This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

A Cross-Country Collaboration Between A Saddler + A Contemporary Furniture Maker

Art

At first glance, a saddler from a remote region in Western Australia and an avant-garde object designer from coastal New South Wales wouldn’t appear to have a lot in common. But after first meeting in 2016, Johnny Nargoodah and Trent Jansen found a way to fuse their specific skills to produce unbelievable experimental furniture, that crosses country and cultures.

Partu (the Walmajarri word for ‘skin’) is Johnny and Trent’s latest collaboration of conceptual leather furniture. Crafted over 18 months, the pair traded ideas, designs and skills across the thousands of kilometres between Johnny’s home of Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia, and Trent’s in Thirroul on the New South Wales coast. This project pushed the parameters of traditional collaboration, and yielded these completely original collections, as well as a life-long friendship.

17th June, 2020

Trent Jansen (left) and Johnny Nargoodah (right) met in 2016, and have been creating together ever since. Photo – Romello Pereira.

(Left) Jonny carving leather in the workshop. Photo – Romello Pereira. (Right) ‘Chair’, from Ngumu Janka Warnti (All Made From Rubbish) collection. Photo – Tom Ross.

‘Bench’, from Ngumu Janka Warnti (All Made From Rubbish) collection. And Trent at work. Photo – Romello Pereira.

‘Partu’ is showing at Gallery Sally-Dan Cuthbert until July 5th. Photo – Tom Ross.

‘Saddle Vessel Long’, from Saddle collection. Photo – Tom Ross.

‘Chair’, from Ngumu Janka Warnti (All Made From Rubbish) collection. Photo – Romello Pereira.

‘Chair’, from Ngumu Janka Warnti (All Made From Rubbish) collection. Photo – Tom Ross.

‘Bench’, from Ngumu Janka Warnti (All Made From Rubbish) collection. Photo – Tom Ross.

Johnny + Trent at Arc One during Melbourne Design Week. Photo – Tom Ross.

Sasha Gattermayr
Wednesday 17th June 2020

‘I was wanting to generate outcomes that were legitimately co-created, as symmetrical as possible in their co-authorship.’ – Trent Jansen

Johnny Nargoodah is a Nyikina man from Fitzroy Crossing, who has spent most of his life as a saddler on remote cattle stations in Western Australia. Trent Jansen is a contemporary furniture and object designer from coastal New South Wales. The pair met in 2016, in Johnny’s hometown, as part of the Fremantle Arts Centre’s ‘In Cahoots’ project, where they collaborated on a leather work project with Mangkaja artist, Rita Minga. This was the beginning of a deep creative partnership and long-lasting friendship between the two.

Partu (the Walmajarri word for ‘skin’) is Johnny and Trent’s latest collaboration of conceptual furniture, which is exhibiting now at Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert in Sydney. Comprising of two collections with distinct styles, the leatherwork pieces explore the relationship between materials and the learning process involved in collaboration. ‘Saddle’ leans on Johnny’s experience as a saddler on cattle stations, and sees upholstery leather stretched taughtly across geometric steel frames. The pieces in this collection resemble objects cloaked in sheets, or barrels sucked airtight by an external force!

‘Ngumu Jangka Warnti’ (a Walmajarri phrase meaning ‘whole lot from rubbish’) is the second collection, which uses aluminium mesh Johnny and Trent found in a scrap metal yard as the base for the furniture frames. They cut this wire material into the shape of a chair or table, and battered it into form with hammers and concrete blocks. The resulting structures are then laminated with saddle leather to form a waffle-like skin through which the mesh imprint can still be seen.

‘Saddlers used to come and repair saddles using leather, making twisted rope out of cowhide,’ Johnny explains of his profession, and the significance in the choice of material. ‘The smell of that leather is so good. It brings back memories, triggered those old memories of walking around the saddle room in Noonkanbah shed. There is a sensory response, that’s important.’

Johnny and Trent spent 18 months developing these pieces for Partu, where sketching and swapping their ideas became a key part of the process. They only met in person three times over these months, in two-week stints where Johnny would travel from Fitzroy Crossing to Trent’s workshop in Thirroul, close to Woollongong on the NSW coast. In the interim, Trent and his team would source components and build sections of pieces in preparation for Johnny’s next visit.

Separated by thousands of kilometres and the Tanami Desert, the distance between Johnny and Trent meant they had to experiment with the traditional boundaries of collaboration. Trent details a process he calls ‘sketch exchange’, where the specifics of design jargon can be overcome by communicating purely through drawing.

‘When you work in a collaborative context outside of a shared disciplinary understanding, it’s hard to get anywhere because the words mean something different,’ he explains. Instead, he and Johnny spent most of the first trip sketching their ideas and swapping them, encouraging the other to adapt and change designs with their own input. ‘It’s not as linear as it sounds, not as back-and-forth,’ Trent laughs. ‘But I was wanting to generate these outcomes that were legitimately co-created, as symmetrical as possible in their co-authorship.’

