Dale Hardiman and Adam Lynch met while studying Furniture Design at RMIT, going on to do Honours in Industrial Design together. The pair became firm friends and collaborators during their studies, and in their third year of Industrial Design, decided to launch a company together, founded initially with one key product – their distinctive Mr. Dowel Jones lamp.
Since then, a number of new furniture and lighting products have joined the Dowel Jones line up, alongside a popular capsule collection of desk accessories. Dale and Adam have shown their products in Milan, their furniture and lighting has found itself shipped all over the country for various interior design projects, and they’ve hired three part time staff!
Dale and Adam have a refreshingly utilitarian approach to all that they create – they’re conscious of keeping their pricing accessible, whilst also maintaining a staunch commitment to manufacturing in Melbourne. ‘Dowel Jones doesn’t produce exclusive items or luxury products, the company is based around producing everyday furniture and objects’ says Dale.
Having recently relocated from humble digs in Thomastown to a bigger studio in Fitzroy North, we thought it was about time we revisited this industrious creative duo!
Tell us a little bit about your backgrounds – what did each of you study, and what path led you to launching Dowel Jones?
We both studied studied the Associate Degree in Design (Furniture) at RMIT, then went on to do our honours in Industrial Design also at RMIT. We launched Dowel Jones together in 2013 as an extension of a design collective called LAB DE STU formed in 2011 during our second year of university.
During our third year in Industrial Design at RMIT we chose the same elective, and decided to collaborate on a product. After a successful collaboration (the product being our Mr. Dowel Jones light) we decided to form a company based around the dynamic between the two of us, with a focus on everyday furniture and objects.
How would you describe your work, and what influences your distinctive aesthetic?
The way we design for Dowel Jones is really informed by the manufacturers we work with. Dowel Jones doesn’t produce exclusive items or luxury products, the company is based around producing everyday furniture and objects, therefore our immediate focus is on function, with the aesthetics being stripped back to their minimum.
Every project, product, commission or photo shoot is always informed by the last experience and what we’ve learnt from it. Our aesthetic is building as we develop both as individual designers and also as a brand.
Can you give us a little insight into the inner workings of your business and creative process? How do you manage the day-to-day side of the business, how many people do you employ, what particular jobs do you do in-house and which do you outsource?
We are fairly sporadic when it comes to the release of new products. We still try to focus as much as we can on the actual creation and development of new things, but the focus is usually on managing existing projects.
We used to manufacture a large majority of our products in-house, but decided to begin outsourcing so we could focus our efforts elsewhere. Now the work we do in-house is prominently just the assembling and packing of the products.
We have three part-timers at the moment. At lot of the people who come and work for us are either furniture design or industrial design students at RMIT.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
Our days are never usually the same, Adam and myself both run several other projects, so at various points in the day we’ll have meetings and/or take phone calls for those projects. As we’re self-employed it gives us the flexibility to work on several things at once.
We usually get into the workshop around 8.00am, with staff starting around 9.00am. We sit down and look over e-mails for the first hour or so, before booking any couriers or trucks for the day. Throughout the end of last year we started listening to music from different countries, we’ve been listening to Colombian, Korean and African music in the studio recently.
At lunch time we might go for a walk down into Clifton Hill for lunch, while stopping off at the post office if we need to post any of our mousepads or smaller items. We work on various custom projects for clients, so we might speak about this over lunch.
Adam might drive to the powder coaters after lunch to collect any items that are ready for collection, while I sit on the laptop (in summer usually in front of a fan!), organising any digital content or speaking with manufacturers for the remainder of the day.
We sometimes get the pleasure of leaving at 5.00pm, but when we are working on large projects this might require us to stay much later. We work on projects outside of Australia too, so throughout the night after work, Adam and I will usually speak once or twice on the phone.
Adam and I will both go back to our own houses and most likely continue working on our other projects.
Usually the best parts of our day are when we leave the workshop to go out and meet other designers, architects and interior designers!
What have been one or two favourite recent projects or commissions?
Adam: The Rabbit Hole Organic Tea Bar, we supplied custom powder coated Hurdle High stool, Hurdle low stools and Half Hurdle with the interior by Matt Woods.
Dale: Hooked Up – collaborating with one of our ex-students to develop this product, then collaborating with Nat Turnbull and Elise Wilken for the styled images.
Which other Australian designers, artists or creative people are you loving at the moment?
Sibling: Since reading about their Sleeping Pods project in 2012 we’ve been big fans of their work
Tin&Ed (and not just because their studio floor is pink!): Their recent project with Cut Copy and Bomba Bar for Sugar Mountain Festival looked incredible.
Anchor Ceramics: We’ve only met Bruce once but he was very kind, his most recent wall lights display incredible consideration and dedication to a material.
Can you list for us your top resources across any media that you turn to when you’re in a need of creative inspiration?
Design Matters podcast: We’re currently listening to Martha Stewart’s stylist Fritz Karch talk about how winning the lottery is probably easier than becoming a famous artist.
Apartamento Magazine: Short stories and conversations with creatives that we would never naturally come across. For instance we just read an interview with a world famous hairdresser!
Sight Unseen: Monica and Jill have been interviewing designers and presenting work over the past 8 years that wasn’t being shown anywhere else!
What has been your proudest career achievement to date?
We both have had very proud career achievements, such as exhibiting the Mr. Dowel Jones lamp on the design wall at the NGV for Melbourne Now (alongside classics such as the Sherrin football and the Melbourne tram handle), but I think the proudest moments for us are when we walk into a cafe and we see our furniture being used!
What would be your dream creative project?
We’re just about to launch a new project with a Sydney-based manufacturer, and this was pretty close to a dream creative project. Instead of managing all elements and prototyping the product ourselves, we had the great pleasure of working purely on the product and then the styled photo shoot!
What are you looking forward to?
More indoor plants in the studio, and the potential one day to paint our workshop floor pink!
Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?
It used to be Coburg/East Brunswick, but having a studio in Fitzroy North means we’ve been spending a lot more time walking along High Street, Northcote, and we’re particularly in love with Terra Madre.
What and where was the best meal you recently had in Melbourne?
Adam: Gazi. It was great!
Dale: Phamily Kitchen. Michael Pham was an exceptional host.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Adam: Surfing somewhere down the coast.
Dale: A1 Bakery or Zaatar.
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
Balha’s Pastry on Sydney Road and buying baklava by the kilogram in a two-storey paradise with a chandelier.