Melbourne Design Week 2018

'Designwork 02' At Sophie Gannon Gallery

Today we take a detailed look at one of Melbourne Design Week’s most exciting events.  Hosted by respected Melbourne art dealer Sophie Gannon, at her Richmond gallery, Designwork 02 is an exhibition that sits right at the cusp of art and design.

This exciting exhibition of brand new Australian design features Elliat Rich and Dale Hardiman, as well as an off-site exhibition by Chen Lu in Albert Street, Richmond.  On now, until March 24th.


Lucy Feagins
This Story is Supported by Melbourne Design Week

‘Designwork 02’ is the second in an annual series of exhibitions of Australian design at Sophie Gannon Gallery in Richmond, Melbourne. Photo – Emily Weaving for The Design Files.

Gallerist Sophie Gannon with works by Elliat Rich. Photo – Emily Weaving for The Design Files.

Detail of design by Alice Springs-based creative, Elliat Rich. ‘Camping in a dry river, I collected a small pile of discarded leaves, they were yellow and pink, gradients of purple and teal’ Elliat explains. This observation  formed the inspiration for Elliat’s conceptual, functional furniture range. Photo – Emily Weaving for The Design Files.

The exhibition is presented as part of Melbourne Design Week. Pictured here: designs by Elliat Rich. Photo – Emily Weaving for The Design Files.

Melbourne art dealer Sophie Gannon opened her eponymous gallery in Richmond 11 years ago. She’s since gained an impressive reputation for championing Australian contemporary art, but Sophie is also passionate about design. She’s on the board of the Robin Boyd Foundation, and has a long held interest in Australian design and architecture. So, eschewing that tired old debate of art vs. design, in 2016, Sophie started something sort of revolutionary. She began commissioning and showing original Australian design pieces, alongside Australian art.

‘I know exactly when I came up with the idea for the Designwork series – I watched a NOWNESS video on the home of the founders of Galerie Kreo in Paris’ Sophie recalls. ‘It opened my eyes to a way of living with both art and design – I couldn’t tell which piece was which in their amazing Parisian apartment’.

After that ‘lightbulb moment’, Sophie became aware of other overseas design galleries, like Carpenters Workshop Gallery and Friedman Benda, in New York. ‘I found that they exhibit design in much the same way as I exhibit art’ the forward thinking gallerist says.

Designwork 02 consists of two concurrent solo exhibitions; ‘Other Places’ by Elliat Rich, and ‘Common Resources’ by Dale Hardiman. Additionally, Sophie is presenting an off-site exhibition at 12 Albert Street (5 doors down from her gallery) by Chen Lu, entitled ‘DRD-01’.

Dale and Elliat each had work in the inaugural Designwork 01 exhibition at Sophie Gannon Gallery last year, and Sophie kept in touch with both designers after that show. She commissioned Dale to design the desk for her gallery stand at last year’s Sydney Contemporary, whilst Elliat went on to win the 2017 Australian Furniture Design Award. Designwork 02 has presented an opportunity for Sophie to work with both designers in depth, to develop a more significant body of work for exhibition.

The resulting exhibitions are each bold, original bodies of work that look nothing like any other example Australian design we’ve seen. Dale’s exhibition uses discarded objects to create distinctive new design pieces. Whilst Elliat’s  show, entitled draws on observations of the Australian landscape, inspired by her experience living and working in Alice Springs.

‘The pieces that I am showing by Elliat and Dale are essentially sculptures – ones that that you can touch, open and use’ Sophie enthuses. ‘My gallery predominately represents visual artists, and this won’t change, but I’m confident that the annual Designwork series will encourage new ideas, audiences and collectors’.

Scroll down for a brief interview with both Elliat and Dale!


Designwork 02‘ by Elliat Rich and Dale Hardiman
March 7th to 24th
Sophie Gannon Gallery
2 Albert Street
Richmond, Melbourne

This event is part of Melbourne Design Week. View the full program of events at

Elliat’s artful yet functional design, ‘Tall Place’. Photo – Emily Weaving for The Design Files.

The utterly unique ‘Standing Place’ by Elliat Rich. Photo – Emily Weaving for The Design Files.

Elliat’s ‘Weaver’, which is, in fact, an amazing dangling cupboard!! Photo – Emily Weaving for The Design Files.

Elliat Rich. Photo – courtesy of Elliat Rich.

A Brief Interview with Elliat Rich

Can you tell us about your latest body of work for ‘Designwork 02’?

This is the beginning of an ongoing exploration into imagined myths, reminders of present wonders and desired futures. It’s about new visions for the future – about who we are and our relationship to this country, our place in it.

