Working out the back of his Thornbury home in Melbourne’s North, Lucas Wearne of Neighbourhood Studio makes functional, sculptural objects, hand-carved from Australian natural limestone. His refined designs and expert craftsmanship make it hard to believe he’s only been working with the medium for the last 6 months.
Experimenting with new forms, shapes and designs, Lucas is constantly reinventing his style. From curvaceous Picasso-inspired vases, contemporary columns with precise hand-carved detail and mushroom-topped lamps, each new series of objects references a different period of art and architecture. ‘In a sense, I am always “launching” a new collection’, Lucas says. ‘I like the idea of each piece being unique, it gives me room to keep challenging myself and my practice’.
And if you need any more of an endorsement, the TDF team gifted me one of Neighbourhood Studio’s wavy orb lamps for my birthday last week – #obsessed! You heard it here first – Neighbourhood Studio is the next big thing!
In the past few months I’ve been seeing your limestone work pop up all over the place – but scrolling back through your Instagram, it seems like you’ve only been working with the medium for a short amount of time. There’s a lot of timber furniture going on before that. What prompted you to experiment?
I taught myself how to make furniture because I couldn’t afford to buy the kinds of things I liked. From there I began making things for friends, and it kind of spiralled after that. I discovered that people liked what I was making and wanted to buy my things, so I set up my business at the beginning of 2019. I knew I didn’t want to work with wood forever so while I was selling the timber furniture, I was always experimenting with a whole bunch of other materials like metal, glass, and then stone.
As soon as I started playing around with limestone it just felt right. I’ve always been interested in sculpture, and I felt like I had so much creative freedom after the (somewhat) rigid nature of woodworking. I’ve only been working with limestone for about 5-6 months but so far the response has been incredible. I’m a little overwhelmed (but excited!) with how supportive and encouraging people have been!
Is this what you do full time?
Yes this is what I do full time, and I couldn’t be happier working for myself. I still can’t believe I get to spend all day doing what I love, and creating whatever I want!
How do you create your work, and what’s your home set up like?
I do some sketching of my ideas, but mostly I just jump right in and start carving with basic hand tools. I like to design with the material, rather than designing and adding the material later – something I have learnt from landscaping.
My home set up is pretty simple really – I have a small undercover workspace in my garden. This is where I make, photograph and sell everything! It’s a beautiful space with lots of light and greenery but as my business grows, I am looking to move to a bigger studio space that I can make more mess in.
Do you have any key references or inspirations?
I’m inspired by everything and anything, and I always try to keep an open mind. The first series of lamps that I made from limestone was inspired by an old broken chandelier than I found in an op shop. I also feel really inspired by the landscape around me, both natural and manmade. I find such interesting and beautiful forms in the most unexpected places, and use these as a reference for my work.
On a daily basis I am inspired by the local creative community in Melbourne, and feel really lucky to live in a city that values the arts and local design.
What motivates you to keep creating, and what do you love about what you do?
I just find it so much fun. I love having the freedom to make whatever I like, and think there is endless potential in sculpture. I love the ‘happy mistakes’ that come out of experimenting. As I’m not formally trained, I don’t feel restricted in any way – from the tools that I use, to the shapes and objects that I’m creating. I have never felt like there’s a right or wrong way to do what I’m doing.
Positive feedback from customers and the creative community is also a huge motivator to keep making and testing new ideas. Most of all I love the thought that the things that I’ve made are being treasured by others – I am always so excited to see photos that people send me of my pieces in their homes!
There has been such a positive and exciting response to your work so far! What are you looking forward to in the next year, and what do you hope to achieve?
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind and to be honest I’m not really sure where everything is heading! I’m definitely aiming to develop my practice further by introducing new materials and expanding on my skills. I am really looking forward to working with and collaborating with some other local makers and designers as well, and saying yes to lots of different opportunities.
I’d love to have an exhibition by the end of the year, as this has been a goal of mine for a while now. Mostly I’m just really excited to keep rolling with it, and see where it all goes.