Handcrafted trivet in the Northcote workshop of Sands Made. Photo – Sean Fennessy.
Stools by Sands Made. Photo – Sean Fennessy.
Work in progress at Sands Made. Photo – Sean Fennessy.
A selection of handcrafted Sands Made products.
Robbie Sands of Sands Made in his Northcote workshop. Photo – Sean Fennessy.
Melbourne designer Robbie Sands left a fast paced career in multimedia and web design to pursue a more hands on profession. After eight successful years in Japan designing web applications for a Tokyo based company, Robbie found himself a little disillusioned, and craving the opportunity to create timeless objects that would last for years. He returned to Melbourne and founded his company Sands Made in 2010, which specialises in functional timber tableware and kitchenware, including carefully crafted chopping boards, serving platters and homewares, made by hand in Robbie’s Northcote workshop.
After only three short years in operation, Sands Made products are already stocked in over 100 retail stores around Australia (!!) and Robbie’s sights are now firmly set on the US and Japanese market. Go Robbie Go!
We asked this clever local lad a few questions about his growing business –
Hey Robbie! Tell us a little bit about yourself – what path led you to what you’re doing today?
At uni I studied Industrial Design for a few years, but was caught up with my long standing interest in computers and technology, which led me onto studying Multimedia Design. I always loved making things, both physical and virtual, but my full-time work at the time was making interactive games, animations, and websites. Making real objects out of wood was done in my spare time. I loved the fast development and distribution of new ideas associated with digital technology, something not possible with carefully crafted objects.
After working in advertising and design in Melbourne for a number of years, I moved to Tokyo where the pace of development increased as I designed web applications for a number of different tech startups. The magic of fast software development and distribution slowly faded, as I saw my ideas and work become obsolete so quickly. It was great seeing my designs being used by millions of people, but the ideas changed and gradually disappeared with new versions and updates. I wanted my designs to be timeless, treasured objects that would last for years.
I made a lot of connections with the woodwork and craft community in Japan which rekindled my love for designing real objects. After eight years in Japan I decided it was time to start making real things again, so moved back to Melbourne and started my company Sands Made. My first product was a simple packaged stirring stick called Stix for Cooks, which was quickly taken onboard by an number of Australian retailers, I quickly branched out into chopping boards, serving platters and homewares. After a few short years Sands Made products are stocked in about 100 retail stores around Australia with potential stockists in the US and Japan. Many more plans are on the way.
How would you describe your design aesthetic and what influences your style of work?
I find other people’s kitchen and dining rooms the most inspiring places! There’s nothing more telling of a product’s quality than to see its state after a few years of regular use. Everyone has products they adore around their houses, and quite often they’re not products usually thought of as ‘good design’, but are understated, simple and just very effective.
On a recent trip to a friend’s house I spotted an old short handled risotto stirrer, which he recalls purchasing about 12 years ago at a country store in northern Victoria. The handle was smooth from years of stirring, and the scraping end had been worn back to a rounded nub, stained a dark coffee colour. It’s his prized possession in the kitchen. With Sands Made I want to create objects that will grow more beautiful and loved with years of use. The products are all provided in perfect condition, then it’s up to the user to wear them in like a good pair of jeans.
My design aesthetic could be described as minimal and functional. I’m influenced by useful objects that become part of an environment. Maths, geometry and contrast are also big influences.
Tell us a little about your creative process – what is involved in the creation of your products?
A new design usually comes about though necessity. For example: the handle on a coffee machine breaks, so I make a new one. Or, our salt mill at home couldn’t fit a full pack of Murray River Salt flakes, so I made a box which is big enough. All the designs are items that I’ve made and find useful in my own house, which allows me to improve the function of each design before introducing it to the Sands Made range.
For the last few years everything has been designed and made in-house in Melbourne – Northcote to be exact. This year I’ve asked one of my favourite Japanese craftspeople to produce my newest product, the Kitchen Box. This is my first exclusively overseas (Japan) made product. The quality of the manufacturing is outstanding and I’m looking forward to developing more with him in the future.
We’re thrilled to introduce Sands Made products for the first time at The Design Files Open House this year! You’ll spot Robbie’s beautiful handcrafted cheese platters, trivets and chopping boards in the kitchen and dining areas at both our Melbourne and Sydney events.