MARTYN THOMPSON

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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)

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