translate beautifully to the jacquard loom process.

ABOVE: The 'Green Buterflie' scarf from Martyn Thompson's first accessories collection is printed on silk and uses designs from his interiors collections

We hear you were quite the club kid in the Eighties…
Ahhh... that was the early Eighties. A lifestyle choice that didn't bode well for my university studies! I always loved dressing up and was a real show off on the dance floor. I started making my clothes when I was quite young and was totally enamoured of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. I didn't really think anything could get better than New Romanticism, but when their Buffalo Girls collection came out I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It’s still my fave fashion moment ever. I guess music was my first great love – and I admired performers like Siouxsie and the Banshees as much for how they looked as for their sound – though the music was fabulous too of course.

That period was an incredibly creative time, is there anyone who particularly inspired you?
There was a general spirit of getting on with stuff to just do it. For me, a young queer kid, this felt like a time outside of boundaries and prejudice. Boy George, Marilyn, Jimmy Somerville and other 'out' singers were a total inspiration. Homosexuality was still illegal where I grew up and I think these people gave me permission to exist.

What are your favourite design hotspots in the Big Apple?
The Future Perfect design store (below left) – David Alhadeff is a total advocate of what is new and is helping many new designers build their careers. I’ve always really admired Paula Rubinstein for her quirky take on vintage objects and textiles. Other favourites are Federico de Vera on Crosby Street – he has a really beautiful vision – and I love the new Oliver Gustav shop on Howard Street (below right).

Do you have any design heroes?
Yes plenty… to name a few, Gio Ponti, Mariano Fortuny, Vivienne Westwood, Susie Cooper.

Where's on your travel wish list and why?
Well, I'm crazy about Iceland. I love that there is still a sense of the unexplored and the impenetrable. It’s so ancient looking and can get really remote, really fast and you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere with no one – not a sensation that's commonly achieved where I live in Manhattan!

What's your social media of choice?
I have an Instagram account but I'm disappointed that it has become such a commercial medium. I think that Tumblr can be really beautiful, especially the 'pin up' board format – that's my favourite.
martynthompsonstudio.com 

Pictures: Lauren Coleman (The Future Perfect)