There are eight new pieces in three families of objects; drawers, mirrors and a suspended shelf. They straddle function, sculpture and art, expressed through a design language – building on peoples expectation of furniture, but delivering beyond that.

Was there a particular moment or story that inspired this body of work?

Not really. The work encapsulates accumulated observations. I’ve been thinking about what we have in common; driving long distances, this wide colourful land, and where we’re headed. How the visions that we share of our future help us navigate what we do now.

Living in the Northern Territory means driving is an annual right of passage. we leave and we travel for days and we arrive changed. I am interested in this idea, this ritual on a greater scale.

What are you most looking forward to about being a part of Melbourne Design Week?

It’s an amazing time to be a designer in Australia, seeing ‘design’ on equal footing with ‘art’ at the recent NGV Triennial was extraordinary. I’m truly looking forward to the promise of being immersed in the energy and ideas of MDW.

In regards to the show – I’m particularly proud to have design shown within a gallery respected for fine art, the expressive qualities of design can be human and evocative and said in no other way than through materials and the way they exist in the world.

And have there been any challenges you’ve overcome in preparing for this show?

All this work is designed by distance, me here and the makers in Melbourne. There have been A LOT lot of phone and video calls, emails, samples posted, texted photos and movies. The distance brings with it it’s challenges but I trust the people I work with. This wouldn’t happen without trust from everyone involved, from Sophie and the gallery team to everyone making the work.

Other Places moves intuitively between experience, visions and materials. It is what I’ve seen, and what I’ve imagined, furniture that evokes and/or embodies the landscapes of Australia. As a collection it off-sets a conceptual underpinning with a sense of curiosity and joy. It encapsulates accumulated observations, imagined myths, reminders of present wonders and desired futures, these are other places.

‘Designwork 02’ also features new commissioned works by Dale Hardiman. Photo – Emily Weaving for The Design Files.

Dale Hardiman is one-half of brilliant furniture studio Dowel Jones. Photo – Emily Weaving for The Design Files.

Dale’s ‘Pot Plant Floor Lamp’. Photo – Emily Weaving for The Design Files.

Designs by Dale: ‘Parts Chandelier’, ‘Pillion Chair’, ‘Raised Vase’ and ‘Baluster Side Table’. Photo – Emily Weaving for The Design Files.

A Brief interview with Dale Hardiman

Can you tell us about your latest body of work for ‘Designwork 02’?

I’ve produced a new collection of works titled Common Resources, which is made up of 3 chairs, 2 tables, a floor and desk lamp, 2 vases, 1 double seater chair, 2 wall panels and a chandelier.

The work is made up of entirely found objects, reassembled into new formations, and resurfaced in a rubber compound. It’s been a large part of my personal practice for the past year.

Was there a particular moment or story that inspired this body of work?

Common Resources was the title of my honours thesis in Industrial Design at RMIT (2013), which was a book that explored the possibility of home-based manufacturing (using the kitchen primarily as the place of production). In my personal work I’ve always been interested in exploring the potential of production outside of conventional manufacturing spaces, looking at utilising very rudimentary tools (for this show, only a hand-saw and drill were used to assemble works).

I’m interested in exploring the possibility of minimising freight completely, and having people make their own furniture, lighting and objects, a complete localisation to the place in which the object will reside.

How does this body of work compare to your Dowel Jones output?

The work I produce as myself is almost completely the opposite to Dowel Jones. The work we produce for Dowel Jones is very much designed, stream lined and manufactured in large quantities. The work I produce under my own name is all hand-made by myself, very rarely using any kind of technology.

Where have you created these works, and can you tell us a little about the materials and processes used?

Luckily working as Dowel Jones allows me the freedom to work on personal projects when needed, and we also have a large enough factory that I can occupy space for my own work!

The key to the Common Resources work is the resurfacing of the hybrid objects. Once assembled, each piece is almost entirely coated in a concrete compound, before being painted in a very specific rubber compound. Although the finished pieces look as they’ve just been painted with regular paint, each of the colours is made from rubber which allows for a flexibility in the surface and is what unifies the work into a collection.

What’s next for Dale Hardiman?

I’m generally known for being a co-director of Dowel Jones (along with Adam Lynch) which is what I do full-time, and at the moment we’re finalising a new cabinet (called Vanena Arca – latin for Poisonous Cabinet) to present in Milan during the Salone de Mobile (Milan Design Fair) in April with Local Design.

Straight after that, we’re launching a new collection of upholstered lounge chairs in New York in May during New York Design Week. Then, the next personal project I’m working on is a collaboration with Damien Wright!