‘The design process for Sister was one of the most interesting we’ve been involved in,’ begins Dale Hardiman, co-founder of Dowel Jones. You see, NYC-based Australian designer Tom Hancocks developed the designs entirely using digital 3D renders – a more freeform approach than Dowel Jones’ ‘constrained use of form’ – before the Australian studio translated these into physical realisations, with the help of their local manufacturers.
Dowel Jones has been a great admirer of Tom’s work for many years, and deemed him the perfect candidate for their first ‘outsider’-designed collection. ‘We met Tom last year when we collaborated on the campaign images for the Thimble range. It was great luck that he happened to be visiting Melbourne around this time, and mentioned that he was interested in producing physical products,’ recalls Dale.
And so followed a hat-trick of firsts. LOBBY, Dowel Jones’ exhibition at store Coming Soon as part of Sight Unseen OFFSITE, is the Melbourne-based studio’s first showcase during NYCxDESIGN, and also their first upholstered collection to date.
The current (but growing) range features two lounge chairs using the tubular bent steel that has become synonymous with many of Dowel Jones’ designs. At LOBBY, these are presented with upholstered seats in Kvadarat textiles and velvet, along with colour-coordinated or contrasting frames.‘Coming Soon are well known for their use of pink, so we wanted to make chairs especially for them in pink velvet with pink frames,’ explains Dale.
But there’s even more to LOBBY than debuts and special-edition hues. ‘With each collection we present, we produce a series of campaign images to present works in unrealistic stylised environments,’ Dale tells. ‘Over the past few years we’ve been interested in how we can further explore these environments, and virtual reality (VR) seemed like the perfect match to expand on this. We also didn’t want to limit the experience of the exhibition just to what could be seen in the space.’
The idea is, that while exhibit-goers sit in the Sister chairs, feeling the softness of the upholstery, they enter VR and experience environments curated by Dowel Jones. Importantly, the immersive visuals of places are all accompanied by the sound of lobby music (*the penny drops*). ‘In this exhibition, we see LOBBY being an in-between space – between the physical product and the digital space. As the digital space continues to develop, VR and augmented reality seem like great directions to be moving into,’ details Dale. ‘We’ve always talked about how we can create more sensorial experiences to understand our work.’
The duo is quietly chuffed to be amongst an impressive representation of Australian designers showing in New York this year. They kindly leave us (and anyone else grounded in Australia with FOMO) with a to-stalk-on-Instagram list, including Adam Goodrum, Adam Cornish, Kate Stokes, Adam Markovitz, and Ross Gardam – cheers technology!
LOBBY by Dowel Jones
Until May 20th
Saturday and Sunday: 11am-7pm
37 Orchard Street, New York
Sunday, May 30th, 4pm-6pm