Thursday, 31 July 2014

DESIGNER HUGH ALTSCHWAGER








It's a tried and tested formula for success. If you can't find something, make it. And so it was for Hugh Altschwager, who was living on South Australia's Limestone Coast. A sixth generation farming son, he was building a self-suficient hut on his parent's farm and needed lights. What he made, using the natural materials around him, was to become a prototype for a range of award-winning designs that has seen him be invited to exhibit at the London Design Festival. The lights and company name, Inkster Maken, took on a Scandinavian flavour, harking to his family's heritage. "Inkster" is his mother's Nordic maiden name, while "Maken" translates to "make". Today the designs, made out of South Australian limestone and reclaimed Australian hardwood, are hand crafted in Melbourne where Hugh has been based since 2011.

Which five words best describe you? Positive, thinker, honest, withdrawn, realistic.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I have always had a need to create and build things. I started creating some lighting products for personal projects and entered them in a couple of competitions. The positive feedback from this was enough for me to think that there may be a future in it. Since then I have worked hard to develop the products and brand, starting small and focussing on quality. Eventually, I want to branch out into other areas of the creative world.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? You don't need to know all the answers or what the final destination looks like, you just have to start.

What’s your proudest career achievement? My career is still relatively young so I'd say my proudest achievement so far would be building a self-sufficient hut on my parent’s farm in remote South Australia. It took me about seven years of sourcing salvaged materials and building in my spare time and holidays. I always had a feeling that creating this place would lead me to my path in life. As it turns out, it was for this project where I created my fist lighting pieces, which lead to Inkster Maken.

What’s been your best decision? Leaving a stable full-time job to create products with a natural material that people weren't using and a process that didn't exist.

Who inspires you? I look to the careers of guys like Dare Jennings and Joost Bakker for inspiration. I love hearing the stories of other creatives and how they came to be where they are now. Also, the emotive nature of music inspires me more than anything. Hearing a new song that resonates with me gives me creative energy.

What are you passionate about? I am passionate about trying to live a life on my own terms.  

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? That's a hard question. There was a guy called Sir Hubert Wilkins. He probably lived the most extraordinary life I have ever heard about. There is a book written about him called The Last Explorer which is fascinating.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I'm only just getting started. I don't think I've really fulfilled any of my dreams yet so there's still a lot of work to do. I want to raise a family and continue to create a life, not just be content with security.

What are you reading? Currently I am reading The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.

images courtesy of inkster maken



Wednesday, 30 July 2014

ARTIST AARON KINNANE








What Sydney artist Aaron Kinnane has achieved with his latest exhibition Sunset Studies is more than put on a successful show. He has taken his career to the next level. Up until this show Aaron was making a name for himself with a series of works based on horse studies. They are recognisable for their use of colour, and form. But when it came time to paint a new series he decided to change course. Aaron says it was an abrupt decision, but one that brought clarity and focus to his painting. The proof is on the canvas in this series of Sunset Studies. Aaron is exhibiting at Arthouse Gallery in Sydney until August 9.

Which five words best describe you? I felt a little awkward trying to answer this one, so I asked my wife and best friend to answer for me: Father, dreamer, loyal, generous, reclusive.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I first left school at 16 to pursue a career with horses. My mother became ill and my dad begged me to go back to school so I did. There are a few artists in my family and it was always going to be horses or art. I started university in Newcastle but fell short of the finish line. I was more taken by the romantic notion of the artist in the ghetto rather than being in a classroom environment. Luckily for me, my cousin was working for artist Sandro Chia in New York and Italy. In 2000 I went to Tuscany to work as Sandro's assistant alongside my cousin. It was without doubt the most formative year of my life. I learnt a lot about painting and myself not to mention having first-hand experience of the kind of romantic lifestyle a successful artist can live. It definitely solidified the desire to continue and pursue the life of an artist.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Three things I’d say. Firstly, knowing that the only way you're going to get anywhere with anything is hard work. Even in your darkest moments you need to put your head down and work even harder. Secondly, when I was in my early 20s, my cousin gave me a gem piece of advice in relation to painting: “Don't be precious”. And finally, and most importantly, be kind to people.

