Celebrating Australian artisanship and collaboration: An interview with designer Tom Fereday.
15 December 2021

Celebrating Australian artisanship and collaboration: An interview with designer Tom Fereday.

Captivated by the relationship between contemporary design and natural materials, Australian born designer Tom Fereday has established a thriving career in furniture design. Taking an honest and holistic approach to each creation, his pieces and works have been published on an international scale.

Collaborating with local makers, designers, and manufacturers, Fereday has partnered with world-renowned brands including Louis Vuitton, Alessi, Stellarworks and Herman Miller and has exhibited through galleries including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Powerhouse Museum, Mint Gallery, Australian Design Centre. 

We recently interviewed Fereday to find out more about his beginnings in the industry, one of his latest projects collaborating with the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and why local collaboration has been detrimental to his flourishing design career.

How did you get started in design/furniture design?

I studied art and sculpture at Wimbledon School of Art in London before moving to Sydney to study industrial design at the University of Technology Sydney. It was there that I learnt about what product and furniture design are and after I began working as an industrial designer I began experimenting and playing with my own furniture and objects.

What have been some of your favourite projects? Collaborations?

Truly some of my favourite collaborations have been with manufacturers including Evostyle. I am fortunate enough to work with incredible makers who have decades of experience in specific fields. These close collaborations have allowed me to create some of the most refined and innovative outcomes.

I’m incredibly proud to have collaborated with the Art Gallery of New South Wales on a unique ottoman seating collection for the entire gallery. Over the period of two years, a collaboration with the gallery was formed through the shared goal of creating a seating collection designed to complement the incredible space and artworks of the iconic Sydney gallery.

Inspired by the architecture of the Art Gallery, the Fereday ottoman (as named by the gallery) was designed and developed for the entire public gallery space resulting in over 35 unique ottomans and lounges. One of the key factors in developing the collection was a sympathetic consideration for the space and purpose of the gallery.

Quiet yet refined sculptural details complement the space and artworks of the gallery allowing the piece to subtly rest among both old and new areas of the gallery without competing or distracting from the beautiful artworks surrounding the walls of the gallery. The resulting ottoman has subtle restrained design details which upon closer inspection reveal the incredible detail and craftsmanship that went into each piece.

The collaboration acted as a true celebration of Australian artisanship through both locally sourced materials and craftsmen with the final collection made entirely in Sydney. Built upon a refined soft angular solid timber frame made from Australian spotted gum and finished with a slender proportioned fine aniline leather seat, each element was handcrafted by some of the finest makers in Australia. Each ottoman edition was stamped with a unique edition number for the gallery allowing for subsequent future editions.

Describe the working relationship that you’ve had with Evostyle.

I have worked with Evostyle both directly and indirectly through brand collaborations for many years. We work with Evostyle on one-off edition solid timber pieces alongside ongoing production items.

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Images: Ottoman detail

What makes Evostyle unique to work with?

Fundamentally, Luke and Louise (founders of Evostyle) care deeply about timber production and design. It is rare to find manufacturers that want to innovate, to try new techniques and methods of production and create truly world-class products. 

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Images: Product development at Evostyle
“Automation such as CNC manufacturing that Evostyle specialise in has levelled the field in quality of production internationally however these seemingly automated processes require an incredible depth of knowledge, an understanding of materials, and processes. ”

How important is it to you to manufacture in Australia?

It is little discussed internationally however, Australia has some incredible manufacturers within the furniture and product design industry but these industries that support the design industry can only grow and prosper with support. It is the most sustainable and logical practice to produce locally and importantly fosters and supports our entire design industry including our studio. 

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Images: Early prototypes

What does the future of furniture design/craft/manufacturing look like in Australia?

It is an incredibly exciting time for design in Australia. What is most exciting is the huge groundswell of designers and makers wanting to work and create locally. I am very excited to see where the industry evolves and am excited to be a part of this. 

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