Design & Development Masterclass with Adam Rogers and Evan Dunstone

Tuesday, February 26 2019

Dunstone Design is not a woodworking school per-se. Because we only teach a few weeks of the year, our courses can be very targeted and very detailed. But when I sat down to plan this year’s Masterclasses, I realised that I had no hard data on what the Australian woodworking community was really looking for.

I proposed a range of topics via an online survey to a representative group of my mailing list. To my surprise (and delight), “Design” was the clear winner.

Design is the most difficult aspect of woodwork to develop, and it’s also the hardest aspect of our craft to teach. Timber is a very specific material with some very restrictive properties. You can’t simply draw a pretty picture of a piece of furniture and then force wood to make that form. You must design with an understanding of the material, otherwise you end up with a technical disaster.

Back in 2001 I participated in a 2 week “Advanced Furniture Making” course with John Reed Fox and Craig Vandal Stevens at the Centre for Furniture Craftsmanship in Maine. John brought with him a strong Japanese aesthetic and Craig, who specialises in marquetry and who trained under Krenov, brought an exquisite sense of proportion and composition. They were both consummate makers and a wonderful dynamic developed between these two master craftsmen.

Woodworkers are often presented with courses run by one “Guru” who is expected to reveal all. I believe having two instructors dynamically changes the experience. If the instructors start riffing, then that energy flows through to the students. The challenge for me was to find a designer that offered something new to an Australian audience and with whom I was keen to work.

I first noticed Adam Roger’s work during his tenure as Director of Design + Product Development at Thos. Moser Furniture. Thos. Moser Furniture is a fascinating operation and I visited their factory in 2001 while on my Churchill Fellowship (long before Adam's tenure there). There is a link to my report HERE and my observations of the Moser workshop starts on page 11.

Thomas Moser made his reputation by re-interpreting classic American Shaker designs. His chairs were/are particularly beautiful. Moser, a dynamic entrepreneur in the American mould, built up his company to become a powerhouse of American craft-made furniture (even though they have upwards of 100 makers). But the company was hit hard by the Global Financial Crisis and by that biggest of all business challenges, Succession Planning. Thomas Moser was aging, and his family were trying to find the way forward. I can remember looking at the Moser website in about 2010 and thinking “these guys have really lost their way”. The designs had become confused. It felt like they were chasing a “new look” without really envisioning what that new look might be. They were no longer leading the market, they had started reacting to the market.

Then, a couple of years ago, I saw a Moser chair that was fresh, makerly and confident. It was an American interpretation of Scandinavian design, but distinctly original. I could instantly see that this design played to all the strengths of the Moser factory and materials.  I could imagine it in a typical “Moser Client” house (probably the children of the first generation of Moser clients!). It was followed by a few more similarly resolved designs. It was some time before I realised that I was looking at the work of American designer Adam Rogers.

Adam Rogers

Typically designing pieces for outside manufacture, Adam conceives and prototypes pieces sympathetic to the stated design objectives while considering the scale and capabilities of its manufacturer. Whether mass produced or built as a one-off piece, whether fabricated using hi-tech machinery or bench-made through low- tech traditional techniques in a small shop, each piece is intended to embrace the process of its making and emphasize the construction processes employed. The successful example is intended to convey the value of the object; how it was made, and why it will last. This is often accomplished by employing and emphasizing visible joinery as a detail throughout a piece or as a common denominator throughout a collection – establishing a cohesion among pieces.”- Biography of Adam Rogers