The resulting pieces are a fusion of both Johnny and Trent’s disciplines, and a meeting of their independent creative sensibilities. “History – the leather gives it a reference to the history of Fitzroy Crossing,’ Johnny states, a point Trent echoes.

‘I’m keen for people to understand these narratives that come out of places far away from where they might live, like Indigenous workers on cattle stations and the backbone they form of that industry,’ Trent says. ‘I want to express how important Indigenous workers are for Australia as a contemporary industrial nation, and how that has contributed to the idea of Australian-ness.’

But in the end, it’s about the act of friendship and storytelling the making facilitates that matters most. ‘We work together because we enjoy each other’s company and we enjoy the cultural exchange as well as the skills exchange,’ says Trent. ‘Working with Johnny is part of my life now.’

Partu
Thursday, June 11th – Wednesday, July 5th

Gallery Sally-Dan Cuthbert
20 McLachlan Ave, Rushcutters Bay
New South Wales

The exhibition is open to the public with safe social distancing measures in place.

Trent will be discussing the show with Australian Financial Review Design Editor, Stephen Todd, from 6-6.30pm on July 2nd, in the gallery and on Instagram Live. RSVP to attend in-person at gallery@sallydancuthbert.com, or follow Gallery Sally-Dan Cuthbert here to watch the streamed event.

This Week

Stays

This Revitalised Motel With Old Hollywood Vibes Is Byron Bay's Newest Design Destination

A little bit Los Angeles, a little bit Ibiza, this beautiful new accommodation in the heart of the Northern Rivers is a showcase of local de...
Sasha Gattermayr

News

Colourful New Kids Books From A Legendary Local Illustrator

Artist Kat MacLeod teaches us our ABCs in this super cute range of books from Thames & Hudson.
Sasha Gattermayr
  1 hour ago

News

A Starlight Summer Festival To Begin In Heide’s Sculpture Park

Get your socialising mojo back with this cultural program of dance events, music acts and Indigenous storytelling at Heide Museum of Modern
Sponsored

Furniture

The Tradie Brotherhood Behind Our Newest Furniture Obsession

Brothers Jack and Mark Fearon combine their experience as a plumber and boilermaker to create the most colourful, characterful furniture goi...
Sasha Gattermayr

Architecture

A Lean, Clean Renovation To A Grand Heritage Weatherboard

ioa Studio transforms a cavernous Victorian residence into a light, bright contemporary home - and adds an element of surprise!
Sasha Gattermayr
  4 hours ago

News

Swoon-Worthy Luggage For The Perfect Weekend Escape

Local luggage experts July prep us for the summer of local travel with the slick new ‘Daybreak’ range.
Sponsored

Homes

Louella Boitel Gill's Loved And Layered Bungalow By The Beach

Interior and furniture designer Louella Boîtel-Gill has turned her former Airbnb in the Northern Rivers into an idyllic family home.

Studio Visit

Dive Into The Colourful, Creative World of Melbourne's Designer-Of-The-Moment, Danielle Brustman

Know her name but not her story? Welcome to the vibrant world of designer Danielle Brustman, at her incredible studio in Collingwood Yards!
Sasha Gattermayr
02:40

Small Business

Our (Free!) Small Business Summer School Is Here!

Got a burning business idea but no idea where to start? Small Business Consultant Fiona Killackey is here to guide you through how to get st...
Lucy Feagins
  12 hours ago

Interiors

The 5 Rules Of Good Kitchen Design, According To Cantilever Interiors

A good kitchen starts with observing these five rules, brought to you by Australian design and manufacturing kitchen brand Cantilever Interi...

Architecture

This Couple's Home Is Two Houses In One!

Coy Yiontis Architects have designed this home with separate areas for a couple who have been living together for 50 years. His and hers goa...
42:51

Podcast

TDF Talks with Plant Designer, Jenna Holmes of Plant Mama

In this podcast conversation, Jenna of 'Plant Mama' and 'Pasta Mama' shares how she has built and grown two very different businesses from t...

Architecture

A Victorian Terrace That Plays Design Gymnastics!

Melbourne's colour masters Wowowa are back with another clever Victorian renovation!

Architecture

A Sleek, Surprising Reworking Of A Victorian Cottage

A humble but innovative extension by Blair Smith Architecture has totally modernised this Victorian cottage in Brunswick.

