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'

JO SAMPSON

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In the late Seventies and early Eighties, no hipster would be seen without a leather studded wristband or belt. Brit designer Jo Sampson has hijacked street fashion's most recognisable item and infused it with high-end glamour to produce 'Rebel', a gorgeous collection of homewares and accessories for Irish crystal house Waterford

BY DEE IVA

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Tell us about your latest collection for Waterford...
The 'Rebel' collection was created with a more design-savvy customer in mind; someone interested in unique and stylish gifts. The mixed-media range is about an attitude and outlook and is meant to be aesthetically beautiful while being unexpected and fun.

It’s quite a varied mix of items, from barware to jewellery, chopsticks and travel kit – what brings its aesthetic together?
The range is brought together by the iconic punk stud; it’s a design detail which transcends time and generations. To apply such a hard angular feature to both metals and crystal (from smoke-grey to amber, purple and blush) was challenging, but it is the thread which holds everything together.

How would you describe your style as a designer?
I’m quite eclectic and design for the specific challenge rather than having a 'house style'. My ranges always have a narrative running through them, and I always design with an end user in mind. It just so happens that I would also buy everything that I create!

ABOVE RIGHT: Shot glass, £65 per pair; 'Gracie' studded cuff, £110
BELOW: Studded crystal and gold vases, glasses and bowls from the 'Rebel' collection. From left: Diamond Box, £55; Shot glass £65, per pair; Bud vase, £80; 8" vase, £110; Dog bowl, £110

TOP ROW FROM LEFT: Napkin rings, £60 for four; Bottle opener, £30; Flask, £60; USB stick, £60
BOTTOM ROW FROM LEFT: Salt and pepper set, £45; Compact mirror, £50; 'Gracie' studded cuff, £110; Tape measure, £35

Who or what is currently exciting you in design?
I love the Japanese design firm Nendo – they are all about surprise and delight and have a unique view of the world. I also look at stylists' work to see how they reinterpret a product and setting. I like the unexpected and things that make you look at life differently; antiques shops and markets are great because there is no core theme and I find that inspirational.

ABOVE: The Nendo 'Chocolatexture' lounge at January's Maison & Objet design show in Paris featured chocolate-coloured furniture set among rippling ombré tubes

What’s next for you?
I am about to conceive new products for all of my current ranges for Waterford. I love going back to a story and adding more products. Something always comes up in the development stage of a project that just doesn’t make the initial deadline and has to wait for the second phase. I am also looking at wine glasses for the 'Elysian' range and I can’t wait to develop them.

Who are your design heroes?
They vary over time. When I was starting out, I worked for Sir Terence Conran and Michele De Lucchi. Both were a huge influence on me and I saw their very different approaches to design and commerciality. I love people who are brave in the way Coco Chanel, Vivienne Westwood (left) and Alexander McQueen have been in the world of fashion. My work often means a lot of background research and historical referencing and one person whose story fascinated me was Josiah Wedgwood.

Is there anything you wish you had designed?
The Tetra Pak! For something so innocuous it has changed modern day life – it’s an everyday hero.

Where’s on your travel wish-list and why?
There are so many places and so little time! I need some escapism right now to recharge, so I would like to go somewhere very peaceful and warm with no internet.

If you weren’t a designer what might you have been?
I would have inevitably ended up in some sort of creative career. I loved photography and was always interested in it and graphic design, theatre and garden design. I can’t imagine not doing something where I use my imagination; I am a problem solver and love challenges so I don’t think I could be anything else!

What’s your social media of choice?
I love Instagram as it’s so visual – I need to do it more.
josampson.com  

The 'Rebel' collection for Waterford will be available from late April 2015
Visit 
waterford.com for local stockists


Nendo picture: Joakim Blockstrom  joakimblockstrom.com
Vivienne Westwood portrait: Juergen Teller  juergenteller.com