Melbourne Design Week 2023 (MDW) is over for another year but not without igniting more curiosity, discovery and pride in our Australian design community than ever—just in time to tide us over for the winter.
Curated by the NGV, the continued support of designers and makers was felt in more ways than one, as the event used its platform to advocate the value of good design and specifically foster a place for participants to promote and sell their work—because starving artists is a played-out cliché, isn’t it? But more importantly, how do we expect to see continuously beautiful and provocative work if we don’t first respect the object and the person behind it?
Located at the new end of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Melbourne Design Fair was on another level this year, offering one-of-a-kind, limited edition and small-batch design production of furniture, lighting and objects for sale by emerging designers and makers. Over at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, the NGV’s Melbourne Now continued with The Design Wall celebrating consumer products designed in Melbourne, bringing together twenty-five design studios that are shaping the way we live today.
Installation view of Oigall Studios at Melbourne Design Fair 2023 from 18-21 May at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, part of Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Lillie Thompson.
Installation view of Oigall Studios at Melbourne Design Fair 2023 from 18-21 May at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, part of Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Lillie Thompson.
Installation view of Sullivan+Strumpf at Melbourne Design Fair 2023 from 18-21 May at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, part of Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Lillie Thompson.
Installation view of Studio Tops at Melbourne Design Fair 2023 from 18-21 May at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, part of Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
Installation view of Sozou at Melbourne Design Fair 2023 from 18-21 May at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, part of Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Lillie Thompson.
Installation view of Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert at Melbourne Design Fair 2023 from 18-21 May at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, part of Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Lillie Thompson.
Installation view of Gaetano Pesce for Neon Parc at Melbourne Design Fair 2023 from 18-21 May at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, part of Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Lillie Thompson.
Limited edition Metamorphic Table by Alexander Lotersztain.
Paula Savage’s work on display in FOCUS at Melbourne Design Fair 2023 from 18-21 May at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, part of Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Sean Fennessy. Paula was awarded the 2023 Melbourne Design Week Award, presented by Mercedes-Benz.
With the event’s enduring theme, Design The World You Want, feeling increasingly more relevant as the years go on, we observed three leading principles offering ‘food for thought’—Community, Materiality and Legacy. The participants looked inward at the existing rituals that define us and outward to push the boundaries of these parameters in an effort to futureproof our world.
Designers seemed to strike similar chords from completely different perspectives and seemingly, with little to no discussion, an indication to us that this is what’s important right now to our local design community.
Let’s dive in.
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Coco Flip presented Linear, an exhibition of limited-edition lighting alongside a short film that explores the history and legacy of pleating. Working with Melbourne’s last remaining pleating factory—Specialty Pleaters in Williamstown—the lighting and design studio seeks to understand the historical significance of pleating and engage with the process, exploring new ways that pleating can be applied in a contemporary design context. Photos: Pier Carthew.
At Robin Boyd’s Walsh St residence, Mud Australia founder and creative director Shelley Simpson and industrial designer Zachary Hanna debuted three lamps designed collaboratively. The unique shapes and colours were born from a truly collaborative process between the two designers, pushing the boundaries in their respective porcelain and lighting design fields. Photos: Sean Fennessy.
Zachary Hanna’s ceramic lamp for Mud Australia. Photos: Sean Fennessy.
Kieren Karritpul’s ‘Texere’ at the Tolarno Gallery delivered a vibrant display of flowing fabric adorned with layered printing techniques. Karritpul’s artistry narrated Indigenous stories, histories and experiences, powerfully illustrating his deep connection to the land. Installation view of Kieren Karritpul’s Texere: New Woven Surfaces On Fabric presented by Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne on display from 18-27 May as part of Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Andrew Curtis.
Kieren Karritpul’s ‘Texere’ at Tolarno Gallery. Photo: Andrew Curtis.
All Roads Lead to Community
At the heart of MDW, the theme of ‘community’ pulsed through a series of diverse exhibitions. These ranged from the reflective object study ‘Vitrine’ to the sensory exploration ‘Villages’, from the open-door concept ‘Design House’ and the communal spirit of ‘Open Table’.
In Vitrine, Marsha Golemac invited nine artists to reflect on the significance of objects and how they shape and reflect our identity. The participants on paper, from renowned Australian sculptor Peter D. Cole to Melbourne-based artist Jeremy Blincoe, couldn’t seem further apart, yet come together cohesively through a bond of self-expression. The bringing together of people and unearthing new talent is one of Marsha’s many talents as she invites and creates space, bringing people who may not consider themselves a part of the traditional design community into the fold.
