For the young designers in their mid-20s, mentors (aka ‘sounding boards’) are valuable for their ability to propose ideas and solutions that you may never have thought of, and to give you honest critical feedback to improve. ‘Most importantly, they have experience which means you can learn from that experience (good and bad) and not make the same mistakes,’ says Adam.
How then does one find a positive mentor (other than café crawling)? ‘Find someone who not only shares an interest in your work, but also shares other common interests, so it’s not always about the work,’ advises Adam, who met his informal design mentor David Stewart at a cafe a couple of years ago. ‘He has given me important business advice and guidance,’ Adam explains.
For Dale, the best mentors don’t necessarily arise from a formal arrangement. He lists designer Ross Gardam and journalist Ben Morgan as being highly influential when he was in his early 20s, at the beginning of his career. ‘They were incredibly generous with their time, helping me to develop as a designer outside of university,’ he tells.
Due to their own formative relationships with role models, the Dowel Jones duo have always been happy to mentor or meet with designers to discuss ideas. They are also currently teaching a studio at RMIT and mentoring furniture designers from the Fringe Furniture Festival. ‘These moments are great for us, as we get to meet new people both in Australia and from overseas,’ says Adam. ‘Mentoring is not only about advising or teaching another, but being self-reflective, and learning from revisiting past experiences,’ Dale adds.