It’s not everyday we find a timber workshop / furniture studio run by an all-female team – which is not to say it shouldn’t certainly be a more common occurrence! Nicola Grey & Tara Wilcox are the clever duo behind Redfox & Wilcox in Collingwood.
Needless to say, there are many reasons to love Nicola and Tara’s work. First and foremost, we love their simple stools and tables, constructed locally using reclaimed timber and steel, and we’re particularly fond of their new planters, custom made for local plant store Loose Leaf.
We were pretty impressed when we found out that the clever team behind local furniture design studio Redfox & Wilcox were two super talented ladies who know how to use a power tool or two – Nicola Grey & Tara Wilcox.
Nicola and Tara are old friends from way back, and both hail originally from New Zealand. They started their business in 2011 after moving into a share house together in Melbourne, and being inspired to create their own furniture. Commissions from friends and family followed, and before too long the pair were inundated with orders! Seeing the potential to grow their fledgling operation into an actual business, Tara undertook a Small Business course, and upon completing the course, received a one-year business grant. The grant gave Tara and Nicola the time to refine their designs and processes, and to take on their first studio space in Collingwood. Three years on, they haven’t looked back!
Redfox and Wilcox products are elegant and affordable (tables start at $650 and these are made by hand in Collingwood, people!). The range can be ordered online, they deliver Australia wide. Most of their pieces are made to order with a range of customisable features, and usually take between 4-8 weeks to produce. Selected products are also stocked at local Melbourne retailers including Looseleaf, Hello Polly and Mode 707.
Tell us a little bit about each of your backgrounds – what did you study, how did you meet and what path led you to launching Redfox and Wilcox in 2011?
Nicola: I grew up in the South Island of New Zealand and have always had an adventurous streak, I couldn’t wait to get out and explore the world. After high school I moved to Wellington to study Interior Architecture at Victoria University, which is where Tara and I met and quickly became friends. I moved to Melbourne after graduation and took my very first design job, and then relocated to London where I spent several years working and travelling around Europe. In 2010, I returned to Melbourne feeling ready to become a little more settled, and excited to take on some new challenges.
Tara: I grew up on a farm in Raglan, New Zealand. In my late teens I moved to Wellington with my band (playing drums) and met Nicola, who became one of my closest friends. Our band decided to move to Melbourne in the early 2000’s, which became our home for four years followed by a three-year stint in London. In 2010 I decided to leave the band and returned to Melbourne, where I began studying and building a new path for myself.
We created Redfox and Wilcox as a natural extension of our friendship, it has been a way for us to collaborate on something creative that we’re both passionate about, while combining our different backgrounds and skills. Our friendship has been an invaluable part of building this business, helping to form our design approach and shaping our business ethos.
How would you describe your work and what influences your style?
Nicola: I have always been drawn to modernist design, and I think you can see that influence coming through pretty strong in our pieces. There is also a clean, simple familiarity in our materials and aesthetic which reminds me of my childhood growing up in New Zealand. The warmth of the repurposed timber and the simple mix of natural materials is something I always push to achieve in our designs.
How did you originally get into furniture design and production, and how has the business grown since 2011?
Tara: After years spent travelling and moving from sharehouse to sharehouse, we were both ready to create a real home for ourselves here in Melbourne. The problem came when we tried to replace our broken dining table and we suddenly realised that we couldn’t afford to buy the type of furniture we really wanted!
I convinced Nicola that we should purchase some timber and power tools to make our own. Almost overnight our backyard and kitchen became a workshop – we were making tables for our friends and family, and before too long started selling them on eBay.
Seeing the potential we had to grow our hobby into an actual business, I decided to do a Small Business course, at the end of which I was awarded a one-year business grant. This grant gave us the time to refine our designs and processes, and we were able to move from our home workshop into our current workshop in Collingwood.
Over the next few years we continued to refine our designs, finding the best local suppliers and manufacturers to work with, developing our woodworking skills, and launching our website. Having all these elements in place allowed us to grow the businesses at a steady rate, and we have recently started taking on larger commissions for residential and hospitality clients.
What has been a recent favourite project?
Last year we produced our first range of outdoor furniture and during the process Looseleaf (our good friends and Collingwood neighbours) asked us to design some planters to accompany their beautiful range of foliage.
The planters are a great addition to our range, tying in with the look and feel of the rest of our pieces, with a distinctly modernist patio vibe about them.
Can you give us a little insight into the inner workings of Redfox and Wilcox – how is your design studio and factory structured?
We share our area with another woodworker, Julian of Glencross Woodworks. From this workshop our all-female team do the majority of the production work, which includes woodworking, assembling products and meeting with clients.
Some of our product components are outsourced to local suppliers. We have been lucky to develop close relationships with some amazing manufacturers who are integral to the day-to-day running of our business.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
Tara: Each day is different! Some mornings I have to meet our welder at 7am, and then head into the workshop to tackle the day’s to-do list, which usually involves making products, packaging, booking and organising deliveries, client meetings and picking up supplies. I usually leave the workshop around 7pm, head home for dinner, and then go through the day’s emails with Nicola.
At the moment, Nicola is juggling the day-to-day requirements of running Redfox and Wilcox with her work as an interior designer. Emails, calls and designs get done before and after her regular work hours and in the weekends.
Which other local designers, artists or creative people are you loving at the moment?
1. Sarah Kelk. Sarah is an artist and runs local homewares and design business Hello Polly with her sister Helen. Sarah and I have known each other since primary school in NZ, and we spent many hours in high school art classes together. She has now become someone both Tara and I admire from a creative perspective, and someone we also go to for business advice.
2. Welfe. Another creative Kiwi we have enjoyed collaborating with. We love his unique style.
3. Julian McCarthney of Glencross woodworks. The passion and woodworking knowledge of our workshop cohabiter is very inspiring.
Can you list for your top resources across any media that you turn to when you’re in a need of a bolt of creative inspiration?
Instagram. We both treat instagram like our morning design newspaper, it provides a great source of inspiration and helps us keep up to date with local and international happenings.
Modernism Rediscovered by Julius Shulman. Julius was a discovery made by Tara, and we find him as a person, as well as his photography and subject matter hugely inspiring.
Design Blogs. This is a morning ritual that we both enjoy before getting out of bed and on our transit to work.
Sir David Attenborough. We both take major inspiration from nature, and David is our go-to media source.
What is your proudest career achievement to date?
Growing the business from a simple idea and getting it to where it is today is the proudest achievement for us both.
What would be your dream creative project?
To be honest, it’s not something we have had a lot of time to think about! We have been in discussions recently with a client in Sydney about the possibility of doing their entire fit out for a new bar, and that would be a fantastic project to be involved in.
What are you looking forward to?
We have been working on a new design and are eagerly waiting for the first prototype to come back – it’s always exciting to see the first prototype of a new piece.
Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?
Collingwood, especially Easey St. There is such a great community of creative people and activities going on here, and it’s amazing to be a part of that.
What and where was the best meal you recently had in Melbourne?
Tara: I recently broke my vegan diet, and the first meal I had was a Beef Pie from Candied Bakery in Spotswood. Needless to say, it was pretty memorable!
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Tara: I treat myself with a well-earned sleep in and a homemade breakfast. Then it’s off to the workshop late morning for client meetings and organising deliveries and pick-ups.
Nicola: I like to start the day at Dench with a latte and almond croissant. One of my other favourite things to do is to stop by the Edinburgh Gardens Dog Park on my way to the workshop – the look of pure happiness on the dogs’ faces is contagious!
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
Well, as much as we’d like to share, we’re actually going to keep that one to ourselves. It’s nice not having to line up!