What was the starting point for this exhibition? Someone handed me a palette knife, and I stopped thinking. I began to “paint”.

What’s your proudest career achievement? It would have to be when I took up an offer from (musician) Ben Lee to fly to India for his wedding to prepare for an Archibald entry a few years back. It was an extremely generous invitation from Ben. I was broke at the time and I had to borrow the money for the airfare and spent a week in an ashram in the south of India with Ben and his guests. While I wasn't selected for the prize, I did meet my wife there. So I kinda feel like I won the Archibald that year! I’d also have to say joining Ali Yeldham at Arthouse Gallery. I feel very fortunate to be represented by Ali and her team.

What’s been your best decision? See above.

Who inspires you? Selfless, generous people.

What are you passionate about? My family and my painting (and the South Sydney Rabbitohs).

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? This is a tough one. There are millions - from a blacksmith in the Middle Ages to Picasso, and I wouldn't mind seeing my Gran again just to let her know that everything turned out all right.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? To teach my kids how to ride a horse.

What are you reading? An object of beauty by Steve Martin and The shape of a pocket by John Berger.

images courtesy of aaron kinnane and arthouse gallery

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

INTERIOR DESIGNER STEPHEN ALESCH








After designing film sets for the best part of a decade, Stephen Alesch and his partner in life and work, Robin Standefer, were given an opportunity too good to refuse. The actor and film director Ben Stiller admired their work on Duplex so much that he commissioned the pair to transform his Los Angeles residence, and triple its size. Two years later Stephen and Robin had well and truly retired from film work and were concentrating on the commissions that followed from a range of high-profile clients, including Kate Hudson and Gwyneth Paltrow. Since then their design business, Roman and Williams, which they established in 2002, has gone on to transform some of the leading hotels in New York and beyond. The Ace Hotel, The Standard, The Vicerory and the Highline Hotel are just some of the places that have been given Stephen and Robin's experiential treatment. 

Which five words best describe you? Crazy, silly, odd, spazzy and fussy.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I applied for a job as a draftsman for a solo architect when I was 18. I became his right-hand man. I had no experience except for high school drafting and some construction experience. After 10 years of that, I went to work in the film industry as a set designer, then after 10 years of that started my own design firm with my wife Robin. 

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Behind every professional, formally educated "expert" is just a normal man or woman with a few tidbits of jargon and knowledgeability - that just about anyone with good common sense could do themselves. In fact, it’s relatively easy to do it even better. 

What’s your proudest career achievement? Designing and completing construction of our 30-storey Viceroy Hotel on 57th Street in New York City. 

What’s been your best decision? Never bothering to learn CAD and continuing to draft by hand. 


What are you passionate about? Architecture, drafting, plants, waves, suits, science, electricity, construction, mechanics.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Frank Lloyd Wright.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? Design a university of non-design studies, a beautiful campus of simple buildings, workshops and housing. 

What are you reading? Ben Franklin's biography by H.W. Brands and The look of architecture by Witold Rybczynski.

images courtesy of roman and williams; portrait via scoutmag.com

Monday, 28 July 2014

DESIGNER DANIEL BARBERA








Brass, leather and wood are the types of materials that Melbourne designer Daniel Barbera enjoys working with when creating tables, chairs and other interior products. It's partly because of their natural beauty, and also because they're not heavily processed, and so kind to the environment. This simple yet thoughtful philosophy has been at the heart of his business, Barbera, since launching it in 2004. The sophistication of Daniel's range has been well received by architects and interior designers, as well as various industry bodies. In many ways his back-to-basics outlook reflects his passion for design, which has always been an integral part of his personality, ever since he was a child building with blocks, then working in his father's workshop. This family environment nurtured an amazing creativity in Daniel and his brother, photographer Paul Barbera, who I interviewed (four years ago) here

Which five words best describe you? Creative, fair, thinker, patient, dreamer.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I started my career when I was unaware I was actually starting my career. This began at around age three when I started to take Lego seriously, and I could start to hone my three dimensional awareness and understanding of form and structure with a purpose. I slowly built up a decent Lego collection and then recruited my neighbour and cousin to assist in a few of my first major design constructions. From Lego, I then went on to learn what I could create with my father in his workshop until I went to study Industrial Design, and then later learnt the art of creating beautiful objects with Chris Connell at Map. So probably a few steps to a definitive career path.  But my path is, I suppose, where I am at now, building a business that can facilitate my creations and provide for me.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Do what you want, not what people think you should do. To innovate in any sense is about listening, learning, but doing it your way, whether is be about design or a business model. I am pretty unorthodox with about everything I do.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Not going to Milan Furniture Fair, to prove myself to others, but slowly building a brand and production range, and letting the world slowly awake to what we do here.

