Studio Visit

Ross Gardam

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
1st of February 2013
'Touch' chandelier mixed (left) and aluminium (right) by Melbourne designer Ross Gardam.  Photos -  Michael Gazzola / Studio 11.
'Touch' chandeliers in glass, by Melbourne designer Ross Gardam.  Photos - Haydn Cattach.
Designer Ross Gardam in his Melbourne studio.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Works in progress from the Melbourne studio of Ross Gardam.  Photos - Sean Fennessy.
Touch aluminium lamps by Ross Gardam.  Photo by Michael Gazzola / Studio 11.
I feel quite neglectful for not having featured Ross Gardam before now.  His work, which spans both furniture and lighting design, as well as custom design projects, is so seriously impressive, and is all designed and made locally... which clearly makes him right up our alley!  Sorry it's taken me so long Ross! After originally studying industrial design at Monash University, Ross Gardam spent time working in interior design for various firms both here and in the UK.  After returning to Australia, and with a wealth of invaluable experience under his belt, Ross launched his own design studio in Melbourne in 2007, developing a range of handcrafted furniture and lighting under his own name.  His practice is concerned with finding the most elegant, simple solution to design problems - and creating something beautiful in the process. Though he does still take on interior design work from time to time, at present Ross' focus is on growing his impressive product range.  All Ross Gardam pieces are made in Melbourne, created by local manufacturers and artisans with whom Ross works closely to bring his concepts to fruition.  My favourite amongst his collection would have to be his incredible pendant lighting -  those 'Touch' clustered pendant lamps in the deep smokey blue are AMAZING!  So polished but so perfectly understated. Every year Ross aims to release a new collection in August to coincide with Saturday in Design, and this year will be no exception - we'll be sure to keep you posted! Big thanks to Ross for sharing his story and his work with us today! Ross Gardam's latest furniture collections are available exclusively through Stylecraft. The Flint outdoor collection is available exclusively through Tait, and the lighting collections are for sale directly by inquiring via Ross' website.
Tell us a little about your background – what what did you study, and what initially led you to furniture/lighting design?
I studied Industrial Design at Monash University majoring in Furniture Design. After graduating I worked for a number of interior firms both here and in London, which gave me good insight into furniture and lighting. I grew up with design around me, my father is a mechanical engineer and we had a metalwork and woodwork workshop at home. I was making things from an early age, nothing spectacular I might add!
You initially trained as an industrial designer before working as an interior designer for several years, then making the switch back to furniture/lighting design. What spurred you to switch professions and eventually launch Ross Gardam design in 2007?
There wasn’t a switch as such, more a gradual transition to focusing more and more on product. The first few products I created and exhibited like Ply High and Packaged Glow were more about exploration into materials’ use and process rather than working to create a commercial outcome. These earlier products definitely informed what I do now. The collections released over the last three to four years have more design intent. They’re designed with all the ingredients that need to go into a commercial product.
'Oak' timber pendant lamps by Melbourne designer Ross Gardam.  Photos - Haydn Cattach.
'Tailored' couch by designer Ross Gardam.  Photo - Haydn Cattach.
How would you describe your design aesthetic – what do you strive for with your creative output?
Hey, this is a tricky question. I like to think, in a way, each product has its own aesthetic and personality. Looking at the collections as a whole they’re contemporary in aesthetic and material, and craft definitely plays a big part. What I strive for is an easier question. I strive for simplicity and beauty. The purest, simplest, output is the hardest to create, while including all the variables that makes something functional, structural, desirable etc. Alongside simplistic beauty I try to incorporate an element of individuality or a quirk within the product that in turn creates the product’s personality and makes it stand out more. A good example of this is one of my favorite chairs that is designed by EOOS called Sweetwood, I love how the timber chair is pared back to within an inch of its life and through this process the timber becomes a functional object. Thus creating the spring seat back, which in turn gives the product its appealing personality.
Ross Gardam at work.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.
You specialise in contemporary furniture and lighting that is designed and manufactured in Australia – why is this element of your business important to you and what challenges do you face maintaining this commitment?