Studio Visit

Inside The Dreamy Garden Shed Studio Of Emerging Ceramic Artist, Anni Hagberg

Introducing the graduate artist who was the recipient of The Design Files Emerging Maker Award at Craft Victoria's annual 'Fresh!' exhibitio...
Sasha Gattermayr

View Comments

Similar Stories

Art

Weaving The Way With The Carmichael Women

Jo Hoban meets Freja, Elisa and Sonja Carmichael – the family of fibre artists dedicated to continuing cultural knowledge.
Jo Hoban

Art

The Adaptive Magic Of The Aurukun Sculptors' Canine Carvings

An intimate exploration of the contemporary significance of these 'elegant/disturbing/humorous carved canines', from our newest writer, Tyso...
Tyson Yunkaporta

Indigenous Art

Shirley Macnamara, Weaver and Cattle Drover

An award-winning creative, weaving with Spinifex sourced from her own thriving cattle property near Mount Isa.
Jessica Booth and Laetitia Prunetti

This Week

News

Swoon-Worthy Luggage For The Perfect Weekend Escape

Local luggage experts July prep us for the summer of local travel with the slick new ‘Daybreak’ range.
Sponsored

News

A Starlight Summer Festival To Begin In Heide’s Sculpture Park

Get your socialising mojo back with this cultural program of dance events, music acts and Indigenous storytelling at Heide Museum of Modern
Sponsored

Homes

Louella Boitel Gill's Loved And Layered Bungalow By The Beach

Interior and furniture designer Louella Boîtel-Gill has turned her former Airbnb in the Northern Rivers into an idyllic family home.
02:40

Small Business

Our (Free!) Small Business Summer School Is Here!

Got a burning business idea but no idea where to start? Small Business Consultant Fiona Killackey is here to guide you through how to get st...
Lucy Feagins
  12 hours ago

Architecture

A Lean, Clean Renovation To A Grand Heritage Weatherboard

ioa Studio transforms a cavernous Victorian residence into a light, bright contemporary home - and adds an element of surprise!
Sasha Gattermayr
  4 hours ago

Architecture

This Couple's Home Is Two Houses In One!

Coy Yiontis Architects have designed this home with separate areas for a couple who have been living together for 50 years. His and hers goa...

Furniture

The Tradie Brotherhood Behind Our Newest Furniture Obsession

Brothers Jack and Mark Fearon combine their experience as a plumber and boilermaker to create the most colourful, characterful furniture goi...
Sasha Gattermayr
42:51

Podcast

TDF Talks with Plant Designer, Jenna Holmes of Plant Mama

In this podcast conversation, Jenna of 'Plant Mama' and 'Pasta Mama' shares how she has built and grown two very different businesses from t...

Studio Visit

Inside The Dreamy Garden Shed Studio Of Emerging Ceramic Artist, Anni Hagberg

Introducing the graduate artist who was the recipient of The Design Files Emerging Maker Award at Craft Victoria's annual 'Fresh!' exhibitio...
Sasha Gattermayr

Stays

This Revitalised Motel With Old Hollywood Vibes Is Byron Bay's Newest Design Destination

A little bit Los Angeles, a little bit Ibiza, this beautiful new accommodation in the heart of the Northern Rivers is a showcase of local de...
Sasha Gattermayr

Architecture

A Victorian Terrace That Plays Design Gymnastics!

Melbourne's colour masters Wowowa are back with another clever Victorian renovation!

Studio Visit

Dive Into The Colourful, Creative World of Melbourne's Designer-Of-The-Moment, Danielle Brustman

Know her name but not her story? Welcome to the vibrant world of designer Danielle Brustman, at her incredible studio in Collingwood Yards!
Sasha Gattermayr

News

Colourful New Kids Books From A Legendary Local Illustrator

Artist Kat MacLeod teaches us our ABCs in this super cute range of books from Thames & Hudson.
Sasha Gattermayr
  1 hour ago

Architecture

A Sleek, Surprising Reworking Of A Victorian Cottage

A humble but innovative extension by Blair Smith Architecture has totally modernised this Victorian cottage in Brunswick.

Interiors

The 5 Rules Of Good Kitchen Design, According To Cantilever Interiors

A good kitchen starts with observing these five rules, brought to you by Australian design and manufacturing kitchen brand Cantilever Interi...

Similar Stories

Art

Weaving The Way With The Carmichael Women

Jo Hoban meets Freja, Elisa and Sonja Carmichael – the family of fibre artists dedicated to continuing cultural knowledge.
Jo Hoban

Art

The Adaptive Magic Of The Aurukun Sculptors' Canine Carvings

An intimate exploration of the contemporary significance of these 'elegant/disturbing/humorous carved canines', from our newest writer, Tyso...
Tyson Yunkaporta

Indigenous Art

Shirley Macnamara, Weaver and Cattle Drover

An award-winning creative, weaving with Spinifex sourced from her own thriving cattle property near Mount Isa.
Jessica Booth and Laetitia Prunetti

The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.