Walking around Denfair show in Melbourne, just a few weeks ago, I admired the stands of many furniture companies, some better known than others. But it is discovering the smaller designers, often young and full of inventiveness, that gets me really excited. One of these was Rhys Cooper, showing his own creations in a small stand slightly away from the larger brands. With their elegant designs Rhys' items stood out to me, showing qualities I sincerely admire: apparent simplicity in design, quality of material and attention to detail.
Now based in Adelaide, Rhys Cooper grew up on the Central Coast of New South Wales and throughout his time in high school he studied woodwork and design and technology. During year 12 Rhys was accepted into the Furniture Design program at the University of Tasmania, run by Simon Ancher. "There I completed studies in Furniture Design as well as an Honours in Contemporary Arts," he tells me "and was then fortunate enough to be offered a position at JamFactory in the Associate Training, run by Jon Goulder, where I have been based for the past 5 years."
So, tell me about your own business. "I operate out of a studio at JamFactory, working on a broad range of projects, combining self initiated investigations with client commissions. I design products for my personal collection, as well as some for other brands under licence. I occasionally produce custom one-off items for clients and exhibitions."
How would do you describe the style of your furniture? "Evolving. I look back at some of my earlier work and see how far my style/aesthetic has changed and grown, I’m much happier with what I am currently producing."
Where do you start from when creating something new? "If it is a self-initiated project I will write some notes about what it is I am trying to achieve and construct a design brief surrounding that to give myself parameters. From there it can go in a number of directions, sketches, quick prototypes, dirty models, or sometimes it may sit to the side for a few months while I just think about it... For a client's commission on the other hand it is for a defined piece of furniture, such as a bed, we meet and have a chat about what it is they are after, I offer some suggestions and from there they let me develop a couple of concepts. We meet regularly and discuss detailing, proportions and material selections. Then it goes through prototyping and development, before I commence producing the finished piece... Client commissions generally operate on a time schedule, so it can be quiet a quick turnaround."
Taking inspiration "from drawing and life experiences", Rhys is trained in working with timber, but admits also in being very interested in expanding his knowledge and range of materials. "Despite creating most of my own designs myself, some items I simply cannot make so I outsource to professionals in that particular field. I am grateful to work with some amazing manufacturers."
So, you connect with other Australian designers? "Yes definitely. Events such as the recent Friends & Associates Annual General Meeting by Dale Hardiman and Tom Skeehan was great as I finally got to meet a range of designers whose work I have admired for quiet some time."
Seeing in Rhys not only an inspired designer but also a refined artisan, I asked him, ultimately what in his opinion makes 'good design'. His answer was brief and spot on: "Quality of materials and beautiful detailing."
James Treble is an ambassador for Planet Ark and firmly believes in sensible purchasing, recycling and creative re-purposing. James has three decades of accumulated experience in the Building Industry, Real Estate and Interior Design and regularly shares his knowledge and experience in adding value to properties through effective design & styling. Watch his free videos on YouTube, and follow him on Facebook and Instagram for more free information.