Everything I do is made locally, at worst an hour’s drive away, and at best a quick ride on the bike. My business is committed to local manufacture and this comes with many of benefits such as quick lead-times, custom production and being able to oversee production and solve problems as they are occurring. Saying this, I’m not aggressively opposed to having things made offshore, but it’s not the right fit for my business at the moment. I believe there is a move by architects and designers to actively seek out more locally produced product. Not only because it feels like the right thing to do but because there is a wealth of Australian-made furniture and lighting products that can compete on every level with their overseas counterparts.
'Flint' outdoor dining setting by Ross Gardam, Photo - Michael Gazzola / Studio 11.
Can you give us a little insight into the inner workings of your business – how is your studio structured, how many people to you employ and do you outsource any significant tasks?
I have a design studio in the city called Sample House, it is a warehouse level on the second floor and it’s a shared collective between Nest Architects, MRTN Architects, a group of writers and myself. Local manufacturers and artisans make all my products so I don’t have a manufacturing space as such. Once a product is launched I oversee production and quality control, however for the most part I try and leave my suppliers to do what they do best. There is definitely a little bit more involvement when working with an artisan than a large industry supplier. For example all of the light shades are made by local artisans and I assemble and dispatch from the studio. When designing a new product I always work alone, I enjoy the process, the highs and lows along the journey.
Ross Gardam at work.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Which Australian furniture or lighting designers or creative people are you liking at the moment?
I love what the architects in Sample House do, Nest and MTRN Architects, it’s a privilege to watch their projects evolve from a distance I also really like Breathe Architecture's work, I spend a fair bit of time sketching at Seven Seeds, which is one of their projects. It is typically pretty hectic and noisy, however I find the space quite inspiring to work in. There are heaps of local furniture and lighting designers such as Keith Melbourne is always doing great stuff, Jon Goulder is about to shake it up a bit with a new project he is working on, and Kate Stokes lighting is always beautifully defined. I also love everything Adam Goodrum, Alexander Lotersztain and Trent Jansen do. I am into what Dale Hardiman is up to, interesting use of materials.
Can you list for us five resources across any media that you tune into regularly for a bolt of creative inspiration?
My homepage is set to Daily Tonic, which is always a quick fix. I am a bit addicted to Colossal at the moment, and Style Park is a good resource. I enjoy reading books about the process other designers go through, currently perusing Heatherwick’s two-inch hardback. Spotify is a bit addictive and can give you a bolt of creative inspiration in a round-about way too.
Touch lamp components in the studio of Ross Gardam.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
This time of year I am usually pretty engrossed in the creative process for the current year’s release. I try and release at least one collection a year around August to coincide with Saturday in Design. A typical day at the moment involves balancing all the day-to-day emails, purchase orders, dispatch etc. while finding time to put my head in a creative space. I usually go out to coffee shops to sketch and then come back to the studio and evolve those ideas.
What would be your dream creative project?
I would love to collaborate with an architect to design custom furniture and lighting for a specific space.
What are you looking forward to?
Our holiday in Thailand in June.

Melbourne Questions

Your favorite Melbourne neighborhood and why?
Fitzroy. I used to have a studio there prior to the move into the city so it still feels like home. It also has my favourite pub, The Union.
Which suppliers in Melbourne do you frequent regularly for the tools or materials of your trade?
I go to the RMIT bookshop a bit to stock up on yellow trace, tech pens etc. I love going to Metropolis Bookshop in Curtin House for new books.
What and where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?
Bar Idda, the anchovy doughnut is amazing.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Saturday morning I have my dance class. I take my two-year-old Saskia to do her thing. I try, but I always get upstaged.
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
If I can change this to worst kept secret it would be Edinburgh Gardens, I was there on Australia Day and it’s more like a festival than a park.
Ross Gardam.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.

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