Over at At the Above, Ceramic artist Sarah Nedovic collaborated with Art Director Stephanie Stamatis in Villages, a moving exhibition that drew on their own first-generation experience of immigrants to explore two interrelated components—nostalgic memories from the land and conversations at the long table. The two creatives combined their skills, Sarah presenting a series of illuminating sculptures inspired by Brutalist Spomenik memorials of her former-Yugoslavian heritage, alongside a long table curated by Stephanie filled with cultural signifiers and memory lodgers like spices, sunflower seeds and figs–representing a drawn out meal. The exhibition even came with a meal, with Stephanie hosting a dinner that spoke to her own ties to family and tradition utilising usable artefacts designed by Sarah and her team.
Oigall Projects welcomed guests into their Fitzroy gallery’s restored private home, presenting ‘Design House’—a space where conceptual design met everyday life. Shown here is a light by Volker Haug and a timber chair by Lex Williams. Photo: Annika Kafcaloudis.
Brud Studia table and stool, and light by Henry Wilson. Photo: Annika Kafcaloudis.
Ceiling Light by Brem Perera. Fabric Floor Lamp by Fletcher Barns. Photo: Annika Kafcaloudis.
At the Silo Project, the former grain silos played host to experimental design strategies from leading Australian voices, including Pascale Gomes-McNabb, Volker Haug, and Meagan Streader. An architectural intervention, it challenged the isolation of the silos, fostering a space for creative fluidity and collectivity. Installation view of Danielle Brustman’s Crosswords Light in Silo Project presented by Ancher Architecture Office, Corey Thomas and Josee Vesely-Manning on display from 18-21 May as part of Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Pier Carthew.
Installation view of FOMU, Billie Civello, Bel WIlliams and Ashisha Cunningham’s work in Silo Project presented by Ancher Architecture Office, Corey Thomas and Josee Vesely-Manning on display from 18-21 May as part of Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Pier Carthew.
Installation view of Corey Thomas’ work in Silo Project presented by Ancher Architecture Office, Corey Thomas and Josee Vesely-Manning on display from 18-21 May as part of Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Pier Carthew.
With a connection to the land in mind, Kieren Karritpul’s first solo exhibition Texere: New Woven Surfaces On Fabric was grounded a little closer to home. Held at Tolarno Gallery, the artist who is from Nauiyu/ Daly River in the Northern Territory presented a commanding show of flowing fabric adorned with screen printing, stencil and lino printing—with techniques often layered on top of one another. Colourful and magnetic, stories and histories of an indigenous life were woven into fabric through repetition and lines.
Oigall Projects opened the doors of their private home, set atop their Fitzroy gallery, after a long and, in their words, sometimes painful restoration, to present Design House—a celebration of conceptual design in an everyday context, away from any pedestals. As they explain: “Functional art, performing its function… We want to place design in a considered and liveable context. Let it be fussed over, touched and tried, wiped down, shuffled around and switched on and off at the end of a day.” Bravo boys, no notes.
In ‘Vitrine’, Marsha Golemac invited nine artists to explore how objects shape and reflect our identities. United by the common thread of self-expression, these individuals from different artistic realms expanded the conventional notions of the design community. Installation view of Jeremy Blincoe’s work on display in Vitrine: Object Identity presented by Marsha Golemac at Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Annika Kafcaloudis.
Installation view of Peter D Cole’s work on display in Vitrine: Object Identity presented by Marsha Golemacat Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Annika Kafcaloudis.
Installation view of Matt Bromhead’s work on display in Vitrine: Object Identity presented by Marsha Golemac at Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Annika Kafcaloudis.
Installation view of Danielle Brustman, Minaal Lawn, Sara Yael & Dylan James’ work for Open Table.
Flack Studio for Open Table.
Installation view of Karen Black & Ruby Black’s work at Open Table.
Just a short walk away, community was also on the minds of Flack Studio with Open Table. Collaborating with a range of artists and designers, the studio curated an exhibition responding to the idea of gathering around a table. Closely linked to family and home, participants recalled memories, rituals and habits that all formed at this universal setting.
Friends and Associates and Myf Doughty were around for a good time, but not a long time. Described by one half of F&A, Dale Hardiman, as “mayhem”, the collective invited everyone to join in on their temporary show 1-Hour Exhibition and bring an object to be sat on—the only requirement being that you must stay for the complete 60 minutes. An exhibition that didn’t take itself too seriously, entries ranged from an opened can of coke; a pile of books, a suitcase and a number of creative cardboard creations, to some sensational design pieces.
Friends and Associates and Myf Doughty created the playful ‘1-Hour Exhibition’, inviting visitors to bring an object to be sat on for a full hour. The collective’s unique take on participatory design highlighted the theme of community in an unconventional and delightfully engaging way. Photo above: George Shvili. Photos below: Catherine Feint.
