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Photography by Cricket Studio
7th June 2017

A Personal Touch: Q&A with Dowel Jones

June 2017 is a busy month for Melbourne-based design studio Dowel Jones. While 8 June marks the unveiling of the studio’s offering for Kvadrat and Maharam’s installation at DENFAIR, the day before the studio will launch Clubhouse. Set in The Stables, a vast 450m² space in north Melbourne, Clubhouse is Dowel Jones’s largest presentation to date. 
 
Clubhouse is open to both the public and trade and will showcase previous works alongside new additions. Colour will be a recurring theme throughout the space, the presentation being styled as if the pieces were in a photo shoot. A certain lightheartedness will also be evident. “If aspects aren’t required to be taken seriously,” says Dowel Jones co-founder Dale Hardiman, “we try not to take them too seriously.” This lightheartedness manifests in self-mocking adhesives, vibrant styling.
 
Throughout the six days that Clubhouse is open, Dowel Jones co-founders Dale Hardiman and Adam Lynch will be offering walk-throughs of the collection. The walk-throughs aim to bring a personal touch to the collection; rather than just presenting audiences with a chair, visitors will be presented with a chair alongside the stories and personalities the informed the design of the chair, as told by the people that have seen its design progress from conception to completion. 
 
Ahead of the opening of Clubhouse on 7 June, Zetteler caught up with co-founder Dale Hardiman. In the below interview Dale offers an insight into what to expect from Clubhouse, as well as the importance of small details when planning a major show. 
 
Tell us about Clubhouse: what does it entail? What pieces will you be showing?
Clubhouse is our largest presentation to date. It’s a chance for us to represent our brand more thoroughly, and show all of our pieces together in one space. We’ll be presenting all of our previous works, alongside new additions to collections including new Hurdle pieces, Simon Says, along with the addition of a lighting range to Sir Burly called Sir Mark Wall Burly. Previously we’ve mainly worked on commercial hospitality projects, so we’re releasing lots of new pieces more suited to homes. 
 
The space has been broken up into three major areas: permanent collections, the Thimble room and a section dedicated to past and future prototypes. We’ve colour themed the majority of the spaces to represent past shoots, with the future prototype set in the new Clubhouse colours – a set built the same way we would construct a photo shoot. 
 
Why did you decide to group pieces in this way? Is there a particular narrative that you want to convey? 
We worked with the space to create rooms. The strongest aspect to the presentation is the use of colour and how we present the work as if they could be part of one of our images. I think the narrative we’re conveying through the presentation is displaying a sense of lightheartedness which is more in line with our own personalities.  
 
The word Clubhouse evokes all sorts of vivid and nostalgic imagery. What is the rationale behind the name? 
The Clubhouse name comes from the clubhouses at golf courses. A clubhouse is a place where players first arrive, and also where you spend time after playing. The clubhouse is a place for conversation, and we wanted this to be much like our space – talking about the game but not actually playing it. We want Clubhouse to be a fun environment, and not just about trying to make sales. An example of this is at the bar it reads “at Clubhouse, everyone drinks free.”
Is the playfulness of the name reflected in the curation of the presentation? 
Most definitely with the use of colour. Dowel Jones has never meant to be hard-line furniture. If aspects aren’t required to be taken seriously, we try not to take them too seriously. The vinyl behind our ATC Chair, for example, reads “Yes, it’s Another Tube Chair”. It’s self-mocking how we continue to release tubular furniture.
 
Tell us a little about the space that you’ve selected. What are the main considerations when choosing a space, is it purely practical or is it important that the space adds another dimension to the presentation?
 
We look for spaces that can hold themselves when empty. We always find it much more rewarding working with a space that has a history. The campaign images we produce are always incredibly colour blocked with very little imperfection, whereas creating an environment within a building that has a great amount of use over time creates a great contrast between our straight lines and exposed, semi-covered brick walls.
 
Clubhouse will be Dowel Jones’s largest presentation to date. Why now? Do you feel that you’ve reached a significant point in the studio’s career? 
We typically present work in group shows, with our last solo presentation in 2016 at Boom Gallery. We realised earlier this year that in the history of Dowel Jones, we’ve never presented the entirety of our collection in one location, nor have we allowed those that are interested in our work to understand our furniture and lighting outside of a digital context. Hosting presentations like Clubhouse is also a great way to further expand on how we envision environments around our furniture; environments that don’t need to represent how they would be used. 
 
You’re offering walk-throughs of the exhibition. Why is this human touch, in the form of personal explanations, important?
We find a lot of the story and intention behind work can be lost through product descriptions. We’ve made sure to allow adequate time with those booking to meet with us to truly explain why and how we design. We’re only a small team, so by the time we design, produce and shoot new work (especially in the case of this show where we’re releasing multiple pieces) quite often the actual description we write is overlooked. The walk-throughs of the exhibition are a more intimate way to connect with Dowel Jones and truly understand its personality.
Photography by Cricket Studio
Photography by Cricket Studio
Photography by Cricket Studio
Photography by Cricket Studio
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