Inhabit – living in design

23 May to 6 July 2013

Annual exhibition featuring Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre’s Accredited Professional Members

Al Munro, Homage to the Everyday (Morandi and Hanssen-Pigott), 2012 – 2013

Inhabit – living in design by Diana Hare

Canberra is a place where houses have become home to people from around the world and across Australia.

It's Australia's only twentieth century city, and started quite literally from a fresh sheet of paper (or linen) and, even though it was the result of a political confection called Federation, its development has been essentially unhindered by the political, geographic, economic and social constraints that have measured the development of Australia's other capital cities.

For a century now, the city has been in a state of almost continuous growth. When growth faltered because of war or recession it was followed by rapid expansion expressed in new architecture, materials, colours, shapes and styles. As a result Canberra could be viewed as a design laboratory, where the experiment, in the form of buildings and houses, has been to look toward the modern and new.

Canberra's houses were distinctive from the outside, and were also different on the inside.

After World War II, a time that coincided with the rise of the modern Scandinavian craft-based design movement and the design and construction of many of the city's most significant buildings, future orientated academics, scientists and affluent bureaucrats (often recruited to Canberra from overseas) brought with them a familiarity with and openness to the place of architecture, design and craft in domestic life.

At the most basic domestic scale, many young public servants who were setting up home from scratch were freed from the design inertia of their parent city (and parents). Exposed to a burgeoning design culture, they invested in modern furniture and handcrafted objects for their flats and houses. (Interestingly, today Canberra is considered by many in the antiques trade to be a treasure trove of mid-twentieth century craft and design collectibles).

Sixty years later, the exhibition, Inhabit – living in design, set out to reveal if and how craft and design continues to define the domestic spaces of Canberra's houses.

For this exhibition, Accredited Professional Members of Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre were asked to make something inspired by, evocative of, or interpreting contemporary Canberra homes as part of the Centre's Designing a Capital: Crafting a Nation program.

Each maker remained true to their reputation, expertise and interest, revealing the maturity and confidence of the territory's craft and design sector, and of Canberra as a unique place.

Of the twenty seven works selected for exhibition, some refer to the design history of the city, others to the idiosyncrasies of living there, still others raise issues of modern life such as conservation and urbanisation, while others simply celebrate the way well designed and made objects make a house into a home.

Ruth Allen's In the Spirit tackles recycling and conservation in one fell swoop. Her elegant decanter and glasses made from Galliano bottles both question the energy locked up in any glass object and celebrate how recycling discarded glass creates not only a new object, but one that embodies the concept of reuse.

Avi Amesbury's Earthed vase is just that, definitively of the earth with slashes of texture and glaze creating a surface that changes with every viewing.

Brian Corr is well known for his large installations and architectonic sculptures. His Spatial Reflections 1, 2 and 3 are a focus for contemplation and meditation in a domestic setting.

Celebration stemware by Rozlyn de Bussey reiterates the relationship between fine and coloured glass and special occasions that is found throughout European history. A sentiment appropriate to 2013 - Canberra's centenary year.

Sarit Cohen's Five on Reflection slip cast ceramic drinking vessels have been refined to the very essence of understated decoration, each piece different yet obviously part of a set.

Judi Elliot considers architecture to be a life form, where building and walls are imbued with the lives and experiences of their inhabitants. Not surprisingly, her At One's Door glass form is strongly architectural.

The Domestic Grid wall hanging/knee rug by Dianne Firth was inspired by designs for stained glass windows by Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney Griffin, but the peerless arrangement of coloured textile in this luminous patchwork is a tribute to the maker's devotion to her craft.

Revelation by Caren Florance continues her experimentation with ink and paper, working with poetry in traditional and non-traditional ways to bridge the gap between poetry and art and perhaps draw in new readers. Perhaps in a Canberra home.

In his Fly Castle lamp Robert Foster has playfully brought the pastimes of seaside and river holidays inside. Perhaps this is a comment on Canberra's natural playgrounds of the coast and the mountains.

The impact of the city on its environs is drawn into close and beautiful relief in Cathy Franzi's Murrumbidgee Bossiaea ceramic vase. The incised design (redolent of lino cuts of the 1920s and 30s) is of a newly endangered flowering plant native to the Murrumbidgee River corridor at the outskirts of the city.

Placed as it were on a bedside table in the exhibition are John Heaney's Shino glazed stoneware Shunga Tea and Water Bowls that revisit revered vessels of the Japanese Tea Ceremony. But rather than replicate them, Heaney has attempted to extract ‘the quick of life' inherent in these ceremonial objects.

Is it only in Australia that until recently a house wasn't a home until there was a lemon tree growing out the back? Ruth Hingston's knitted Cold Climate Citrus represents a Canberra-centric version of this obsession.

Bev Hogg has observed the disappearance of several small bird species from her garden and asks What is evolving here? In her flock of giant hand-built ceramic Diamond Fire Tail Finches she experiments with evolution and we can witness how repetition creates infinitesimal changes that eventually lead to survival.

The textile drawing Within by Morgan James is a bid to encapsulate a city that in both planning and practice is a place of discourse and democracy.

