Design NSW – meet the finalists

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Mathew Huynh: The winner. This son of Vietnamese ‘boat people’ picked up his pencil and started to draw pictures when he was still a toddler. ‘I always loved to draw,’ Huynh says.

Even while studying Law, Huynh couldn’t resist the urge to put pencil to paper. Not surprisingly, he was awarded the best contribution for a polemical comic in the University of Sydney Law Society’s Social Justice Journal.

It wasn’t long before Huynh’s desire to create beautiful literary comics, took over from his desire to become a lawyer. He ‘retired’ from law school to concentrate on his art.

Huynh’s comics have always responded directly to Australian culture, giving them a uniquely parochial perspective, while still dealing with universal issues such as personal identity.

His innovative approach has seen him recognised by the Australian Cartoonists Association, and he has twice won the Ledger Award for Excellence in Australian Comics.

Since leaving university, Huynh has championed the inclusion of comics in a literary anthology, performed at numerous live art events, and worked within an illustrative collective.

Huynh’s work blurs the boundaries between comic illustration and art. A perfectionist through and through, his last project took more than 18 months to complete.

He has also recently released a beautiful hand-bound coffee table book, entitled, Midnight Morning (available from Arial bookstore in Paddington). The book was launched At Art Space in Newtown. See: www.popperbox.com/midnightmorning


Brad Stebbing:
As soon as you see his Melee pendant lamp, it becomes obvious that Stebbing is part of a generation of emerging young designers, who isn’t afraid to use a little humour in their creations.

Already his whimsical approach to design is attracting the right sort of attention. Stebbing, who only graduated from the UTS Bachelor of Industrial Design course last year, took out the 2008 Student Prize at The Edge Design and Innovation Exhibition (part of the Australian International Furniture Fair).

He won the award for his Melee modular pendant lamp, a stunning piece of lighting design, originally made from sustainable birch plywood (now from die-cut recyclable polypropylene) and consisting of an army of rather endearing little men. The lamp arrives flat-packed and ready to assemble. You simply click the little men together at their hands and feet, to build a sphere.

‘I wanted to create something that from a distance looks intricate and very chic,’ Stebbing says. ‘But then as soon as you get close to it, you realise it’s made up of cute little men. It’s that emotional click between chic and cute that interests me.’

Stebbing was also invited to create all the lighting fixtures for the annual UTS end of year design show. Again, his designs were spherical and crafted from plywood, but they utilised simple geometric forms, rather than little men, as in the Melee.
‘I’m looking at making them from a different materials. I like to mix things up, so maybe a hemp based material next time,’ he says.

Winning the student prize at The Edge, is already paying dividends for Stebbing. ‘I’ve come away with interior designers saying they’d love to specify the Melee in their projects,’ he says. ‘On the other hand, I don’t want to pigeonhole myself as just a lighting designer, but more a product designer in general. Lighting is just one part of that.’

As a finalist in the inaugural Design NSW: Travelling Scholarship, Stebbing submitted his Melee in recycled propylene, along with a Coffee Shakir (coffee grounds dispersion unit), and award winning Twister (child safe lid).

Trent Jansen: was one of those kids who just loved Lego. ‘I was always making something with it,’ he says. ‘I’m a bit of an eco-nut nowadays, so I don’t like to use plastic anymore.’

Jansen went on to COFA (College of Fine Arts, UNSW) where he says he was exposed to many different influences. One of those influences was the Dutch, Droog cooperative, who were popular at the time with his peers and lecturers. ‘Droog’s approach was pivotal, they changed the way we looked at materials,’ Says Jansen. ‘Their very conceptual approach, meant they weren’t afraid to push boundaries.’

In his final year of study, Jansen began to focus on the ecology of design and the shameful way in which many of our products are disposed. He discovered that roadsigns used by the RTA are melted down when they are no longer needed. ‘It’s not very environmentally friendly, because the signs are covered in vinyl, which becomes a toxic vapour,’ he says.

So Jansen created a new use for the signs, by turning them into very groovy stools. His first prototypes were made in the COFA workshops. They proved so successful that he had 50 stool hydraulically pressed in a Sydney factory (now available through Chee Soon & Fitzgerald). A new batch is available directly through Jansen himself.

Another of Jansen’s creations which is attracting attention is his quirky Pregnant Chair, so named because the seat opens up to ‘give birth’ to a baby chair. Innovative design empire, Moooi, recently launched the chair at the Salon Internazionale del Mobile, in Milan, Italy. ‘The idea behind the chair is to encourage people to cherish the things that they own,’ Jansen explains. ‘The relationship between mother and child is very strong, and I want people to feel that same sense of a bond with my chair. This way they will be less likely to dispose of it.’ (The Pregnant Chair is available from Space Furniture.)

One of Jansen’s newest items is his Topple lamp, a deceptively simple ceramic lamp that is switched on by toppling it over to the side. Like all Jansen’s creations, the lamp invites people to engage with it at an emotional level. ‘My inspiration for the lamp was the idea that elderly people hold onto treasured items (such as lamps) for many years, treating them lovingly,’ says Jansen. ‘But when the person dies, the object becomes discarded, or sold off at a deceased estate and treated with disrespect. The fact that the Topple lamp is turned on by ‘carelessly’ tipping it over, suggests the lack of respect we have for previously loved items.’
Topple is available through ISM Objects in Victoria.

Sarah Gibson & Nicholas Karlovasitis: For the past two years, this dynamic duo has been designing interior products and objects with the aim of developing an international Australian design brand ‘ DesignByThem.

Karlovasitis graduated with first class honours in industrial design from UTS. He has worked for several years in a design consultancy and lecturing in graphic design and eco-design at UTS.

Gibson also completed a bachelor of industrial design at UTS, which included a year studying design at the Fachhochschule Hanover, Germany. While in Germany, she also worked as a designer (in Cologne). After graduating, Gibson worked in the commercial furniture industry, before joining Karlovasitis and forming DesignByThem.

The fledgling studio has already produced a number of items, reflecting the duo’s multi-disciplinary approach.

Loose Change is a chair made from a single piece of powder-coated aluminium, evoking childhood memories of searching down the back of the couch for coins. Weblight is a heavily textured, spherical pendant lamp made from recycled plastic bags. A traffic cone is transformed into a luminous red floor light, called Dorothy. While Posy is a glass vase inspired by the shape of the wrapping around a bunch of flowers. Guernica is an organic glass, objet de art, and Treeling, describes a quirky bonsai-shaped metal stand for earrings and jewellery. All are available through DesignByThem direct.

We like to create functional products, but we also like them to be imbued with a story or experience. ‘If people can relate to a product in a personal manner, they’re more likely to keep it, rather than it end up as landfill,’ Karlovasitis says. ‘We always try to incorporate environmental considerations into, not only our products, but also their packaging and distribution. We’re currently working on a collapsible hat-stand that can fit within a standard postal tube for shipping overseas.’

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