Episode 1, Who on Earth is this Guy?
The Dunstone Design podcast is about woodwork, furniture, the craft of the professional furniture maker and furniture design generally. I’ll be casting a wide net over all these subjects, so if you are a client of craft furniture, an enthusiast or a maker, there will be something here for you.
Throughout this series I’ll be focusing on the work of professional furniture makers and bring to you the craftsman’s perspective. This will not be a how to pod cast, nor will we spend much time on the work of amateurs. Instead, this is a celebration of professional craftsmanship and the quest to make beautiful things in a commercial setting.
Down the track we’ll get to the meat and potatoes, but first, here’s a little background. Before I became a furniture maker, I was a commercial pilot. I specialized in agricultural aviation, that’s crop dusting and cattle mustering in light aircraft. And yes, it was a lot of fun and I got to see a lot of Australia. I know that flying the outback seems a long way from furniture making, but stick with me.
Despite the fun and adventure, the problem I had with flying was that it was very temporal. At the end of the week, I had nothing tangible to show for it, except some penned cattle or a cotton crop that was safe from bowl weevil for another fortnight. It was only going to get worse as I climbed the greasy pole towards the airlines.
I had an urge to make things. I wanted to point to an object at the end of the week and say “I made that”. I wanted those things I made to have voice. While I was working in the bush, I was surrounded by interesting man-made objects, some of which had voice, but most of which didn’t. I particularly remember an old set of stockyards near Bourke that were beautiful, whether you flew over them, walked up to them or used them to muster cattle. They were made from the local timber and were pretty weather beaten by the time I saw them. One of the old stockmen commented to me that the farmer who had made them, and whose name I completely forget, was a real craftsman. I didn’t understand the full implications of this comment at the time.
In my mid twenties, I walked in to the Bungendore woodworks gallery and had my first real taste of fine woodwork. The rest is history.
I’d like to stress at this point that I was not and am not a hippy. I didn’t come to woodwork for an alternative lifestyle or to be closer to nature. I have always wanted to be a professional craftsman. Furniture is how I make my living, and I work for the benefit of my clients, in the same way that a chef prepares a meal for his or her clients. I obviously love what I do, but it is not my hobby and I don’t work wood with my personal satisfaction as the primary goal.
Now, I consider craftsmanship and design as equal partners. To put it differently, I see craft and design as two sides of the same coin.
Craft is not a trendy term and many people think that craft is what your Nana does for her own amusement. To me, craft is all about a relationship with material. Craft is the ability to read a material and respond to it. Craftsmanship is the ability to bring to life an object through a sensitive relationship with material and through personal technique.
Design is the practical response or answer to an articulated problem, or design brief. Design is a much more fashionable term than craft, because people don’t think of their Nanas as designers, and the term sound somehow more exotic and exclusive. We’ll be talking a lot about craft and design over this series.
Dunstone Design is all about making excellent objects for people who want those objects and are prepared to pay for them. Nothing pleases me more than a client who wants something special made and who has a clear understanding of what they are asking for. I see myself as a furniture architect, and as the coach or conductor for the other craftsmen who work with me. This is essentially what all professional designer/makers offer.
If I have a goal for this podcast, it’s the hope that I’m helping people to re-engage with hand made objects. Many people love what we and other craftsmen are doing, but surprisingly few truly understand it. Think of this as a crash course in how to approach a man made object.
You have been listening to Crafting a Life, the Dunstone Design podcast on all things furniture and woodwork. I’m Evan Dunstone, and I look forward to your company next time.