L-R Ben Elbourne, Lauren Austin, Carly Hush, Harriet Watts, Sarah Spackman.
How did the fortynine come about?
Sarah Spackman: We met while studying design at the College of Fine Arts. Sharing a love of good food, good company and good design, we came together to discuss the possibility of sharing a studio space where we could support each other and develop work together. When we were accepted to be a part of Sydney Design 2011 with our project ReForm, we actually had to stop talking and start working, so we did.
Ben Elbourne: The fortynine came about as a way of producing limited edition or one off designs in response to the lack of studios in Sydney supporting this kind of work. Rather than trying to obtain employment in a design studio and have to produce designs for them we are taking on our own design ethos and creating more personalised project outcomes.
You specialise in considered design objects, spaces & practices- what type of work do you produce?
SS: For ReForm we designed and made furniture from discarded materials but it was actually about demonstrating how materials and objects can be revalued and repurposed through design. Our practice is more focused on considering the implications of the design process rather than on making one particular outcome. What materials we have available, what processes are accessible to us, and how we best cultivate the desired response all inform what we make. We always endeavor to produce functional, purposeful works but we don’t restrict ourselves to a particular scale, medium or type of product.
BE: We produce work mainly to provoke thought and to challenge conventional thinking. There is a definite practicality to our outcomes and we endeavour to make work that is useful, beautiful and engaging. Whether it be furniture, objects, jewellery, textiles, ceramics or graphics, we try to bring a sense of play and fun to our audience.
Any designers that inspire you & why?
SS: Yael Mer & Shay Alkalay for their playful aesthetic and innovative use of materials; Akira Isogawa for his vision and craftsmanship; Catherine Martin for her attention to detail and ability to work across scales and disciplines.
BE: Personally I am inspired by anyone who is prolific and spontaneous, rather than focus on one style or practice, I like to take my inspiration from all areas of art craft and design and am more impressed by persistence and tenacity than by one off flashes of brilliance. I think work ethic is something that inspires me more than talent alone.
You were recently involved in fastBREAK discussing the topic Better Together?- So why is collaboration better?
SS: We each come to the studio from a different background so we have a broad range of skills and experiences that we all tap into. We share a common ethos and the best outcomes are borne out of the respect and faith we have in each others point of view.
BE: Collaboration allows us to be more powerful than the sum of our parts. When we work together there are so many cross over’s in thinking and creating. We are able to combine the best of everyone into our work and hopefully produce better outcomes.
Any upcoming projects in the pipeline?
SS: We’re always developing a couple of ideas and working on something but a big focus for us at the moment is finding a proper studio space where we can all work.
BE: The future for us is to create from our multidisciplinary base. We have yet to work collaboratively in ceramics, jewellery or textiles and this may be where we head next. The ReForm project was very much large scale so maybe smaller scale work is in the pipeline. Whatever the next step is we will be seeking more collaborators and hope to create more engaging pieces for our next exhibition. In the meantime we are making commissioned works on request and looking forward to a productive future.