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DESIGN Canberra: A celebration of our creatives

Wendy Johnson

I am gobsmacked. Gobsmacked by the incredible diversity and beauty of design I discovered all day yesterday exploring what’s on offer through DESIGN Canberra.

I got stuck into exploring the festival program, knowing there are around 70 activities and events over the nine days of the festival, not wanting to miss out. And then Day One began.

We were day tripping in an all-new X1, thanks to Rolfe Classic BMW. Roomy. Comfy. Perfect for the four of us.

First stop was a walking tour of the multiple award winning Canberra International Airport, hosted by the airport’s Richard Philips and Guida Moseley Brown Architects’ Design Principal Harold Guida. This was part of the Capital of Culture Tours segment of DESIGN Canberra’s extensive program.

We now see the airport terminal in a whole new light and were mesmerised when taken into areas the public never gets to see, including parts of the airside operations and the $8 million bag handling operation (in action). This was a one-day only event but worth every second so next year get in early to secure your spot for this exclusive tour.

Next up we visited a series of open studios, part of the Living Artists program. These studios are not normally open the public and it was a privilege to enter the wonderful world of these designers and artists and inspiring to get behind-the-scenes.

Jeremy Lepisto (artist), Workshop Level, image courtesy of artist

Jeremy Lepisto (artist), Workshop Level, image courtesy of artist

Each studio is so different. The creative work of those operating the studios is incredibly diverse. All of the hosts were so willing to share their knowledge and explain their techniques and let you have a wander around to look at their tools, equipment and end products. Some also had product for sale (we shopped up a storm).

We started with Workshop Level, operated by the gorgeous and hugely talented Mel George and Jeremy Lepisto who specialise in custom kiln-formed glass commissions and projects. They’ve been doing so for more than a decade and their work is showcased nationally and internationally. These two artists are inspired by the endless possibilities of projects incorporating glass and they had samples of glass and photos of some of their amazing and massive commissions. Stunning.

Next up was Pocket Studio, owned and operated by gold and silversmith Alison Jackson, who was on hand to welcome guests. Alison is a rising star in the art world and her jewellery and tableware are in constant demand. Her studio is packed full of interesting tools and workbenches and some of her work was on display. Alison has recently finished her first solo exhibition at Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre and has just completed her first major CO-LAB with internationally renowned designer maker Jon Gould. Cheese Companions is on show at Agency in Braddon.

Down the road a little was an open studio by Matthew Curtis and Harriet Schwarzrock, who have been professional artists for many years. Working with blown glass, Matthew and Harriet predominantly make sculptural work for exhibition but also functional objects like exquisite vases, ornaments, bowls, tumblers and more. Loads of colour. Every piece breathtaking. It was hard to tear ourselves out of this studio to get to our next stop.

Elliot Bastianon (designer), Union Forever, Six Wiluna, image courtesy of artist

Elliot Bastianon (designer), Union Forever, Six Wiluna, image courtesy of artist

Our tour for the day ended at Six Wiluna, a shared workshop in Fyshwick that seeks to nurture local talent and keep creative people in Canberra, a place that was for the longest time stripped of its home-grown talent by the temptation of artists and designers to move to bigger cities. Six Wiluna was established in 2014 by studio director Elliot Bastianon and accommodates several designers working in furniture, gold and silversmithing and sculpture. The place is loaded with wood working machinery and we loved our time there. What a friendly lot.

More Living Artists studios are open tomorrow (all free with drop-ins welcome), including at Canberra Glassworks, where you’ll meet and greet seven glass artists. The Hayshed is also welcoming visitors. This is home to professional artists Lisa Cahill and Kirstie Rea (who use glass as their primary medium) and textile artist Julie Ryder.

The M16 Open Studio event showcases around a dozen artists and while there you can grab a drink and a bit at the Quesadilla Bar and check out three exhibitions. How nifty is that?

At ANCA (two locations) you’ll get to meet and talk to eight artists, including Oliver Ayrton, Peter Giles, Sui Jackson, Dan Lorrimer, Ruth Oliphant and Keith Marshall. Contemporary jeweller Phoebe Porter will be holding a sample sale, giving visitors a rare opportunity to buy unusual pieces from her archive—pieces not available elsewhere. Fashion designer Alice Sutton, of label Edition, will be on hand and keen to show you her intriguing and highly wearable fashion—each piece a statement in its own right.

There’s heaps more on today for Day Two of DESIGN Canberra, including a large number of pop-ups, exhibitions and other guided tours. Seriously. Don’t miss out.

And, last but not least, a huge toast to Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre, for organising this significant festival. What a great celebration of our very own creatives.

www.designcanberrafestival.com.au

Feature image: Street art at the Spanish Embassy 

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Wendy Johnson

Wendy Johnson graduated with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, a few decades ago. She’s been living in Australia since 1995, having fallen in love with eucalypt trees and kangaroos. Wendy is passionate about Canberra and all the nation’s capital has to offer. She loves to write (about everything and anything) and owns her own pr and advertising business. More about the Author

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