Materiality and Waste Exploration
Material and process exploration were everywhere you looked during the week, challenging established ideas and showcasing a collective hunger for responsibility around consumption and sustainability.
One exhibition that intersected both Community and Materiality was HARD, curated by Calum Hurley. In its second edition, 19 queer creatives from across Australia created something new with found household waste. Celebrating queer sexuality and identity in tandem with the Australian ritual of sneaking out after dark to scour the streets for hard rubbish—something anyone who’s lived in a share house can relate to, it’s an exhibition that wears its heart on its sleeve. As Elliott Papazahariakis elaborates in his essay written for the show: “[household waste, or hard rubbish is] too bulky, too strange, too queer even, to fit neatly into coloured bins, thus continues its important role for those living on the margins.”
Sydney-based Tom Fereday and Melbourne-based Charlie White presented Versa, a joint show developed through a process of independent collaboration. The exhibition showcases a collection of unique furniture and architectural elements, made by Tom and Charlie respectively, tailored to the three spaces of the Meat Market Stables in North Melbourne. The pair sought to create a series of works that explore the turning of waste materials and the challenging of their perceived value.
Presented by Misc Objet and New Assemblage WORKSHOP01 showcased new work by eleven emerging designers with wildly diverse outlooks, all united by a desire to push boundaries beyond the aesthetically consensual. The exhibition provides unique insight into the varied influences and processes that shape creative output. Photo: Nicholas Wilton.
Installation view of Julian Leigh May’s work in WORKSHOP 01 presented by Misc Objet and New Assemblage on display from 18-21 May as part of Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Nicholas Wilton.
Installation view of Tess Pirrie’s work in WORKSHOP 01 presented by Misc Objet and New Assemblage on display from 18-21 May as part of Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Nicholas Wilton.
DO WORKS presents its first project, Trade Between, at the Nicholas Building. Drawing on furniture’s rich history and cultural significance, the exhibition featured a collection of furniture by emerging architects and designers that transcends the mundane and challenges assumptions of use. Installation view of works by Dalton Stewart, Shalini Rautela & Angus Grant. Photo: Pier Carthew.
Works by Annie Paxton, Dalton Stewart and Shalini Rautela at Trade Between presented by DO WORKS, on display from 18-28 May at the Nicholas Building as part of Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Pier Carthew.
At Craft Victoria, a fantastic display of jugs was on show with twenty ceramic artists invited to reinterpret the classic vessel; big, small and detailed, the object was explored as an object of utility and connection to the human experience. Photo: Henry Trumble.
Installation View at Craft Victoria’s Jugs exhibition. Photo: Henry Trumble.
Futures Collective returned to the Villa Alba with a collective showcase filling the museum that may be the closest thing we have to a Milanese palazzo. On the ground floor, MATTERS saw a collection of Australian and International designers-makers embark on a process-driven exploration that will be gradually developed over the course of three exhibitions. Curated by Marlo Lyda, the emerging platform established with Jordan Fleming in 2023 prompted the participants with the question ‘What matters to you? With the relentless demand for new output on designers, to the point of needlessness or worse creative output, this slow approach to process was one of the most exciting things we saw come out of MDW—and the best part is we will have to wait to see how they turn out!
Upstairs Sydney-based Genevieve Hromas and Juliet Ramsey of OKLO OKLO presented a series of playful pieces that oscillated between object and furniture, found and formed as the duo leaned into the possibilities of re-use and limiting waste with resources. Fiona Lyda drew on the Australian landscape to present Innate, a new collection of rugs and bath towels in two conversing rooms. Also on show was TAPPETI X YSG’s inaugural rug collaboration and a chair designed by Tom Fereday in partnership with Eco Outdoor.
Tappeti X YSG’s new rug collection alongside pieces by OKLO OKLO at Villa Alba for Futures Collective. OKLO OKLO’s Genevieve Hromas and Juliet Ramsey brought their resourceful spirit to the table with playful pieces that oscillated between objects and furniture. Photo: Tess Kelly.
Fiona Lyda drew on the Australian landscape to present Innate, a new collection of rugs and bath towels in two conversing rooms. Photo: Tess Kelly.
Villa Alba Museum was the backdrop for Futures Collective’s exhibition ‘MATTERS’. A mix of local and international designers embarked on a slow, process-driven exploration in a bid to answer the question, ‘What matters to you?’ The slow-burn approach provided a refreshing reprieve from the relentless demand for new output, sparking intrigue for the forthcoming exhibitions. Photo: Tess Kelly.
