Jon Goulder on the future of craft in design
Jon Goulder features at Salone Del Mobile this week, as one of the Local Design 11 and we felt it was high time (and timely) to explore more about this humble yet driven force in the Australian, and global design scene. Jon Goulder is a fourth-generation furniture maker, one of Australia’s most accomplished industrial designers and craftsperson; and a motivated mentor for emerging designers here and abroad.
Jon left his family business to study furniture design and fine woodworking at the Canberra School of Art under the direction of the late George Ingham. After graduating, he established his design consultancy – Jon Goulder Designer Maker.
As creative director of the Furniture Studio at the world-class and visionary Jam Factory in Adelaide, Jon leads the next generation of local and international design talent, constantly breaking new ground while staying true to a centuries-honed craft.
With over 20 products currently manufactured under license, Jon is now focused on producing exclusive and limited edition collections for overseas markets. His work is permanently on exhibition in the leading galleries and museums throughout Australia including The National Gallery of Australia. A Bombay Sapphire Design Discovery Award recipient, Jon continues to create award-winning work and collections.
The raw yet refined, organic beauty of the Glissandro Credenza discovered on a recent visit to the Spence & Lyda showroom in Sydney, together with a keen appreciation of the fluidity and quality of the Settlers Chair, made us curious to uncover more about the inspirations and aspirations of this exceptional designer…
Tell us about the family heritage of your craft and business?
I am the Fourth Generation to have trained in the family business, EW Goulder and Sons employed over 30 people when I did my apprenticeship including my Dad who ran the business and my two uncles who ran the workshop, manufacturing furniture. I was taught my trade by my uncles and my Pop who was 80 years old. The business started in Bexley Sydney and migrated to the Southern Highlands NSW – Bowral (where I grew up). My great granddad built the business and worked it through the 2nd world war, he supplied many of Sydney’s big department stores.
Has the ‘craft’ changed in a general sense? What are your thoughts on the future of craft in design?
Real craftsmanship has not changed it has just become quite rare. There are not many institutions or workplaces teaching craft practice. To become a craftsperson you really need to dedicate 10 years of your life to learn the basics, discover the nature of your medium. 20 years ago the word craft or maker was associated with knitting or woodworkers turning gaudy bowls in the back shed. If you said you were a maker / craftsperson it was frowned upon. Now everyone seems to be stepping up to claim the words crafted / handmade / maker because it insinuates a level of individuality, worth and of quality. As the design industry and its industrial production become incredibly equipped to make anything we are seeing the real contemporary craftspeople evolving to design systems, technologies and ideas that are now leading the way – things that industry can’t produce, things that have individuality, worth and quality. I think many designers use craftspeople to produce their vision without realizing that they are accessing centuries of knowledge. Exploratory design, not to be confused with industrial or production design is heavily influenced through the making process, the craftsperson often holds equal amounts of intellectual property without being credited for the end result. I think designers and craftspeople should collaborate more and share credit for resulting works.
You are the Creative Director of the Furniture Studio at the Jam Factory. Can you tell us more about this role and how you are mentoring the next generation of designers?
My studio at the Jam Factory accepts 3 interns / Associates per year for a 2-year training program, we have 6 Associates at any one time – 3 first year and 3 second year. The successful applicants apply with a portfolio of previous works and are usually amongst the best graduates from design / art school around Australia and internationally. The studio works around the idea that we are never one thing, we are designers , craftspeople and artists, we are a melting pot of skills and ideas I am the conduit that helps the Associates to develop professional design careers. The Jam Factory and I provide opportunities, we aim to make our Associates recognised.
What do you look for in future alumni for the Jam Factory?
We are looking for absolute dedication and for people who are lifers – (people who are hell bent on committing to a life of design / craft and art). You need to be prolific and ambitious.
What are your thoughts around promoting Australian designers on the world stage, and hosting international designers in Australia?
I think it’s amazing both ways, Australia is truly globally recognized, and there has never been a better time for Aussie design.
How has the design scene changed since the increase in digital and social media?
Social media is an amazing tool… it blows my mind how you can reach so many people with one click of a button.
Can you tell us more about your trip to Salone Del Mobile Milan…
I was so excited to be contacted by Local Design to exhibit with an amazingly talented bunch of Australian designers. It’s my first trip to Milan so I am really just going to be a part of it and see what happens. I am happy to show my work on this international platform. I am going to immerse myself in international design … can’t wait.
Do you have any plans for future exhibitions?
Yes I am the next designer to exhibit with Broached Commissions, I am making a show that uses my 4 generation family making history as a narrative. This show will be a solo and will open in Melbourne, then tour to Sydney, Dubai and America.
I am also part of a Jam Factory (Creative Directors Show) to open at Design Days Dubai in 2018.
What are some favourite client collaborations?
I will release a new collection of lights with Rakumba this year… they were fun to work with.
Muse or mentor?
The late George Ingham my master / mentor /teacher at Canberra School of Art.
Favourite design era?
Favourite travel destination?
Thredbo and the South Coast NSW
Where do you find inspiration on a day-to-day basis?
In everything – I am inspired by commitment.
Could you name a quote that sums up how you live your life?
“ Fun is where you find it “
Best piece of advice you have been given?
You are Australian – you are among the luckiest people on the Planet – use this privilege well.
What’s next for Jon Goulder?
Working on Broached Solo Show and developing more limited edition works for international representation and exhibition.
What does living a beautiful life mean to you?
It is my sense of place – (my attachment to nature and the people around me). It is living a life less ordinary through design and craft…
What are you currently…
Coveting: A Ross Gardam Aura Light
Preparing: lots or work
Watching: anything that I can zone out to
Listening: De La Soul – the anonymous nobody
Reading: A short history of the world
Dreaming: Of steep mountains
Beauty is: My boys