Interview : Mercedes-Benz Design Awards

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Meet the Finalists: James Walsh

Manipulating traditional processes is the key to creating objects that break the mould, says designer James Walsh.


According to James Walsh, a designer living in Sydney, just because a manufacturing process has stood the test of time doesn’t mean it’s immune to manipulation. It’s this theory that led to his design Blocks – which has been chosen as a finalist entry in the 2018 Mercedes-Benz Design Award.

For the competition, Walsh designed a range of vases, bowls and water pitchers that challenge the traditional process of slip casting. Blocks is a family of objects all stemming from the same dynamic mould. Made from either ceramics or glass, each is interrelated but able to stand alone both practically and aesthetically. Patterns can be switched around, shifted, twisted and stacked in different configurations.

There’s a noticeable Roman influence to the architecture of Blocks; the pieces have stately columns and exquisitely rendered curves, lending a timelessness to the design. They’re the kinds of objects you might imagine being unearthed fully intact by archaeologists in centuries to come, especially given the quality and durability of the material used. Walsh says his design may be the first object entered into the competition that is not specifically furniture. “I’m not sure if that gives me an edge or throws me under the bus,” he says.

Walsh studied fine arts before moving to a diploma in product design and eventfully getting into industrial design at RMIT. Last year he moved from Melbourne to Sydney to take up a job at leading design house Vert, where he works on products such as glassware, electronics and wearables.

The award finalists were determined by the mentors – Richard Munao (managing director, Cult); Adele Winteridge (founding director, Foolscap Studio); André Dutkowski (senior product manager, Mercedes-Benz); Katya Wachtel (editorial director, Broadsheet); and Tom Fereday (the 2017 Mercedes-Benz Design Award winner) – who judged the entries blind. Each entry was identified with a number, not a name, and judged on how adequately it answered the brief.

“I can imagine using these beautiful objects in my house and love the solid, almost brutalist nature of its aesthetic,” says Adele Winteridge of Walsh’s entry. “The presentation and the narrative of the product have been well thought out and executed beautifully.”

We spoke to Walsh about the experience of reaching the finalist stage of the 2018 Mercedes-Benz Design Award.

Plasticity

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Bringing together leading creatives from art and design practices, furniture & product design. The alt. material collective exhibition titled 'Plasticity' reflects on both the material & its latent properties.

Housed within an empty office building awaiting development. A series of openings were cut in the walls to connect four rooms together to make the gallery space. Existing materials were re- purposed  to make the plinths & backdrops to display the pieces within the exhibition.

All pieces were auctioned via dedicated Instagram page @alt.material with proceeds given to the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Matthew Harding Family Support Fund

Documentary: Metamorphism

This project investigates the way traditional materials can be brought into a contemporary design context. Victorian Bluestone has a rich history, which is embedded in the architecture and streets of Melbourne, as well as many rural towns in regional Victoria. Despite the understated beauty and versatility of this ubiquitous material, there is a larger contemporary issue emerging from quarrying practices today, in regards to the vast amounts of unused waste material generated.

James Walsh · Igneous

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he most attention the average person pays to the humble bluestone paver, is that turn-back-and-blame-the-ground reaction after embarrassingly stumbling on some uneven cobbles.

Graduate designer James Walsh, however, saw much more than an insentient scapegoat. Using an innovative sand-casting technique, James turns the sludge by-product of bluestone into truly unique lighting designs – pretty impressive for a university graduation project!

Vivid Awards

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The VIVID 2017 Award winners were announced last week, at an award ceremony held at Decor + Design and AIFF exhibition in Melbourne.

Selected from a shortlisted 44 products, the winners were picked by a panel of distinguished judges including our very own Aleesha Callahan (Australian Design Review and MEZZANINE editor) and Jan Henderson (Henderson Media and editor of inside), Jo Mawhinney (Living Edge), Orest Hawryluk (James Richardson Furniture), Keti Lytras (GlobeWest), Andrea Lucena-Orr (Dulux), Aaron Nicholls (Artemide), Anne Maree Sargeant (Authentic Design Alliance), Dana Tomic-Hughes (Yellowtrace), Bree Leech (Bree Leech), Ross Didier (Didier), Filip Bjazevic (Latitiude Group), Adele Bates (Adele Bates), and Julian Clavijo (Julian Clavijo).

Copy of 26 Original Fakes

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Melbourne Design Week
16-26 March, 2017

Curated by Dale Hardiman and Tom Skeehan
Organised by Friends & Associates
Exhibition design by Folk Architects



26 Original Fakes looks to the uncertified replica in contemporary Australian design practice, opening a conversation about the the issue of copying in both the creative and commercial markets.

26 contemporary Australian designers have reconfigured a replica of the Vitra Hal Wood chair designed by UK based Jasper Morrison. Through their own act of design, 26 cheap knock-offs reattain their value as authentic works – highlighting the centrality of the designer as a protagonist in the design of the products that surround us – and questioning how Australian consumers accept a situation where the creator of a work has their intellectual property stolen.

The prevalence of replica furniture in Australia raises serious issues pertaining to respecting design authorship, valuing creative practice and competing in a commercial market that is often hostile to the designer.