What’s been your best decision? Starting Babera and specialising in providing unique all Australian-made designs, but that's a boring answer.  Probably a more recent best decision was upgrading and moving my factory/studio and then doubling what I thought I needed.

Who inspires you? Great thinkers, like my brother Paul, Heron of Alexandria, James Lovelock, Paul Ehrlich, Ray Kurzweil to name a few, but one main inspiration is a thinker and sharer of knowledge Phillip Adams, who I regularly listen to, forever expanding my thirst of understanding this world.

What are you passionate about? Sculpting structure into usable objects, and my family.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? After listening to countless Late Night Live programs with Phillip Adams, I would love to have him over for dinner.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? A space flight would really be quite wonderful, or at least a ride in SR71, but otherwise, closer to Earth, uh, I would like to design and build my dream home in the bush.

What are you reading? I don't really do much reading these days. I do much more listening. I have a long list of favourite podcasts that I love listening to: Late Night Live is at the top of my list, otherwise a few favourites:  Freakonomics, WNYC radiolab, This American Life, the Science Show

images courtesy of daniel barbera

Friday, 25 July 2014

INTERIOR STYLIST IMOGENE ROACHE






Working in a large publishing house where there are multiple "homes" titles, catering to different sectors of the market, you get to meet a range of stylists. However, these encounters tend to be fleeting as "in-house" stylists are often out on shoots, on the sourcing trail, or riding the goods lift trying to track down couriers. During my time at Bauer Media (formerly ACP), I came across the always stylish Imogene Roache. She was sweet and kind, and never seemed flustered. Imogene always gave the impression that she was happy to be there, doing what she was doing. And while she's still quite young, Imogene has plenty of experience under her belt, thanks to her time on staff at House & Garden magazine. Now, working as a freelancer, she is working for a range of publications, and advertising clients, as well as pursuing personal projects, as displayed in the imagery above.

Which five words best describe you? Calm, loyal, independent, ambitious and in-love.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I discovered what a "stylist" was just before leaving high school, and instantly became obsessed. Without wasting any time, as soon as I graduated year 12 I landed a fashion assistant role at YEN magazine assisting stylist Imogene BarronA year later I realised my real passion was interiors, and got straight into assisting some of the best interior stylists out there. A few months later, all my hard work paid off and I was given the role of junior stylist at House & Garden magazine. Soon after I moved up to stylist and had taken on House & Garden's food shoots, as well as interior pages. After four years passed I knew I had the experience and skills to take my career further, and as of this year I have been freelance styling in the big wide world.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Trust your instinct, be grateful, and always stay inspired.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Being only 24 I feel way too young to answer this just yet. But I guess I am most proud of the progress I've made in my career path so far. All of the unreachable goals I gave myself at the beginning of my career I have achieved, and I'm proud of that.

What’s been your best decision? Jumping straight into my career at an early age. When I have an idea or goal in my head I have to do it asap - so the best thing I ever did was jump into the unknown and to see where it would take me.

Who inspires you? My unbelievably creative friends, stylists - local and overseas, my partner for his endless knowledge and ease at being happy, and my mum in every way.

What are you passionate about? Organising, learning, creating good work, beautifully made objects, delicious food and, more recently, gardening. 

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Japanese flower artist Azuma Makoto.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I have thousands! But the one dream I get more excited about every day is eventually buying a house and filling it with everything I love.

What are you reading? Elle Decoration, Gather Journal, and taking notes from Down to Earth: a guide to simple living by Rhonda Hetzel. 

images courtesy of imogene roache

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