A joint exhibition, ‘Versa’, conceived by Tom Fereday and Charlie White, presented a unique assembly of furniture and architectural elements at the Meat Market Stables in North Melbourne. Here, waste materials were not just repurposed but reimagined, challenging notions of perceived value and fostering a dialogue on sustainability. Photo: Pier Carthew.
Installation view of 090423 by Charlie White on display in VERSA at Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Pier Carthew.
Installation view of VERSA presented by Charlie White and Tom Fereday at Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photo: Pier Carthew.
In a site-specific location just as grand as Villa Alba, The Silo Project took place in six former grain silos in inner city Melbourne. Presented with tireless effort (and a lot of cleaning up to make it ‘exhibition’ ready) by Ancher Architecture, Corey Thomas and Josee Vesely-Manning, the now obsolete industrial monolith played host to an architectural intervention by some of Australia’s leading design voices including Pascale Gomes-McNabb, Volker Haug and Meagan Streader. Responding directly to the moody site, contributors presented new experimental design strategies that played against the space’s starkness and as “an inversion of the meaning of silo as verb, where rather than working in isolation, collectivity and creative fluidity is implicit.”
In Cult’s Waste Dream in collaboration with Mater, the exhibition took visitors on a circular design journey from waste to furniture with Mater’s new ‘Conscious Collection’—a series of innovative products that takes fibrous waste material, such as coffee bean shells, fishing nets, sawdust and beer kegs, and up-cycles it into a unique composite material that can be press-moulded to create new furniture. The collection is usable and beautiful—watch this space.
‘HARD’, curated by Calum Hurley, brought together 19 queer creatives from across Australia, all revelling in the transformation of found household waste into newfound treasures. It bravely celebrated queer identity and the Australian tradition of scavenging hard rubbish, creating a palpable sense of community that echoed in every corner of the show. Photo: Jax Oliver Studios.
Cult’s Waste Dream, in collaboration with Mater, demonstrated the circular journey from waste to furniture with their innovative ‘Conscious Collection’. Photos: Lumea Photo.
In a delightful nod to the past, Melbourne Design Week 2023 offered a riveting journey through design history with a plethora of exhibitions paying homage to rich design legacies.
At the invitation of Tait, Marsha Golemac curated the Australian design company’s mammoth milestone in 30 Years of Tait. From the hammer to the robot, the exhibition highlighted the rich history that’s developed along the way.
Held at their showroom in Hawthorn, BACHLI Furniture presented The Principle of Lightness a spectacular exhibition created to mark MDF Italia’s 30th anniversary. A new collection of limited editions in hand-polished steel or aluminium finishes reimagined four exemplary products from its history; simultaneously freezing them in time and bringing them back to life.
Inside the Artist’s Residence in the historic ‘Foy and Gibson’ precinct of Collingwood, Fred International and Halycon Lake presented a uniquely curated apartment space showcasing a collection of art & objects, furniture, rugs and lighting, immersing us into the world of the artisan in residence, V.Brokkr. Curated by Without Studio, the apartment felt like a welcome haven during our non-stop stomping on day two.
That’s all for now, folks! Well, at least that was all we could fit into one article, which is a testament to our amazing design community that continues to outdo itself year after year. We already cannot wait for 2024.
Curated by Marsha Golemac, “30 Years of Tait” commemorated the monumental journey of the Australian design company, Tait. From hammer to robot, this show traced the intriguing evolution of Tait’s design narrative. Photo: Haydn Cattach.
BACHLI Furniture marked MDF Italia’s 30th anniversary with “The Principle of Lightness”. This captivating showcase breathed new life into four of MDF Italia’s iconic products, each in limited edition hand-polished steel or aluminium finishes. Photo: Nicholas Wilkins.
Nestled in Collingwood’s historic ‘Foy and Gibson’ precinct, the Artist’s Residence provided a respite from the whirlwind of exhibitions. This unique apartment, curated by Without Studio, featured a curated mix of art, objects, furniture, rugs, and lighting from Fred and Halcyon Lake, encapsulating the world of the artisan in residence, V.Brokkr.
Installation view of Sense of Direction presented by Alpha 60 and Brendan Huntly on display from 18-28May as part of Melbourne Design Week 2023. Photos: Sean Fennessy.
Sense of Direction by Alpha 60 and Brendan Huntly. Photo: Sean Fennessy.
Held at FIN gallery’s new location in Prahran, Foreign Dialogues brought together both emerging and established voices from Australia and Europe to highlight the worldwide shift towards material experimentation and process-based design using the notion of ‘intricately entangled’ as a jumping-off point. Pictured: Joana Schneider.
[Images courtesy of NGV and the Designers. Photography credits as noted.]