In Transformations 1,2 and 3 Belinda Jessup created textiles from hand woven, silk, linen, copper, wool and silk/stainless steel that occupy space in ways that textiles normally don't.

Elizabeth Kelly's colour and geometry drenched Four Seasons Edition 3 digital prints on canvas bring the capital's four distinct seasons into the home. Extensive plantings of non-Indigenous, mainly European and American trees as part of the landscape plan for Canberra have created four visibly different seasons in the old world tradition. This artifice of nature contradicts the wisdom of Australia's traditional owners who often identify up to seven seasons based on a closer understanding of the environment.

Zeljko Markov's masterly boxes and holders slowly reveal their transition from all wood to all fibreboard and in so doing challenge preconceptions about the value of wooden objects in our homes.

When Anita McIntyre's Gathering wall plaques arrived at the Centre they immediately spoke of home, of people doing everyday things. However the accessibility of her work belies a complex technique of paper porcelain mono printing, millefiori, coloured slips, terra sigillata and stamping.

In Homage to the Everyday (Morandi and Hanssen-Pigott) Al Monro invests crocheted yarn made objects with a serenity and homeliness found in repeated mundane domestic forms.

Outside space is perhaps the least developed space in this exhibition about home. Kirstie Rea finds the energy for her creative process in outdoor spaces. In Another day, the outdoors is represented by a blue glass cloth that seems to jump off her simple white wood shelf (the inside), and folded white glass cloths that sit ready for another day.

Leaf Cabinet 1 by Catherine Reid is another outdoor work. It examines the minutiae and subtle differences of the Australian landscape that can be been considered monotonous by the inattentive. Her work references bushfire and drought, fundamental to the survival of the native plants and animals of the ACT, but a threat to the existence of the city.

Gilbert Riedelbauch's Knicks (curtsey) lamp typifies the purity of his approach to design and function. The apparently spindly structure of the lamp makes it a mere holder for light. But, closer inspection reveals a gold plated, stainless steel, carbon fibre and acrylic structure that marries industry and craft.

Barbara Rogers' lengths of silk satin silk organza grace the wall of the exhibition's dining room. White Stripe was created using Shibori an art form of planned manipulation and the unknown, where folding and stitching prepares cloth for a multi-stage dying process, building depth and layering to create individuality.

Luna Ryan's Skellie is the little skeleton in the cupboard of many Canberra homes.

A length of hand-printed fabric beckons visitors to the Inhabit exhibition to look beyond home. Julie Ryder's Inhabit fabric was inspired by the experience of walking through verdant tropical rainforest in far north Queensland. The layering of light through the trees and palms, and the flashes of colour of birds and insects as they dart across the field of vision are transferred to cloth through stencilling and photographic stencil techniques using transparent and opaque inks.

Harriet Schwarzrock looked to nature to inhabit her Nautilus glass vases. Spiral forms found in shells and the vortices of storm cells are also found in circulating fluids and molten glass.

And finally, back to where it all began, at the beginning of the exhibition Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre literally puts out the welcome mat to visitors in the form of Monique van Nieuwland's subtly coloured Palette S and Palette V Linen warp, wool weft, hand woven, hand dyed floor rugs.

Emerging contemporaries

In a potentially controversial move, Inhabit – living in design, places work by graduate students among the work of professionals. These were some of the recipients of the Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre graduate exhibition awards for 2012.

It's fascinating to observe that while the execution of their work is impeccable, in many cases their designs reference the past rather than the future, and the commercial rather than bespoke.

In her Canopy Bedside and Eclipse Writing Table Elise Cameron-Smith (Sturt Craft and Design Centre, Sturt School for Wood graduate) presents a tour de force of timber craft influenced by mid-20th century design. Her hardwood hanging totems conjure up banksia seed heads after a bushfire.

All That Glisters Is Not Gold series (Bracelet I, IV, V; brooch I, II, III, IV, V neckpiece) by Carmel Lam (Australian National University graduate) reinterprets the domestic jewellery case, filling it with amethyst, citrine, cubic zirconia, garnet, peridot, topaz and tourmalines mounted in titanium scaffold.

Tom Skeehan (University of Canberra Industrial Design graduate) already has a reputation as an inventive and commercial designer maker. His Small and Tall Stay Stools exude a relaxed contemporary style equally appropriate to a late night venue or a modern Canberra home.

Simon Alterator, another Sturt Craft and Design Centre, Sturt School for Wood graduate has again referenced the mid-20th century in details inspired by Charles and Ray Eames's furniture designs. The Line in the Sand Coffee Table is crowned with an interactive top that is a combination of an Etcha Sketch (another mid 20th century icon) and a Zen sand garden.

Preserved Impermanence by Australian National University graduate Emilie Patteson looks further back to the traditional technique of preserving organic specimens for scientific research and display. Her blown and hot sculpted glass sealed specimen domes play with time by preserving wattle sprigs in perpetuity.

Australian National University graduate Andrew Watts' It's all about the approach chair is a twist on the fibreglass and plastic bucket chairs of the Italian design ascendancy of the 1960s. His design penetrates the smooth ABS plastic shell with an oak frame and armrests.