Furniture, interior and object designer Robyn Wood lives and breathes design. She is constantly observing, being inspired, sketching and refining. Her desk at her studio in Hawthorn in South Australia displays page after page of experiments, prototypes and creative musings and her passion and enthusiasm are reflectedin the beautiful furniture, fittings and objects she designs and produces.
“My work is a mixture of one-off items for exhibitions and design competitions, bespoke and custom designed furniture pieces and smaller pieces for market,” Robyn says. Her designs are wonderfully organic, simple and elegant and she draws much of her inspiration from nature. “It might be the way a leaf folds, the way a shadow falls or a pattern forms … taking those elements and paring them right back until it’s just the essence of that idea or that form that remains.”
It seems that design was always in Robyn’s blood but high school careers advisers steered her in a different direction and she became a teacher. “Design wasn’t a ‘thing’ when I was at high school,” she says, but the desire was certainly there! After graduating and while on her first assignment as a country school teacher, she started investigating the opportunities for design as a career direction. “I had some architect friends, she says, “and I chatted with them about what Interior Design was, and decided that was what I wanted to do”.
Robyn enrolled for a Bachelor of Human Environments at what was the South Australian College of Advanced Education Underdale Campus (now the University of South Australia). A significant portion of that course was furniture design and she was drawn to the potential for intricate details and interesting techniques to create unique and beautiful pieces. In her third year of the degree, she undertook work experience with South Australian company Interior Joinery & Furniture (IJF), who offered her ongoing work during her final year study and full-time employment after her graduation in 1992.
“At IJF I really learnt about furniture construction and how things were put together … and [it’s where] I fell in love with manufacturing and just being around wood!” Robyn was promoted to Senior Designer at IJF and over the course of three years, she designed and oversaw the company’s project of ‘fitting out’ with the Australian Embassy in Paris for the Federal Government.
Robyn went on to work with local architecture firm Totalspace Design as their Senior Interior Designer and in her own practice Hatch Design, but her underlying fascination and passion for furniture design came to the fore and she switched her focus to designing and making furniture.
Robyn’s approach is a truly creative one; allowing the design to lead to a form, rather than function dictating the form; for example, she doesn’t necessarily set out to design a light fitting per se, instead, she allows the design to develop into an object. This process is clearly evident in the pared back elegance of her pieces and you can see the organic references in their form. Robyn is also inspired by Shaker Design and Japanese construction for their qualities of simplicity, refinement and minimal adornment. “The challenge is stripping back all of those extra things and coming up with the simplest form that functions, is beautiful and still interesting to look at … and maintains some element of the original inspiration.”
And her favourite material? “Definitely timber. It’s not that I’m a woodworker – I’m a designer who’s drawn to the natural warmth and grain of timber.”
While Robyn prototypes much of her work in her own small workshop, she focuses on using sustainable timbers and local people to produce many of her final designs. “There are some amazing makers who are are just little guys (or women) in their homes or workshops doing their one special thing and because I’ve worked with them on what might have been a commissioned work, I’ve seen then that they have a particular skill which will then trigger a design idea for something else,” she says. This leads to opportunities for further collaboration and she is currently working with a local textile artist on a light fitting design using their combined talents and individual strengths.
In the next twelve months Robyn is aiming to move into her own studio space, will be working on some bigger pieces for an exhibition and finalising a venture into jewellery design – something that has become an obsession for her. “I call them furniture pieces for your body and they really reflect my love for timber. They started out being silver with a bit of timber but it didn’t feel right … and now they’re timber with a small amount of metal work!”
If you’re anything like me, you’ll find Robyn’s designs irresistible; you can’t help but touch them – their sensual forms and impeccable finish are as good to feel as they are to look at.
You’ll find Robyn at Bower Bird Bazaar in Adelaide, The Big Design Market in Sydney (25-27 November, 2016) and Melbourne (2-4 December 2016) or you can follow her on Instagram or Facebook, or check out her website. She’s available for custom designs or commission work or you can purchase her gorgeous Bud Lamp, or Seed Flower Vessel (my personal favourites), or one of her other beautiful works from her online store.