Studio Visit

This Adelaide-Based Emerging Designer Is One To Watch

Dean Toepfer is multidisciplinary emerging designer, whose varied creative practice spans furniture, lighting and object design.

The Adelaide-based designer has a background in fashion and trained in Rotterdam under Lex Pott (the designer behind THOSE Instagram candles) and now operates his multifaceted practice out of Adelaide creative hub, JamFactory. It’s here that he crafts his original furniture, lighting and object designs – including the lighting range he created with studio-fellow Liam Fleming, which is shortlisted in our Design Awards! Right now though – we’re really loving his new vase versa range of resin vases.

We caught up with this bright young designer with big things on the horizon, to chat about his practice.

Sasha Gattermayr

Left: The vase versa range. Photo – Dean Toepfer. Right: Dean in his studio. Photo – Andrew Carvolth.

Dean in the studio! Photo – Andrew Carvolth.

A ‘vase versa’ vase in situ. Photo – Dean Toepfer.

Vases in production. Photo – Dean Toepfer.

The double walled vases are the perfect table accompaniment. Photo – Dean Toepfer.

The ‘Solute’ light, by Dean and Liam Fleming, which is shortlisted in our Design Awards! Photo – Dean Toepfer.

Sasha Gattermayr
28th of September 2020

Dean Toepfer is a quiet achiever. The multifaceted designer started out in the fashion industry, then went back to study Design at RMIT in Melbourne, further refining his creative skills with a two-year associateship at the JamFactory in Adelaide, before heading to Europe to train with superstar Dutch designer Lex Pott in the Netherlands for much of 2019, them returning to Adelaide to set up his own design studio this year! Phew – that’s one hell of an impressive CV!

Having returned to the JamFactory as a studio tenant to set up his own practice, Dean relishes the opportunities this creative hub provides – with furniture making, glass making, ceramics, jewellery and metalwork all happening in close proximity, JamFactory enables Dean to design, manufacture prototypes, and collaborate with creatives from various disciplines, all under the one roof.

Hey Dean! To start off, could you briefly outline your background, and how this brought you to furniture and lighting design?

My original career path was within the fashion industry, where I specalised in sales, range development and production management. After a few years I wanted to pursue a more creative and independent path. I went back to university and undertook an Associate Degree in Design at RMIT. It was here that I found my love for product design, specifically furniture and lighting.

I’m very much drawn to the different facets of design, from form and function through to ergonomics and aesthetics. There are also a lot of ups and downs when creating new work. Things never go to plan, and adapting and problem solving are a daily occurrence. There is an immense creative satisfaction overcoming these obstacles, and seeing the end result, when that original thought becomes a real, tangible thing.

The JamFactory is filled with great designers and a community of creatives. Can you tell me a bit about the space in which you typically create? How long have you been here?

I moved from Melbourne to Adelaide in 2017, to undertake a 2 year associateship in the JamFactory’s furniture studio. It was during this time I further honed my creative path and broadened my skillset; it was the perfect balance of independent development, collaboration and community. At the end of my associateship I spent the majority of 2019 working in The Netherlands with a Rotterdam based designer, Lex Pott (whom I met in France the year before though a JamFactory scholarship). On returning back to Adelaide at the end of 2019 I secured a tenancy back at the JamFactory, where I now operate my practice from.

My studio is crisp little space where I generally undertake “clean work”, sketching, design, CAD and model making. Then there is a shared workshop/machine room where production and mess is made.

It has been a great place to be, getting to collaborate with an array of skilled designer, makers and creative in the areas of ceramics, glass, jewelry and metal.

Your practice is across furniture, lighting and object design. How do you balance these areas of interest? Does each inform the other?

To be honest the balance is totally unplanned, the strongest idea, or the one I’m most excited about always takes control. In saying that, I generally have multiple projects running parallel to one another, and one project can inform another. In the development stages a certain element from one piece can plant a seed for new ideas, whether it be a process, material or detail.

Your most recent project is the vase versa range. Tell me about it!

The vase versa range is my first object collection, and first range that is self-produced in-house. I went into this project wanting to design a piece that was self produced and could be sold at an accessible price point. I also wanted colour to be the main feature of the piece as this has been lacking in past projects.

The form itself is somewhat plain and monolithic; the intention behind this was to highlight the bold graphic quality of varying colour relationships. A take on the saying vice versa, the duotone stem vases have multiple colour relationships depending on the orientation of the piece.

Learn more about Dean’s practice, see his latest projects and shop the ‘vase versa’ range here!

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