It’s not often you really experience a truly beautiful piece of furniture. I remember the first time I saw a Tony Kenway exhibit at the Australian Craft Show back in the 90’s, dining suite with credenza and a signature series rocking chair all in Tasmanian Blackwood – wow. Then there is the chair made by Brian Boggs that sits in Tom McKenna’s office at Taunton Press in Connecticut, the only thing more sublime than the chairs curves was the comfort. Even the half-completed Maloof chair that lives in the library of Highland Woodworking Atlanta; I asked the counter staff twice before I dared to take a seat.

“pieces like these have been brought together by the designer maker in total harmony”

Nakashima Occasional Table

George Nakashima Occasional Table

And last Christmas I found myself wandering the Metropolitan Arts Museum in New York where I came across the Nakashima lounge suite on permanent display. The late George Nakashima is one of my most loved furniture makers. So with its low Conoid chairs and magnificent book-matched slab occasional table, it literally took my breath away. Even better was that this suite was for public use, so magazines were strewn across the table and children climbed on the chairs and slid them about. The gallery security staff stood by with no concern for any potential damage that may occur – this furniture was for using. I just sat there beaming, trying to make eye contact with anyone who I could tell my story of this moment too – it was furniture Nirvana.

Having only seen Nakashima’s work in images previously I was struck by the immense, unconfrontational presence of this suite. It was neither arrogant or attention seeking and wasn’t trying to be clever or different – it was just totally seductive. I ask myself, what is it about pieces like these that gives them such power? Is it the material and way it has been utilised? Maybe it’s the finish and the quality of the construction? Or it is the balance of functionality and design aesthetics? In my mind, pieces like these possess all of these elements and have been brought together by the designer maker in total harmony. No one element competes with another, they all work together and re-enforce each another into a composed and resolved design.

Great design is not easy to achieve. Generally, most of the mainstream furniture and other stuff you encounter rarely executes these individual design elements well let alone in combination. In the woodworking world, those designer makers who pursue and achieve great design have earned it through years of dedicated practice, study and personal sacrifice.

Chair by David Haig
Chair by Reed Hansuld

Chairs by David Haig (top) and Reed Hansuld (bottom)

For the woodworking enthusiast and emerging designer maker, the challenge of developing strong design skills is equally as challenging. The usual woodworking media is devoted to ‘how to’ and continues to obsess on the technical challenges of a hand cut dovetail rather than providing makers pathways to develop balanced technical and design skills in the broader context. Further complicating this is that great design is not just an intellectual pursuit one can simply pick-up from a magazine or YouTube. It is also physical experience of experimentation and practice built upon hard skills, all of which often elude the enthusiast woodworker and emerging designer maker alike.

Wood Dust recognises this challenge the Australian woodworker faces and so we offer our new event – Wood Dust Designer Maker. Held at Melbourne’s newest makerspace FAB9 in Footscray, Designer Maker explores the art of design for woodworking and the processes of fine craftsmanship to realise the designs intent. Held over four days in August, Designer Maker offers a full suite of Wood Dust events including Masterclasses with leading designer makers such as David Haig from New Zealand, Reed Hansuld from Brooklyn New York, Vic Tesolin from Canada and Melbourne’s own Bern Chandley. Adjacent to the Masterclasses is placed our Timber & Tool marketplace with all your favourite timber and tool suppliers. And Wood Dust also offers a new feature event, the Weekend At Wood Dust Makers Conference exploring all things designer maker with rolling live demonstrations spread across six live workshop areas. If you are passionate about design and woodworking, and you want to build your skills alongside other woodworkers, you won’t want to miss Wood Dust Designer Maker. Stay tuned for details.

For enquires on Masterclasses or the Weekend at Wood Dust please contact us at
Wood Dust Designer Maker
August 8th – 11th 2019
FAB9 Makerspace
90 Maribyrnong Street
Footscray, Melbourne VIC

Fine Woodworking is a proud sponsor and media partner of Wood Dust Designer Maker 2019. For more than 40 years Fine Woodworking has been teaching, inspiring, and connecting with a passionate audience of woodworkers.