Richard Ellis at Dovetail Design has been an inspiration to not only his own unique art but that of a whole community of local artists. The well known furniture designer tells us what is in store for 2009.
> Richard, how are things going at the workshop?
2008 was an extremely busy year – especially the Christmas season. It was a diverse year with projects all over the place, so I ran around quite a lot. The Sydney and Melbourne orders were strong despite the economic gloom, and I also had a lot of work to complete for Frank Lowy’s boat, that is being refurbished in Newcastle. Local orders were also been strong.
> Tell us about the team you have with you.
2008 saw a few staff changes. Jon Kahler, who was with me for 4 years, has left to travel overseas. Luke Billin is still with me and into the last year of his apprenticeship. Luke is going well, but his singing in the workshop hasn’t improved at all!
Ben Ramsay, who has been doing a school based apprenticeship at the ATC, starts his 2nd year full time with me in January. Bill Finn joined us in March from Dubbo, where he finished his trade in furniture furnishing. Bill and his wife to be made the big sea change and are really enjoying their new life style in Port Macquarie.
The whole team works really well together, and although we work really hard there are many laughs along the way. I really appreciate all the hard work and the cooperation of the team over the past year.
> You have been playing host to some great exhibitions in your gallery at Dovetail Design. What have you got coming up in 2009?
Yes, it was a busy year; the exhibitions had some great turn outs. In this economic climate however, it has been hard to sell works, and that is disappointing for both the artist and myself.
This year the gallery space will be available for artists who wish to put on their own exhibitions.
> Why is Dovetail Design a great space for artists?
I think Dovetail is a great place for artists because of the natural light and large hanging area. The open plan and minimalistic design are perfect for artists to create their own unique exhibition.
> You produce some beautiful pieces. Where does your inspiration come from?
I am usually inspired by organic forms. It might be a shell on the beach or a piece of fruit. Sometimes you wake in the morning with a new idea. However, because my business is client driven, you design around the clients’ needs or ideas. I often like to go to their home to see what existing furniture they have and design something that will fit in.
> What sort of material do you use?
I use whatever material is needed. For example, for Frank Lowy’s work we had to source all sorts of exotic timbers and veneer from all over the world.
For Advantage Accounting’s new office in Gordon Street I made a boardroom table and sideboard using Bur Maple from the USA, Madagascan Ebony and Narrow Leaf Wattle from Queensland.
> What do you think is better, traditional or modern design?
My personal preference would be to design and make contemporary furniture, although we do make a diverse range of traditional and classic pieces.
> What sets your business apart from similar businesses?
Our key strength is our ability to provide such a varied design range. There are no limits on the style of furniture we can create – endeavouring to always source the best quality of imported timber and veneers. We are also a small operation, so we can meet market design trends quickly.
> How important is training and educating your staff?
It’s so very important. I strongly believe in the apprenticeship system, where trainees learn the practical and theoretical aspects of furniture making.
It’s also a craft where you can constantly challenge yourself, so you never stop learning.
> On a personal note, what else do you like to do when you’re not working with wood?
Well, I must say I haven’t had a lot of spare time over the past year. I try to stay fit, surfing and bushwalking, although I haven’t been doing a very good job of that lately! Living in this beautiful environment there always seems to be something to do … even if it’s just taking it all in.
> Thank you Richard.