About Dunstone Design

Dunstone Design is one of Australia's most respected bespoke furniture makers, and caters to those who appreciate beautifully crafted and well designed pieces. At the heart of Dunstone Design is designer, craftsman, educator and writer Evan Dunstone. Evan is a 2001 Churchill Fellow in contemporary chair design and manufacture. He has travelled widely and worked with some of the finest craftsmen in the English speaking world.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Glitteringly special. The Oxbow Suite.

Last week I had the daunting task of photographing the Oxbow Suite.  It is without question the finest piece here in the Showroom at Dunstone Design.  There are clients in China that are interested in it, and we needed to send photographs across.  We don't currently have a studio set up, and so photographing a piece like this in a pure showroom setting is a compromise, and made me worry about doing the piece justice.  It still deserves to be done absolutely properly, and we do intend to do so, but for the time being, we got by with what we had.  

It may turn out that pieces like this, in about a month's time, are no longer available here in the Australian Showroom, with future pieces of this quality likely to find their way overseas to China.  The Oxbow is made of a rare and special tree, that was nearing the end of its life on a property in the Otway Ranges in Victoria.  Evan has written it's story below:

The Oxbow Suite

"This Oxbow dinning suite is made from a single log of highly figured Victorian blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon). This particular log came from the North face of Mt. Sabine in the Otway ranges, Victoria. The North face of Mt. Sabine is the “dry side” (the wet weather comes from the South, off the ocean) so this was a very slow growing tree.

The tree was selected and milled by Mr. Denis Brown of Corsair timbers, Yackandandah.  The blackwood was approximately 180 years old and had reached the end of its life at the time it was felled. The bole of the tree had rotted out in the middle, and only a relatively small amount of timber was salvageable. Mr. Brown expertly milled the log and seasoned the timber for 11 years before selling it to us. The highly figured nature of the wood is very rare and is only found in the biggest and oldest slow-growing trees. It is exceptionally rare for a whole dining suite (chairs and table) to be made from solid timber out of one special log.

Mr. Brown has been milling blackwood out of the Otways for more than 20 years. He has various “in-house” grades for his timber that go beyond the normal designation of “select” and “fiddleback”. The highest grade he has is super fine dark fiddle back. This log is one of only four logs that he has ever given this designation to. Dunstone Design has hand crafted furniture from three of the four logs with this designation.

Timber of this quality is usually made in to very thin veneers, which can only be used on flat or gently curved surfaces. It is not possible to make the shapes such as those found in the Clearwater chair or Oxbow leg design from veneers.

The detail timber on the suite (seen on the legs and as the slats in the chairs) is a West African timber called wenge (Millettia laurentii). I have used it to highlight the colour and grain of the blackwood. 
The Oxbow suite took nearly 300 hours of labour from our master craftsmen to make. It consists of one table and ten chairs and will only be sold as a complete set.
The price for the suite is AU$55,000 including GST."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Valets in jarrah

A Sydney woman commissioned this pair of valets in jarrah recently. It took four drawings before everyone was happy, but that is not unusual.

Valets, like chairs, have such a rigorous blend of requirements; functionality, style and body language.

We were all very happy with the whimsical nature of this design; there is an almost cartoonish quality to them. We were also delighted with the beautiful colour match. Jarrah has such a lot of colour variation within the species that colour matching is often problematic.

This pair is truly a “pair” made from the same log and beautifully composed by Alex MacFarlane.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Meet the makers: Alex MacFarlane.

As Evan wrote in his introductory piece, his team of makers, made up of Alex MacFarlane, Rolf Barfoed and Dan Mannson, are extraordinary people and exceptional craftsmen. They could have chosen to do anything, but they chose the long hard road to work wood professionally and without compromise.

This is a little piece about Alex, and how he came to Dunstone Design, and a special piece that he recently made, and delivered, to a former primary school teacher.

"In, master chair designer/maker Evan Dunstone received a phone call from a young bloke seeking an apprenticeship. The caller, AlexMacFarlane, told Dunstone that for as long as he could remember, he had wanted to be a chairmaker.  In fact, in his last year of primary school, he had made a wooden chair and presented it to his favourite teacher saying; ‘‘When I’m a famous craftsman, I’ll come back and give you a better one.’’
At the time, Dunstone didn’t have an opening for an apprentice.  None-the-less, he invited Alex to visit him at the Dunstone Design workshop one Sunday afternoon. The very next Sunday, a classic Holden Premier pulled up outside the workshop door. What Alex had failed to mention was that he lived in Bathurst. His mother had just loyally driven him all the way.
The 16-year-old’s passion for the craft was evident and impressive. Dunstone showed the young man the workshop in detail and described many of the processes involved in chairmaking.  Alex left his details with Dunstone and drove home to Bathurst with his mother.
A year later, Dunstone thought the time had come to consider an apprentice. Recalling young Alex, he looked up his records and made a call.   Two days later, Alex turned up in his ute with a swag and the clothes he was wearing.  Nearly seven years later, Alex MacFarlane is Dunstone Design’s leading chair maker and, in the words of Dunstone, ‘‘the best three-dimensional thinker I have ever encountered’’. 
One of Dunstone Design’s signature pieces is the Cataract Dining Rocker.  In May, Alex asked Dunstone if he could add an extra chair in with the set of six he was making for a south coast couple.  He then commissioned local artist Shannon Henry to engrave a message on a piece of rock maple which he subsequently inlaid on the underneath of the
Armed with this exquisite chair, he went back to his old primary school and presented it to his very surprised teacher; to say that she was moved and impressed would be an understatement.
You can visit the DunstoneDesign gallery of contemporary fine furniture and see pieces by Alex and the other Dunstone Design craftsmen from 10am to 4pm, Tuesday to Saturday, or by appointment, at the Fyshwick gallery".

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Welcome to Dunstone Design

Welcome to Dunstone Design’s new blog site.  Dunstone Design is more than just a furniture manufacturer and I look forward to sharing our philosophy of “efficient craft” with a wider audience. My makers (Alex, Rolf and Dan) are extraordinary people and exceptional craftsmen. They could have chosen to do anything, but they chose the long hard road to work wood professionally and without compromise. It is my responsibility to continually stretch them as makers and to provide them with opportunities to excel.

Our creative net casts wider than our workshop; our showroom is run by Bronwen Healy, Australia’s leading racehorse photographer. Our marketing is handled by brothers Damian and Ben Schroeter of Nflame Creative, two of the most imaginative and clever little Vegimites you are ever likely to find. Our sculptural work is handled by Simon Fairweather, jeweler and athlete (he won the archery gold medal for Australia at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games).  We have traditional, formal business structures but we behave like a creative collective.

This blog will track the progress of commissions from a sketch on my drawing board through to the final piece in all its three dimensional glory. More than that, I will be sharing my approach to craftsmanship, design and collaboration, as well as giving you the back story on Dunstone Design. The blog will compliment Dunstone Design's existing online presence, which also consists of our website and Facebook Page.

I hope you find plenty here to enjoy.

Evan Dunstone.

July, 2012