Adam holds a Master of Fine Arts/Furniture Design from the Rochester Institute of Technology, NY State.  He has served as a full-time visiting professor at his alma mater teaching woodworking and furniture design to undergraduate and graduate students. Adam has just the depth and breadth of experience that I was looking for. He’s a designer who can, and has, walked the walk as well as talked the talk.
For a look at Adam talking about his time at Thos. Moser, click here 
The Design & Development Masterclass includes theory, whimsy, play, technique and discipline. Both Adam and I are designers of functional furniture, so the bias will be, perforce, on performance.  This doesn’t mean that we will be encouraging boring or conservative work; rather we will be encouraging correct technique, sensitive use of material and the clear response to a brief.
What we need from You
We want our students to arrive with images of at least 3 pieces of wooden furniture that you have a visceral emotional response to. We will work through the common thread of those pieces and explore how those threads can guide you to developing a personal approach to design. 
We want you to arrive with a written brief for the piece that you intend to design. The emphasis should be on who/where/when the furniture is intended. The brief might be self-imposed or it might come from an external source such as a spouse or client.
An example of a helpful brief is; “I intend to design an easy chair for a contemporary apartment owned by a professional couple in their late thirties/early forties without kids.”
An example of an unhelpful brief is; “I intend to design a cabinet in white oak with through-wedged-tenons and an Art Deco marquetry panel.”
Both Adam and I have a love of chairs and chair designing, but this is not a chair course, it’s a design course. Feel free to design any form of furniture you wish.
Your Skill Level/experience
You don’t have to be a professional or aspiring professional woodworker to benefit from this course. The only requirement is that you want to improve as a designer.
This course is aimed at the intermediate to advanced woodworker. We know that it is difficult to self-assess your own skills. Adam and I are both experienced teachers and you will have the additional support of one of my makers, William Bayliss, throughout the duration. If you are comfortable in a workshop and you have worked wood before, we can work with you.
One can’t design wooden furniture without also discussing technique, so as part of the course structure we will look at advanced techniques such as the use of the spindle moulder, curved laminations, re-sawn veneering, free-hand shaping and more.
Please feel free to offer suggestions of things you would like covered.
There are many ways to develop an idea; sketching, technical drawing, modeling and prototyping are a few examples. No two designers approach this problem in the same way, however it is fundamentally important to find a strategy that works for you.
We will discuss the use of computers for drawing/designing, but this will not be a CAD course. If you have a favourite drawing program on a portable device and you are comfortable using it, then feel free to bring it. The ability to design on a computer is simply one more tool in your toolbox.
Tools and Items to Bring
You will need to bring your own PPE of dust mask, hearing protection and eye protection.
We encourage you to bring drawing materials such as a large visual diary and your favourite pencils. Please bring whatever personal hand tools you like. You are encouraged to bring a cordless drill. Please do not bring any power tools such a routers, angle grinders etc.  
The course fees (see below) include basic drawing materials, MDF for templates and jigs and some solid timber (Damar Minyak) for experimentation. All abrasives and consumables such as glue and finish are included.
Lunches, bottled water, tea and coffee and morning and afternoon nibbles are included
A limited range of fine cabinet timbers are available for purchase from Dunstone Design if desired. Monaro Timbers (a local timber merchant) is only 15 mins away.
Timing and Course Options
There are two ways to participate in the Design & Development Masterclass.  Please ensure that you select the correct option for you.

One-Week Option $2,500 incl. GST    
Monday 9th to Friday 13th September (limit of 14 students)

This one-week intensive will take you through the design process in detail. You will leave with a broader understanding of your personal style and a design strategy that you can bring to bear on any design challenge.   You will have had the opportunity to work-up a concept from a basic brief to a project that is ready to make.

Two-Week Option $4,500 incl. GST   
Monday 9th to Friday 20th September (limit of 14 students)

The first week is as described above. The second week allows you to start making the design that you developed during the first week. This week does not have a formal teaching structure. You will have access to one of the best equipped workshops in Australia with Adam, Evan and William in constant attendance. This is your chance to test ideas, work up vital jigs and templates, prototype a design (or critical elements of a design), and share ideas with the staff and fellow students.

This is not the type of course that results in “finished items”. If you are doing the first week only, you can expect to leave with a well-advanced design/concept and perhaps some jigs, templates drawings or models. If you are doing both weeks you can expect to leave with a project that is well advanced. It is highly unlikely that you can complete a project of any complexity in two weeks.

A note from Adam and Evan…
When we started talking about this course, one of our major concerns was how to manage expectations. Typically, we would take 6 weeks of hard work to get a chair design from a concept to the fully prototyped stage. But those first two weeks are critical- that is when the piece forms from a series of ideation sketches to the first serious prototype. Depending on what you are trying to design, the most you can hope for in 2 weeks is a really good prototype…

Thursday Night Dinner
On the night of Thursday 12th September, we will have a dinner and lecture at a local Queanbeyan venue (TBA). Adam and I will each present a lecture with slides of our work and the furniture we love. This event may be open to the wider Canberra/Queanbeyan woodworking community. The price of this event is not included in the course fees (but students will receive a generous discount).

Terms and Conditions
A deposit of $850 incl. GST is payable on booking either the one-week or two-week option.

You will receive an invoice from Dunstone Design via email for the balance of your fees by Friday 2nd August 2019 (payment via EFT). Final payment must be recieved by Friday 30 August 2019. Your booking is not transferable. If you want to give this course to someone as a gift, email Evan directly on and I will arrange the details.

A cancellation prior to Friday 23rd August 2019 will attract a $220 cancellation fee and $550 will be refunded. A cancellation after Friday 23th August 2019 will forfeit your deposit and/or final payment.
If you wish to discuss this opportunity further prior to booking, contact me on email or call 0401 404 275.
Hartford Chair by Adam Rogers for Thos. Moser               Cataract Rocker by Evan Dunstone