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Our love of food is intriguing.

It runs much deeper than the ingredients we use to ‘dish up’ the dishes that we love. It’s about a feast for the eyes. About plating. And about the tools we serve and eat with.

So when AGENCY brought together two talented designers in the store’s first ‘CO-LAB’, to create cheese companions that marry good food with good design, it was a passionate affair.

All images courtesy of AGENCY

All images courtesy of AGENCY

The result is an exquisite, limited-edition ‘Cheese Companion’ set—a wooden cheese board by internationally renowned designer maker Jon Goulder and a set of three cheese tools by Canberra’s award winning gold and silversmith Alison Jackson.

Although the prototype for the cheeseboard was designed in Adelaide, where Jon lives, they were produced here at the Digital Fabrication Lab, ANU Furniture Workshop. Only 10 sets have been produced and they’re on sale now only at AGENCY.

Image courtesy of AGENCY

Image courtesy of AGENCY

Jon’s cheese board is made of solid timber with a disk of Corian inserted that is food safe, hygienic and can easily be removed for cleaning. It measures 550 mm by 285 mm. Five boards have been made in a light Tasmanian Oak and five in a dark Toasted American Ash. The Corian discs are available in a white and black finish and customers can choose the combination they’d like.

Alison’s three knives, made of stainless steel with the folds in each pressed by hand, are perfect for cutting and serving cheeses. The set includes a hard cheese knife, soft cheese knife and spreading knife. They’re dishwasher safe and designed for everyday use, but to last a life time.

CO-LAB is short for ‘collaborative project.’ So what has driven AGENCY, an initiative of Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre, to spearhead its own co-labs?

“We’re driven to connect our members with the best designers in Australia so they can put ideas on the table, make connections, expand their horizons, participate in cross-disciplinary collaborative projects and then make beautiful things,” says Halie Rubenis, Business Development and Retail Manager. “It’s about sharing insights into how design really works. It’s about promoting and enhancing professional practice. And then who knows what will happen?”

Image courtesy of AGENCY

Image courtesy of AGENCY

In this case, Alison knew nothing about timber (by her own admission) and Jon had never thought about making a cheeseboard (by his own admission). When the two were connected through AGENCY, and Jon was sent a set of Alison’s cheese knives, ideas began to bubble away.

Jon is a fourth-generation furniture maker from the Southern Highlands who studied here at the School of Art. He is one of Australia’s most respected designer makers, having won multiple awards and had his work featured in major exhibition and publications around the world. Jon is also the Creative Director of The Furniture Studio at the Jam Factory in Adelaide.

When he first received the set of cheese knives, he sat them in his studio to get to know them over several weeks. “I would glance at them and walk past them and take time for matters to gestate,” says Jon. “Then I set myself the task of designing the cheeseboard in a set timeframe, as professional designers do. A cheeseboard may seem to be a relatively simple thing to design, but this one is a “reaction” to Alison’s knives. They’re the star. I have provided a background for them.”

Image courtesy of AGENCY

Image courtesy of AGENCY

Jon was attracted to the idea of using two materials for the cheeseboard. “The Corian disk is non-porous and an inert material,” says the designer maker. “I thought it would be cool to put the cheese on the round part and use the timber part to cut bread and present crackers.”

For the most part, Alison and Jon worked remotely on the project although Jon was aware of Alison’s work before being approached by AGENCY for the CO-LAB. “I believe she’s one of Australia’s most talented silversmiths. I also like working with people who are “doers”, like Halie from AGENCY,” says Jon.

Alison has already won several awards and has exhibited across Australia and in Germany. She was ecstatic about being selected for the AGENCY CO-LAB with someone of Jon’s stature in the design world.

“I work by myself a lot of the time so it great to work with someone in another creative field with expertise in another material; someone who comes at things from another point of view,” says Alison. “And with Jon I was able to work with someone who has been well-established for close to two decades.”

AGENCY is a retail store that sells the work of an intriguing selection of local and national Australian artists and designers, each carefully handpicked and each with a rich story to tell. But AGENCY stretches beyond that, with its innovative business model, to sell a service, experience and a lifestyle all in one go.


“This is not your average store,” says Halie. “We don’t sell anything that is mass produced so every time you come here you’ll see something different. It’s all about the artists and what they’re immersed in at any time. And with the lifestyle … we want people to think about where they invest their money and to support local. It’s a great feeling.”

Halie says plans for the next CO-LAB are already underway but the details are ‘hush, hush’ for the moment.

In the meantime, the limited edition CO-LAB cheese companions are on sale now through AGENCY in the Ori Building on Lonsdale Street, Braddon.

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